- Quiet, smooth ride
- Surprisingly good around the city mileage for a V8
- Well designed and appointed dashboard
- Rear view mirror impacts driver visibility
- Mild wind whistle at highway speeds
- Loud climate control at full blast.
A big thanks to the folks over at Bennett’s GM in Cambridge for loaning me the truck for 4 days. It’s been a while since I visited their dealership and they’ve renovated to match the modern design of their vehicles. Their reception area is very welcoming and comfortable. Top marks for their patience in arranging this test and in person. If you’re looking for a new (or used) GM vehicle in the KW/Cambridge/Guelph area you should seriously check them out.
It’s been a mixed bag of warm, sunny afternoons and cold, windy mornings. This weekend saw us visit the dump, an early morning breakfast, a family trip to the grandparents as well as a new playground in Elmira. Since live tweeting the launch of this new Sierra design and blogging a preview, it’s been a long time coming getting a ride in this truck.
The last time I took a GM product out for a spin it was in 2012, and drove that year’s Silverado. That truck is a good representation of the prior generation of GM trucks and is/was a great platform. This is a total redesign of the GM truck from the ground up, and it shows. Modernized touches abound in the Sierra and refinements are numerous. Very little remains the same compared to the 2013, with the exception of the GMC badge on the front grill. Build quality was solid and tight, highlighted by comfortable seating. The ride was a bit stiffer than the Ford I drove earlier this year but still ate up the potholes that plague the streets of Waterloo. As an SLT with most of the boxes ticked, costing $54,154 as tested, this truck had a lot to boast. Toys abounded as did wonderful smelling perforated leather. This Sierra was as much heavy duty as it was luxury duty.
GM’s newly designed Intellilink system is very well done. Radio dash and its buttons are large, simple and functional. You get the impression this truck was designed to be controlled while wearing thick gloves. A large, bright screen gives you access to the Intellilink features. Intellilink features a ton of functionality but does it in such a simple, intuitive way. Never did any of the drivers in the truck really feel overwhelmed by it. Our tester featured many optional extras including a delicious Bose audio system. Aside from the BMW I drove last summer, this truck is the most luxurious vehicle I have driven in a long while.
In 2014 GM launched a whole new series of engines. Aside from the six-speed transmission, the only carry over from the previous generation, there is nothing in the drive train it shares with the previous generation. My test truck had the 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 (okay I lied, the displacements are the same too) and is still the V8 I would recommend you buy. It produces 355hp and 383 ft-lb of torque. While less powerful than both engine options in the Ford, it was much more smooth and quiet. It never sounded or felt like the truck was working hard when driving around or accelerating. In fact the Sierra was just plain quiet all around. At idle you couldn’t even hear the engine from inside the cabin and unless you buried the pedal everything was just…tidy. Despite that, there always seemed to be great low and high speed acceleration when passing or on entrance ramps. Again, however, you never felt like you were pushing the truck, hustling up to speed, it got there fast and smooth. This was not the kind of road performance I was expecting from a vehicle this size, not to mention a truck.
Part of the EcoTec3 innovation package is the active fuel management. While not new to the GM family (or truck engines in general) it certainly is improved. In my past drive with the 2012 Silverado the truck rarely used this technology and it was obvious when it did. In the Sierra, however, it was only because of the notification on the driver information panel (more on that later) that I knew the engine was in V4 or V8 mode. It felt a bit weird in V4 mode at certain speeds, but not so much to effect overall ride. On 90 and 100 km/h highways the truck didn’t use V4 as much as I thought it would, but it makes sense. Keeping a truck that size and five people moving takes a lot of power. It was around the streets that I noticed it used the V4 a lot, as much as it could actually. Overall this brought our final test average to 11.9l/100km – well into the expected range based on GM’s numbers. Considering most of my driving was city (est 13.3l/100km) this is a great number.
Very few complaints came from our test this weekend, and many of them were nit picky type things or really personal preference. One of those was about the ride. It definitely differed from the F-150 we tested. I was partial to it but some other riders weren’t as much. My Sierra had the optional Z71 off-road package installed, complete with $190 chrome labels, which includes a suspension and ride overhaul. Despite that I still found the roughness of the roads and depth of the potholes far less jarring. Road noise was minimal except from a whistle at highway speeds which, I suspect, was coming from the front deflector (a must to preserve the paint). Under load or in less-than-ideal road conditions this truck promised to handle itself well and keep it’s occupants comfortable. While Z71 may not be for everyone, I kinda liked it. I’m sure the standard suspension would be a good choice for someone looking for a less “truck” like ride.
This is where the GMC Sierra really shone, it’s new design flaunting many updated features. LED lights are everywhere both as accents and functional. Xenon headlamps are wrapped in white LEDs which give them a real ritzy look. I loved the design when I first saw it in the reveal and love it even more in person. GMC kept their trademark design cues but changed the look of the truck. While the nose is a bit taller and longer than it needs to be, it gives a nice imposing profile. At the rear GM has fitted a tailgate which lowers itself after released. This is a huge change from the loud bangs we’re used to from tailgates crashing down. They also have steps built into the sides of the rear bumper. While only six inches lower than the top of the bumper, that six inches makes a noticeable difference. I used those steps many, many times in the short time I had with the truck. On an elevated driveway like mine they were a huge plus.
