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GMC Sierra HT Pickup (2001)

SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

There is no vehicle more quintessentially American than the full-sized pickup truck. Full-sized pickups are solutions for many typically American transportation and work problems. Only in North America are jobs big enough and distances long enough to require American-style pickups. And Americans like space. Even a full-sized regular-cab pickup offers more interior space than a compact pickup, especially in width. Extended and crew cab configurations add sedan-like amounts of interior room to a pickup's hauling and towing ability. Big pickups are the best-selling vehicles in the country, thanks in large part to their work use by the construction trades, utility companies, farmers, ranchers, and others. They are popular for personal use as well.

Of course, pickups aren't necessarily all work and no play. GMC knows this. After all, the company is the truck specialist in the General Motors family, and offers a wide selection of full-size and compact pickups, SUVs, vans, and larger vehicles. Need a truck for work? GMC probably has one that fills your need. Need something a little more fun, but still truck-useful? GMC can fill that need, too. Welcome the 2001 Sierra HT.

"HT" stands for "Hot Truck," and the Sierra HT fits the description. Based on a two-wheel drive, short-box regular-cab Sierra, the HT package adds a short list of cosmetic and performance goodies from the GMC parts bin and unique color choices. It's a truck with V8 power and custom touches for less than some compact trucks. It's a big-fun factory hot rod with plenty of power and surprisingly good handling.

But, as I found during a week with a bright yellow Sierra HT, its muscular performance doesn't come at the expense of true truck versatility. It may be "short box," and the narrower (but more stylish) "sportside" box at that, but that cargo box is still six and a half feet long, and can hold (literally) a ton of cargo. Towing capacity, at over 7,000 lbs, is a bit more that that of a compact truck, too. The regular cab isn't as spacious as an extended cab, but it still is far from cramped. The HT can meet work and play needs equally well.

APPEARANCE: With its short cab and the flared, retro-style fenders of its sportside cargo box, the Sierra can be configured to classic pickup proportions. The Sierra's slightly-dropped front fender shoulder line and raised hood is a contemporary take on the classic pickup look, and blends well with the sportside or regular "wideside" box. The HT package adds a none-too-subtle custom touch, with bright paint, chrome wheels, and chrome trim around the grille. My test truck was painted an eye-popping "sunblast yellow." "Sunforce green" is also available. Either color fits the personality of the truck well.

COMFORT: Inside, the Sierra HT is mostly basic but comfortable and functional. Its 40/20/40 split contoured bench seat is really two captain's chair-type seats with a jump seat between them, and the center seatback does double duty as a fold-down console with a good amount of space and coin and cassette partitions. Upholstery is unpretentious cloth, and the two outer seats are comfortable and supportive, and have shoulder straps that anchor to the seats for comfort and safety. A steering column-mounted shift lever keeps the floor clear for center passengers, but the cupholders are at the front of the center seat cushion. The semi-wraparound instrument panel presents data well and places important controls where they are easy to use. The only flashy item inside is the steering wheel, comfortably covered in black and body-color leather.

SAFETY: Standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, safety-cage cab construction, and energy-absorbing front frame rails are just some of the 2001 GMC Sierra HT's many safety features.

ROADABILITY: Body-on-frame chassis construction with a big V8 in front driving the rear wheels through a solid axle: the classic muscle-car recipe. Or muscle truck, for that matter. But the HT is good for more than straight-line quarter miles. Its chassis is more rigid than most ladder frames. The 4800 V8 engine is relatively light in weight, and, particularly with the short-box chassis, this means good weight distribution. Unloaded pickups can be front- heavy; this one isn't. It's Z85 handling/trailering suspension feels like that of a sports sedan: firm, but not harsh, for good handling and reasonable comfort. Like most pickups, the HT has an independent front suspension and a solid axle in the rear. The solid axle makes its presence known on uneven pavement, but not annoyingly so. Despite the axle's unsprung weight, a good choice of spring and shock rates keeps axle hop at a minimum. This happy puppy handles! The HT is not at all out of place on the kind of roads most commonly associated with sports cars.

PERFORMANCE: The HT uses GMC's smallest V8, of 4.8 liters (294 cubic inches) displacement, with 270 hp at 5200 rpm and 285 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. It's perfect for the job. Although there is no power shortage anywhere, it's at its best in the middle of its rev range, with plenty of immediate grunt for acceleration or passing and a fine V8 exhaust rumble. Like all of GMC's automatics, the 4-speed in the HT is electronically-controlled for efficient operation and features normal and "tow/haul" modes. It's as smooth as a car in normal mode. Tow/haul holds gears longer for better acceleration and less "hunting" between gears on grades. When it comes time to work, the HT can haul 2054 lbs or tow 7300 lbs. Try that in a sports sedan! (One word: don't!)

CONCLUSIONS: Classic looks and classic V8 power make the 2001 GMC Sierra HT a hot truck, indeed.

2001 GMC Sierra HT

Base Price             $ 16,525
Price As Tested         $ 21,970
Engine Type             16-valve pushrod overhead valve V8
Engine Size             4.8 liters / 294 cu. in.
Horsepower              270 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          285 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission            4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length      119.0 in. / 203.2 in.
Curb Weight             4050 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   15.0
Fuel Capacity           26 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane
Tires                   P255/70 SR16 General Ameri* 660AS
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / solid disc,
                          antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear  independent double control arm with
                          coil springs /solid axle with
                          2-stage multileaf semi-elliptic springs
Drivetrain              front engine, rear wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      16 / 20 / 16
0 to 60 mph            7  sec (est)

Sierra HT package 1SH - includes: sportside body,
 AM/FM radio and cassette,   chrome grille surround,
 chromed steel wheels with P255/70 R16 tires,
 air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 
handling/trailering suspension   $ 2,885
4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
 transmission                    $ 1,095
Vortec 4800 V8 engine            $   695
3.73:1 rear axle ratio           $    50
Destination charge               $   720