Sunday, September 29, 2013

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4X4 test drive review. The luxury car that works like a truck

Let me just put this out there.  If I had 50-large to spend on a new vehicle right now, I’d be mighty tempted to order a new 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4X4 exactly like the one I just finished test driving.  Bright red?  Absolutely.  20-inch chrome wheels?  You bet.  Z71 off-road suspension?  Sign me up.  Honestly, if you’re into cars, and appreciate a modern interpretation of the classic American pickup, there’s not much to dislike here.  Allow me to explain.

One of the fears that many people have about using a full-sized pickup like this is that they believe it’s too trucky.  I guess when people hear the word “truck,” they think it’ll ride like an old cement mixer and their clothes will stick to the dirty vinyl seats because there’s no air conditioning.  The new Sierra is not like that.  In fact, this is one of the most luxurious, comfortable vehicles on the planet.  More comfortable than a new BMW?  Show me a BMW with this much room in it.  More comfortable than a new Lexus?  Show me a Lexus with this long of a wheelbase that can absorb the terrain like this can on-road or off.

The interior in this rig also rivals most luxury cars.  Everywhere you look, it’s leather, wood, chrome, and cool lighting.  Between a seat that moves up, down, backwards, forwards (and has adjustable lumbar support), to adjustable pedals, to a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, it is almost impossible not to find your happy place.  This particular truck was also full of technology, like a lane departure warning system, rear backup camera, heated and cooled seats, and Intellilink. 

What’s Intellilink, you ask?  Well, in addition to having regular radio, Sirius/XM Radio, and Pandora capabilities, you can also link it up to your smart phone.  I was listening to music from my phone wirelessly, right through the truck.  I was also able to call my phone contacts, all hands-free.  They didn’t have this technology when any of my cars were built.  All the kids thought I was a goon for thinking this was something special.  This is the kind of gadgetry you think you don’t want or need.  But once you get a taste of it, you want more.  This is some cool stuff right here.

This truck had a 355-hp, 5.3-liter EcoTec V8 under that domed, aluminum hood.  Well, it was usually a V8.  Sometimes it was a V4.  Depending on what kind of load you were putting on it, it would deactivate cylinders as a fuel-saving measure.  It was a relatively seamless process, although I did notice it happening.  But that setup, along with a six-speed automatic transmission, is good for 16-mpg in the city, and 22 on the open road.  You could even do better, because the driver measured 23-mpg bringing it to Kansas City from Dallas.  Just think about what kind of achievement that really is.  This thing weighs more than 5,600-lbs.  It can tow more than 9,500-lbs when properly-optioned.  It looks as aerodynamic as a shoe box.  And it will get 23-mpg.  Am I the only one who thinks that’s amazing?

Driving this truck was a pleasure.  I’ve already gushed about the comfort and ride.  There was very little wind noise.  It had plenty of power.  And with brake rotors topping 13-inches, it stops better than some cars.  On particularly rough pavement, you could feel it hop around a bit.  But I would attribute that to the $430 Z71 off-road suspension and aggressive Goodyear rubber.  More telling was how solid the whole thing feels.  I have driven some new trucks (ahem, Tundra), that were as floppy as a wet noodle.  This GMC just feels so rigid.  It’s a brick of unwavering quality.

It’s no secret that GMC trucks are nearly exact clones of Chevrolet trucks.  And certainly, you would get a similar experience in a Chevy.  Oh, there are some differences.  The main one is the grille and headlight design.  The Chevy has a stacked headlight thing going on with the traditional bisected Chevy grille.  The GMC has squinty, LED-trimmed headlights and a humongous GMC emblem.  But GMC trucks really do serve a purpose.  They have a bit of an upscale connotation, and they allow stand-alone Buick or Cadillac dealerships to carry GM’s profitable truck line.  Plus, if you don’t care for the looks of the Chevy for some reason, here’s an alternative.

Some people absolutely need trucks.  They use them for construction or towing, hunting or camping.  Some people don’t need trucks.  But I can sure see why they would want them.  A truck like this 2014 GMC Sierra does everything a car can do, only it does most of these things better than a car can do them (OK, I’ll admit, it is harder to park in a tight space).  But it’s also practical.  What grown adult hasn’t needed a truck several times in their lives?  If you want the total package, this red rider fits the bill.  That’s why I would recommend it without hesitation.  I just wish I could afford it.

Check out the slideshow below for more pictures of our 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4X4 test vehicle.   Or, click this link for a nicer version.