2020 GMC Sierra 1500

By June 15, 2020

For a long time, critics groused that the GMC Sierra was too similar to its mechanically-identical cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado. GMC took those complaints to heart, and when the latest generation of the full-size pickup truck appeared last year it bore little resemblance to its Chevy counterpart. The chassis and powertrains remain shared, but the distinctive look, along with a few exclusive features, ensure the Sierra stands apart in the latest full-size truck wars.

The 2020 Sierra is just one year into its latest design cycle, so there are no changes to report. Buyers will find that the carbon-fiber bed and turbodiesel options are more widely available, though.

About that turbodiesel: it’s a 3.0-liter inline-6 design that makes 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. That’s as much torque as what’s in the biggest V-8 engine available. This diesel will tow up to 9,000 pounds and returns 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined in rear-drive form. With four-wheel drive, gas mileage slips to 22/26/24 mpg.

The 5.3-liter V-8 is still the most common engine in the Sierra. It generates 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, and is standard on the higher trims. Some 11,000 pounds of maximum towing capacity is possible with the right configuration. A standard 10-speed automatic helps this V-8 earn EPA ratings of 17/24/20 mpg with rear-wheel drive or 16/19/22 mpg with four-wheel drive.

The 6.2-liter V-8 is the most powerful engine the Sierra has in its arsenal. Its 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque provide a 12,000-pound maximum towing capacity. Gas mileage is rated at 15/20/17 mpg, which could likely be a tick or two higher if not for the standard four-wheel drive.

For those looking to save a few dollars, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 is standard on the cheapest trims. There’s a full 310 horsepower on tap, in case anyone was going to scoff at the thought of a full-size truck with a turbo-4. Gas mileage is 19/22/20 mpg in most configurations.

Standard only on the base Sierra is a 4.3-liter V-6. This holdout engine makes 285 horsepower and pairs with a 6-speed automatic. Leave it for the cheapskates still cool to the idea of a turbo-4 in a pickup.

Active-safety features remain available only on higher trims; base trucks don’t even get automatic emergency braking, even as an option. Crash The NHTSA has awarded the Sierra four stars overall. The IIHS gave the Sierra their highest award of “Good” for all crash tests save the passenger-side small-overlap test, which received a score of “Marginal.”

Model Lineup

All prices reflect rear-drive models and the cheapest bed and cab configurations for each trim. Prices also include all applicable destination charges.

The $31,195 base Sierra opens the lineup. It is the only trim available with the regular cab. Intended for tradesmen and fleets, this trim comes little more than the 4.3-liter V-6, power windows and locks, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

The $39,395 SLE is the next trim up. The turbo-4 is the new base engine, and additional equipment includes heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, a 4.2-inch driver information center, cruise control, and a lift-assisted tailgate.

The $41,895 Elevation is more an aesthetic choice than anything else. It gets some off-road cosmetic elements, 20-inch wheels, and body-color trim.

The $45,895 SLT is where the luxury features start appearing, such as dual-zone climate control, power front seats, leather upholstery, LED headlights, and a six-way tailgate. The 5.3-liter V-8 is standard and the 6.2-liter diesel and turbodiesel are optional.

For $52,595 the AT4 boasts off-road hardware like a 2-inch suspension lift, skid plates, a locking differential, all-terrain tires, and special off-road shocks. Two-tone leather and hill-descent control are also standard. Four-wheel drive is mandatory. The 6.2-liter V-8 and the turbodiesel are both optional.

At the top of the list is the Denali, priced at $56,295. It is only available as a crew cab and comes outfitted with plenty of luxury features. Chrome covers most exterior details, the chrome mesh Denali grille is in full force, and big 22-inch wheels fill the fenders. Standard equipment includes heated and cooled front seats, a surround-view camera system, wood trim, Bose audio, and perforated leather upholstery.

Exterior

Not too long ago, there wouldn’t be much to say regarding the style of a pickup truck. They were trucks, after all, basic and utilitarian. Not so much anymore. The GMC Sierra has been styled to look the part of a big bruiser, and for the most part it does a good job of it. The front end is bold and distinctive without being homely, while the rest of the body wears a few subtle creases and folds to provide some visual excitement on what’s otherwise a long slab of steel.

There isn’t much to say about the rear end, other than it manages to look more attractive from the back than its Chevy sibling. The subtle detail differences between the Sierra and the Silverado work in the Sierra’s favor, giving it the aesthetic edge and further justifying its higher price tag.

Interior

If there’s a bone to be picked with the new Sierra, it’s regarding the lackluster interior. The issue isn’t just that the overall design is fussy, but that the materials are rather subpar, particularly in SLT and Denali trims. The MSRP of a loaded-up Sierra should buy a better interior than what’s here.

The good news is that GMC did do a good job filling the cabin with clever storage pockets and a large center console. Multiple USB ports are also scattered throughout the interior and should placate even a full load of passengers whose phones all need charging.

Front seats are wide, comfortable, and supportive. This applies to both the base bench seat and the fancier bucket-seat setup. The cheapest trucks sport vinyl seats, but most consumers will be shopping trucks upholstered in high-quality leather or cloth.

Likewise, nearly all trucks will be sold with a back seat, either in the cramped double cab or spacious crew cab configuration. Crew cab riders have it especially nice, with generous legroom and headroom and big full-size doors for easy ingress and egress. Rear outboard seats can even be heated for extra cost.

Three different bed lengths all offer ample cargo space. LED bed lighting is available, and there’s plenty of tie-downs for securing cargo. A trick six-way tailgate and built-in bumper steps make accessing the bed easier than ever.

Driving Impressions

There are a half-dozen engines on the Sierra’s order sheet, and most are impressive pieces of work. We’d avoid the base 4.3-liter V-6, but every other choice is worth sampling before placing your order.

First up, the 2.0-liter turbo-4. This 310-horse engine leans heavily on its turbo to move the Sierra’s heft, but nonetheless gas mileage remains second only to the diesel. Buyers planning on towing regularly will want something with more gusto, but this engine is fine for those who don’t intend to tap into the Sierra’s full capability.

The most popular engine in the Sierra is the 5.3-liter V-8, and it’s easy to see why. It is fast, thanks to 355 horsepower, and it is stout, with an 11,000 pound max towing capacity. The sound and smoothness of eight cylinders and its widespread availability in the lineup make this engine our choice.

The 6.2-liter V-8 earns equal praise, with it too being fast, smooth, and powerful. Unfortunately, it has restricted availability and lower gas mileage.

The same thing goes for the turbodiesel, which is also a pricey option on only the priciest trims. It’s likely the smoothest engine here, however, more so than even the two gas V-8s. Credit its inline-6 design and the ample torque.

All Sierras ride well, though they can’t match the Ram trucks and their coil springs. Yet even with leaf springs the Sierra does a commendable job of smothering road imperfections and evening out the ride. Whether the bed is empty or loaded, there’s no jittery or frazzled motions.

Handling is predictable for a pickup truck. It’s best to leave a truck of this size on the open road, where it shines brightest.

Final Word

The 2020 GMC Sierra is a compelling truck. The half-dozen powertrains all have their share of redeeming qualities, and smart styling lends this GMC some much-needed individuality. We’d be happiest in an SLE with the 5.3-liter V-8.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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