A Panasonic DVD system ($995) is available for the Sierra
1500 Crew Cab, turning it into a real family vehicle. The
system comes with a seven-inch flip-down screen
for watching DVD movies and cartoons, a CD player, two sets
of wireless headphones with independent volume control,
a wireless remote control, and three sets of auxiliary video
and audio inputs. Safety is enhanced with dual-stage airbags (1500
only), which deploy with less force in less-severe collisions.
An automatic passenger-sensing system assesses whether the
occupant in the seat is an adult or child, based on weight
and seat belt tension, and deactivates the passenger-side
air bag accordingly. An indicator light in the rearview
mirror lets the driver know when the airbag is deactivated.
Three-point seat belts are provided in all first and second-row
No question, GMC Sierra represents a great line of full-size
pickups. On the road, the Sierra is quiet and well behaved,
more so than other full-size pickups. It's stable at high
speeds, particularly the longer wheelbase (143.5-inch) models.
rides well and handles well. The 5300 V8 makes for an enjoyable engine around
town and on the Interstate. The 5.3-liter (327-cubic-inch)
engine is rated 295 horsepower with 330 pounds-feet of torque,
plenty for light towing and hauling. The available V6 produces
200 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque, but most GMC
Sierra buyers opt for a V8 and automatic transmission. With
285 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet, the 4.8-liter V8 is
the most popular engine for this truck. With its 6.0-liter
V8, the Sierra Denali really gets with the program.
A Tow/Haul mode helps the four-speed automatic transmission
keep its cool when towing. Press the Tow/Haul button on
the end of the shifter, and the transmission holds gears
longer before shifting up or down, reducing the annoying
tendency to hunt between third and fourth gears in hilly
terrain. Shifts are harder and quicker in Tow mode, reducing
heat build-up in the transmission. We find it improves the
performance of the truck when pulling a trailer and reduces
driver annoyance levels.
Two-wheel-drive 1500s have rack-and-pinion steering,
but there is still a fairly wide dead spot in the center
when cruising. GMC says this is intentional, to minimize
steering corrections on the highway. The steering feels
a bit light, but the truck tracks beautifully and handles
well on pavement, loose dirt, deep dirt, and even off-road.
Recirculating-ball steering comes on 2500/3500, four-wheel-drive,
and Quadrasteer models. Quadrasteer makes driving these big pickups so much
nicer in tight, crowded parking lots. It reduces the turning
circle by 10 feet on an extended-cab short-box model (from
47.3 to 37.4). On the road, our Quadrasteer-equipped truck
felt more stable, especially on winding roads, where it
was easier to drive, and where the trailer tracked better
behind it. If you tow frequently, you really owe it to yourself
to test a truck with Quadrasteer. Backing a long trailer
into a parking space at a 90 degree angle is much easier
with Quadrasteer than without it. The system shortens turning
circles with trailers and makes backing up more intuitive.
For reasons we can't explain, ride quality in the GMC Sierra
Denali with Quadrasteer seems much smoother than our recollection
of the full-size
Yukon XL SUV with Quadrasteer.
The brakes are excellent. They are large, heavy-duty
discs on all four corners; ABS is standard on all models.
Refinements introduced for 2003 resulted in increased stopping
power, improved pedal feel with less pedal effort, and quieter
operation. Dynamic Rear Proportioning improves stability
under heavy braking, whether the truck is loaded or empty,
and can reduce stopping distances. Jam on the brakes, and
most vehicles without ABS will lock up the rear tires, because
most of the weight is being transferred to the front wheels.
ABS keeps the rear wheels from locking, but you still lose
braking effectiveness as most of the weight is transferred
to the front tires. With Dynamic Rear Proportioning, brake
pressure is transferred to the tires with the best grip,
thereby reducing stopping distances.
Optional Autotrac four-wheel-drive allows the driver
to lock the axle speeds together in low range for maximum
off-road traction, or select an automatic mode that sends
power to the wheels with the best grip. Autotrac uses electronics
to control a conventional, truck-style two-speed transfer
case. Its a great setup for serious off-road duty,
be it mud, deep snow, silt, sand, or rugged terrain. The
system was refined last year for better fuel efficiency
improved low-speed cornering feel in the Auto mode.
Its fun to drive the GMC Sierra Denali on winding
mountain roads. It handles well, with responsive steering,
and delivers strong acceleration perform-ance. The Sierra
Denali features a full-time four-wheel drive system. A planetary
center differential provides a permanent 38/62 front/rear
torque split; while a viscous coupling locks up progressively
if one axle or the other starts to slip. Its a good
system for snow, ice, water, gravel, dirt, or anywhere that
presents inconsistent traction conditions. THe GMC Sierra
Denali rides on a uniquely tuned suspension as well, designed
to limit body roll (or lean). Sierra Denali comes with the
Z82 towing package and is rated to tow trailers of up to
9900 pounds. Its all-wheel-drive system can help pull a
boat up a slippery ramp. Denali is also fitted with high-capacity
disc brakes from the Sierra 2500HD/3500.
2004 model year is the year of the full-size pickup, with
new introductions from Ford and Nissan and solid entries
from Dodge and Toyota. The GMC Sierra delivers lots of power, big payload
capacities, and lots of towing capability. It looks classy
and distinctive, and is a bit more upscale than the
Chevy Silverado. The Sierra pickups are among the smoothest, quietest,
most civilized, best equipped, and most enjoyable trucks
weve driven. The GMC Sierra is a must-see if youre
buying a new full-size pickup.