Road Test: 2014 GMC Sierra Crew Cab 4×4 SLT

The Ford Motor Company may own the half-ton pickup market, but the game has changed with standout light truck entries from domestic rivals RAM and General Motors (GMC and Chevrolet), not to mention the built-in-Texas Toyota Tundra, all of which have been chipping away at Ford’s share in this lucrative sector of the automotive market.

For 2014, General Motors has totally redesigned their pickup trucks from bumper to bumper in hopes of knocking the benchmark F-150 from its lofty perch.

The timing is right, as Ford’s product is relatively stale at the moment, and the folks at General Motors seem to be on a winning streak when it comes to its new offerings catalogue wide.

There has been some criticism about the exterior styling of the 2014 Sierra, as it is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. While the product planners at GM seek to grow their customer base with this product, they are also well aware of the fact that it is equally important to retain those you already have. The addition of a bold new front end design and advanced lighting systems give the truck a fresh face, but the redo extends far beyond what is visible at first glance. The 2014 Sierra lineup features a new underlying structure, a trio of new engines, and a host of new technology offerings.

One look inside the passenger cabin of the new Sierra Crew Cab and it becomes immediately apparent that the designers have worked hard to maximize interior room and improve on the level of comfort. Fit-and-finish is now on par with that of main rivals Ford and Ram, and the layout of the various controls and switchgear is far less cluttered.

I am a rather large individual, so I am happy to report that I found all five seating positions comfortable enough for long journeys. I had enough headroom to wear a hat, and my size 14 feet were pointed north rather than angled to the east and west. Visibility can be an issue, as the square hood and huge proportions can make navigating tight spaces a challenge, but a rear camera, front and rear proximity sensors, and huge mirrors will alleviate much of this potential stress.

Under the enormous aluminum hood you will find an all-new, EcoTec 5.3-litre V-8 engine that produces 355-horsepower and 383 lb.-ft of torque. This engine is more powerful than the one it replaces (315 hp and 335
lb.-ft), and has been engineered to carry a greater payload, tow more weight, and consume less fuel. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the EcoTec will hustle the Sierra Crew Cab from 0-100 kilometres per hour in an impressive 6.7 seconds.

How is it possible to deliver a higher level of performance and improve fuel efficiency? Engineering magic of course. The EcoTec features direct injection, variable valve timing, and Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology. The latter means that while cruising at highway speeds, the EcoTec engine will operate on four cylinders rather than eight. Should you need a surge of power to initiate a pass or tackle a steep grade, the system would automatically re-engage the four sleeping cylinders.

During my week with the Sierra I used it to haul the typical loads of building materials and recreational gear that this class of truck has been designed to handle, as well as a full complement of passengers. The truck never felt cumbersome or ungainly, and the powertrain was able to reach cruising speed with little effort.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to hook up a trailer during the test period, but with a towing capacity of 11,500 pounds, a beefy suspension, and a heavy-duty cooling system, the Sierra 1500 should be able to handle the towing demands of the average consumer. Of course those planning to tow on a regular basis tend to buy a heavier truck than a half-ton, but occasional use to tow utility trailers, boats or small campers will prove effortless with this setup.

The suspension features coil springs up front, and leaf units in the rear. The coil springs do an excellent job of keeping the wheels in contact with the road surface, even when the truck is burdened by a heavy load, and both steering and handling are greatly enhanced. The leaf springs are a two-stage design which allows the truck to carry heavy loads in the Crew Cab’s 5’8” cargo box without excessive squat.

If you haven’t driven a full-sized pickup lately you would be surprised at how un-truck-like they have become.

The ride in the new Sierra is refined, and the spacious cabin is almost serene. All the comforts, safety and luxury equipment of the modern automobile can now be had in what for generations was regarded as a work vehicle. In my community, the full-sized pickup has supplanted the passenger car as the vehicle of choice, due to its incredible versatility and the fact that they can be ordered to meet the individual needs of the customer.

The new Sierra should help GM establish a more prominent position on the truck battlefield, as it represents a vast improvement over the outgoing model, and represents a lot of truck for the money.

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The Specs
2014 GMC Sierra Crew Cab 4X4 SLT
Type of vehicle: Four-wheel-drive, pickup
Engine: 5.3-litre V-8
Power: 355 hp @ 5,600 rpm;
383 lbs.-ft at 4100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P265/65R/18
Price base/as tested: $49,865/ $57,230
Destination charge: $1,650
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy: L / 100 km City 13.3 L (21 mpg); Hwy 9.0 L (31 mpg)

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