During our test I became aware of the downsides to having a bed without a liner. If you find yourself buying a truck at the very least spring for the plastic bed liner. I highly recommend going with a spray-in bed liner. Doing so will ensure the life of your truck and bed will last a very long time, particularly in our rust prone climate. Clean, subtle design cues round out the sides of the truck. This tester came with the optional chrome side steps and they made the truck feel lower. It made for easier entry and exit. LED lights under the power side mirrors illuminate the ground at night. Because of the day length I really didn’t get to see the truck in the dark until the last day. WOW. Almost makes you long for the lengthy dark nights of winter. Almost.
GM focuses on craftsmanship in their marketing for this truck and it doesn’t fall short. Because of it’s trim level everything was wrapped in high quality leather featuring strong, large stitching. Metal accents in the dash were brushed stainless steel giving things a nice, real sort of feeling. I was expecting a plastic material when I touched it so the cold of metal was a pleasant surprise. Heated and cooled leather seats for both passenger and standard were heavily used in our winter-spring weather. All seats were covered in optional stitched and perforated leather, materials are soft to the touch but durable. A leather wrapped heated steering wheel rounded off the toasty combination. Automatic climate, auto-down/up power windows, auto mirror, essentially auto-everything at this trim level. There were no signs of poor fit in any of the final touches and the truck is built very tidly. Doors closed with a silent but heavy clunk and did a great job with heat and sound insulation.
Again LED lighting abounds and creates a soft ambiance at night. Despite only having four overhead lights the cabin is nearly completely lit at night. There is amble space in the crew cabin for toddler and infant seats as well as loading. There wasn’t quite as much with the Ford however, but our kids were still able to crawl in and out. That said, an adult passenger would still find the rear seats spacious. I could see taking three (or four) of my friends on a roadtrip VERY comfortably. My Sierra did lack rear vents, however, only floor vents under the driver and passenger seats. I’m not sure if a third climate center is an option but it may be a consideration.
This seems to have become a category very much of its own. It’s probably because I’m such a tech geek. This truck at it’s level was brimming with toys. I’m not kidding when I say I was grinning gleefully on the first drive. GM has developed a new system for their cars called Intellilink and it’s the best of the domestics, by far. While the Ford Sync was nice, it was a bit confusing to navigate and the dash was button-rific. Chrysler’s uConnect is not great and in need of much improvement. GM, however, has a system to be proud of. Syncing my phone and information was very fast and voice control was simple. It gave me access to all of the system commands as opposed to just the ones for the mode I was in. Navigation by voice was accurate, never had to repeat an address twice. The system uses airbag seat sensors to tell if the driver is trying to input navigation commands while driving and blocks you out. Nav destinations can only be inputted by a passenger (or by voice) when the vehicle is driving. Smarty pants.
An LCD driver information screen is straddled by the speedo and tach dials as on the Ford. Like the Ford it too is full colour. GMs system gives you a little more information, however. There are a few more display options (excluding nav options, which my F-150 didn’t have) you can choose from. Intellilinks center screen is very large and full colour as well. Simple, large buttons are featured in the home screen and easy to use even while driving. There are less physical buttons in the GM but they are well laid out and sizable. GM obviously adhered to the KISS system with the design and I’m a huge fan. This does mean, however, some of the traditional button features are relegated on screen. I didn’t find I missed them thought. Intellilink is fast and easy to navigate. Every screen was a lesson in simplistic function. It’s a refreshing take on the overly complex direction many in car systems are taking. GM’s system isn’t lacking either. All the functionality you get it simply displayed in a nice, simple package. Intellilink features everything their competition does and makes no sacrifices in its pursuit of simplicity. I did say the MySync system was the best but I hadn’t tried the Intellilink yet. Whoops.
My only complaint about my system, in comparison with the F-150, was how it interacted with my phone. In the F-150 I was able to receive, hear and vocally reply to texts while in the GM I can’t. That may simply be a phone compatibility issue though. Ford kinda cheated on that one too, since Sync is made by Microsoft – as is my phone. MySync is no longer powered by Microsoft. *Edit*: So the GMC System does to this, my phone was just being a bit slow realizing it. Works like a charm!
At this price point there were very few options left lacking on the Sierra. It also left very little to be lacking. Drivers aids, technology and comfort were all at German sports saloon levels. GM’s new drivetrain is smooth, quiet, efficient and powerful. Interior design is modern and refreshingly simple, everything built exceptionally well. I managed to find a few cons for my bullet list up there, but I think they’re it. Even installing three kids seats on the rear bench was a 5 minute breeze job. MotorTrend got it wrong overlooking the 2014 Sierra/Silverado for their award this year, and AJAC got it right. It’s a shame sales don’t reflect it but this is (hesitation) the best truck on the market today. Today. There’s something coming that may give it a run for the money. All told this is a wonderful truck, a difficult one to have to give back at the end of this test.
There’s still a bit of time before I have to return it. Perhaps I’ll take it for one last spin.