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The 2014 GMC Sierra: Same but Different-WWJD and WWSOD?

 P1000961El Capitan Canyon Campground, California: On a rural road near my New England home town, a barn has the acronym WWJD painted on the side. It took me a few drive-bys to get it. What Would Jesus Do? is the question. I thought about that when I drove the all-new 2014 GMC Sierra, because the program that the GMC folks put together answered the question: What Would Sierra Owners Do?

Smart move for GMC to do something different to introduce the 204 Sierra to the motor press– because the truck really isn’t that much different. What we mean is this: The news was already out on GM’s light trucks, with the intro of the Chevy Silverado, with over 130 auto evaluators driving the Silverado at the Knibbe Ranch, in Texas. So, GMC decided to put a distinctive footprint in the sand, with a ride and drive of the more upscale Sierra along the Pacific Coast in southern CA. inviting a smaller group of 30 test drivers (along with a guest) to try out the truck the way many of its buyers might use it: touring, towing and glamping!

Sierra Truck Fast Facts and Buyers

First: the GMC/Chevy truck distinctions—the exterior trim and interior personality and materials, as well as features that come standard on the Sierra that are optional on Silverado. GMC fast facts: it’s the 11th largest brand in the U.S. and slots in behind Chevy trucks with 413,000 sales-a 12 percent increase in 2013, and its premium Denali sub-brand represents 18 percent of the mix. GMC calls its buyers “disciplined achievers”, who are typically between the ages of 35-55 and have a household income of approximately $95,000, while some 33 percent make over $100,000 a year and own their own business or a self-employed.

 

What’s the same: GM’s claim that this personal pickup is the most powerful, most advanced and most refined truck in this brand’s 111 year history. Like Silverado, Sierra has a fresh exterior design and toughened chassis, along with three new engines, a cabin with upgraded materials and an updated version of GM’s Intellilink connectivity suite, plus an impressive list of standard premium features-the longest list ever for a full-sized GMC pickup. GM says its V6 engine is the segment leader with its torque figures and towing capacity; one of its two V8 engines takes top fuel economy in the class. Truck competitors in this segment are Ford, Ram, Toyota and Nissan. The 2014 Sierra starts at $33, 210 (with destination and delivery) and is on sale now.

 

“Our engineers and designers left nothing on the table when developing this latest Sierra pickup,” said Tony DiSalle, vice president of GMC Marketing. “These trucks have all the power and capability expected in today’s market, excellent fuel efficiency, plus a lot of unexpected, purposeful features developed with truck owners in mind.”

Distinctions

For these Sierra pickup owners, designers have gussied the outside with different wheel arch moldings, tires and wheels and body-color bumper caps on the base trim level; real aluminum interior trim; chrome bumpers on the base model, bright–work window belt trim moldings and four upper tie-downs in the bed. Various trim levels get unique adornments and a higher level of standard equipment. Like the Chevy siblings, the new trucks are bigger, stronger, and quieter; they have the same mechanicals and are powered by three new EcoTec3 engines, that have been engineered with direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management (shuts off four of the eight cylinders on the bigger engines, or two of the six cylinders on the V6, for improved fuel economy. The new trucks also have increased towing capabilities that grows to 12,000 lbs. with the 6.2-liter V8 available in the fall.

Like Silverado, the GMC Sierra is available in several configurations. It comes in 2WD and 4WD, with regular, double cab (new name for “extended cab”) and crew cab versions. There are three pick-up boxes (5.8-ft., 6.6-ft. or 8-ft. beds); and several trim levels. Three drivetrains include a 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8. The Sierra All-Terrain gets a unique exterior and interior trim and includes the Z71 off-road suspension with monotube Rancho shocks, hill descent control, front recovery hooks, a transfer case shield and unique wheels and tires, along with an automatic locking rear differential that provides safety and confidence on low-traction surfaces. An uplevel Sierra Denali version will be available this fall with the larger V8 that will get 420 hp. and 450 lb.-ft. of torque, which GM says is the most power and torque of any light-duty truck engine.

Our Truck

We drove the all-new Sierra 1500 Crew Cab SLT 4WD, with a base price of $43,425; it was $50,855, as equipped with numerous uplevel options (a bare-bones version of this truck starts just north of $35K). Standard goodies on the outside include chrome trim and bumpers; deep tinted glass; power heated outside mirror w/ adjustable turn signals: 20-inch polished chrome aluminum wheels; 6-inch chrome assist steps; upper adjustable tie downs, bed rail protectors, and cargo box LED lighting. Interior appointments remote start; included heated and cooled leather front seats with 40/20/40; heated steering wheel; power sliding rear window; power adjustable pedals; power sunroof, five USB ports along with BOSE audio Pandora, Bluetooth and IntelliLink connectivity and Navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen; and a collection of safety and Driver Alert systems, such as rear view camera, front and rear park assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, safety alert seat. Our truck was motivated by the 5.3-liter V8, set up with a trailer-brake controller, and a rear axle w/3.42 ratio.

Our Drive

We climbed onboard the Sierra’s comfort-filled, upgraded interior that looks as if it could power a fighter jet, seats, pedals and controls that were ergonomically perfect and great visibility. Our first jaunt up the Pacific Coast Highway took us to the Camarillo Airport for GMC’s Trailering Academy. Here, we attached a 23 ft. Airstream trailer, from Airstream 2 GO (see more info below) and after a “chalk talk” on trailering and towing tips, we motored through a cone course and practiced backing and parking maneuvers designed to simulate our highway drive and situating our Airstream at the campground.

The truck pulled our aluminum home-away-from-home with an ease that made it easy to forget it was a tow-along. After a slight adjustment to the trailer brake, it stopped with aplomb and, when placed in tow/haul mode, the Sierra’s transmission took care of launch, uphill acceleration and downhill braking with appropriate gearing and holding shifts, when needed. Once we unhooked, we used the GMC Base Camp for relaxing or “glamping” or glamorous camping, that provided meals and was our jumping-off point for day-time adventures in the local region—just like many GMC buyers might do!

Airstream 2GO

Our “silver standard” 23-foot International Signature Series sleeper can accommodate four adults and has aerodynamic design and an upscale interior complete with full bath and shower; microwave and cook stove, frig, and a flat screen TV. This new company offers rentals of full-equipped trailers and tow vehicles. There are two trailer sizes (the other is a 28-ft that sleeps 6) in two locations, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The current-model Airstreams are custom matched to GMC Yukon Denali SUVs, with custom journeys available. For further info: www.airstream2go.com; 1-800-780-9880

 

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