General Motors is the only Detroit brand that sells its pickup trucks with two different badges on them. Chevrolet peddles the Silverado, while GMC sells the Sierra, virtually the same truck except for some style tweaks and packaging differences. This strategy allows the General to sell the Sierra for a higher starting price, and offer customers more choices across a wide range of configurations on both trucks.
|1. Three new engines are offered, a 4.3L V6, a 5.3L V8 and a 6.2L V8 all with direct injection, cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing.
2. The volume 5.3L makes 355 and 383 lb-ft of torque with a 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway rating on 4×4 models.
3. Starting at $25,085 the Sierra can be optioned out to north of $50,000.
But it seems that the packaging incentives meant to draw customers into the Sierra only catch a few prospective buyers, as Sierra sales only represent around 20 percent or less of the brand’s truck sales. But why? Does is have to do with value, or are ‘truck guys’ truly not into the added exterior bits that make the Sierra look a whole lot fancier than the Silverado.
SIERRA vs SILVERADO
First, what’s different? Base price for a Silverado is $24,585, while a bottom-of-the-barrel Sierra will leave the dealership for $25,085, a difference of $500. For that little bit of cash the Sierra offers a unique three-bar grille design, plastic wheel arch body molding, projector beam headlamps and a different set of wheels.
Checking off a few more option boxes can change up the look on the Sierra dramatically, as each trim has a slightly different grille. LED accent lighting around the truck’s projector beam head lamps is also an option and one that really pushes the truck’s curb appeal into the realm of premium vehicles. Overall, the Sierra conveys a luxurious message, making it almost more akin to a Cadillac than a GMC in the looks department.
Mechanically, the Sierra and Silverado are identical, and get their power from the same trio of engines. At the bottom is a V6 good for 285 hp and 305 lb-ft, while the volume motor is a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 and 383 lb-ft of torque. The top of the line engine is a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
A fuel-economy-minded 3.08 final drive ratio comes standard on the trucks, with a 3.42 available as a no-cost option. A larger 3.73 will be available soon, once the brand releases the max-towing package. GM labels its new motors ‘EcoTec3,’ a badge that signifies three technologies at work in each of these motors: cylinder deactivation, direct injection and variable valve timining.
SMOOTH RIDE, NEEDS TORQUE
To accent the new 2014 engine lineup, a revised coil-over-shock front suspension along with revised twin-tube shock absorbers with new valving are now equipped. Add in the new electric power steering and this new Sierra is smooth riding and easy to handle while cruising over many miles.
Steering-wheel weighting is variable and changes based on input and road conditions. At speed it’s heavy enough to feel connected, while in a parking lot situation it lightens and makes the truck easier to maneuver. This blend offers just enough feedback, but errs on the light side of things that allows miles to melt away without any unneeded driver fatigue.
Those dynamics mostly transfer over once some weight is hooked up to the Sierra and powertrain selection must be done carefully if towing is a full-time requirement. It comes down to a decision by GM to favor fuel economy over low-end torque in its new trucks, and it shows.
The largest rear-end differential ratio offered is a 3.73, falling short of what every other half-ton manufacturer offers. While a 5.3-liter V8 paired with a 3.08 rear end is rated at 6,800 lbs of towing capacity, actually sticking that much weight on the back of this rig doesn’t feel so good. Yes, the Sierra can pull the weight, but the 383 lb-ft feels like significantly less once that much trailer is hitched up.
With a 3.08 rear end, 3,000 to 4,000 lbs should feel ideal behind this truck. Anyone looking to haul on a regular basis will probably want to step up to at least the 3.43, but the 3.73 is ideal for the customer who will be pulling often.
Despite the lack of torque, the dynamics of the Sierra are flat-footed. A stiff frame and nicely set up suspension bring with them a feeling of comfort and confidence when hauling. Emergency situations are handled well by the truck, which doesn’t sway back and forth due to excess body roll.
A PROPER TRUCK INTERIOR
Interior upgrades for 2014 include a full redesign of the center stack, which features large redundant controls, rubberized toggle switches that feel great in hand and the addition of an all new infotainment system that puts an eight-inch touch screen in the center with a four-inch screen in the info cluster. If there was any one area where the previous generation of GM trucks was truly outdated, it was the interior. Finally, this issue has been solved.
Connectivity is easier now than ever before, with a total of five USB ports, three 12-volt power points, and a new 110-volt three-prong outlet. Storage abounds inside, and the center console even features file hangers, as well as two spots set aside specifically for cell phones and tablets.
Along with that, the 2014 Sierra has more legroom than ever before, with 40.9 inches of total rear legroom in the crew cab equipped trucks.
A special mention goes out to the integrated trailer brake controller and 4-wheel drive controller, which are located up to the left of the steering wheel. This makes both of them easily accessible; especially important for the trailer brake if an emergency squeeze is ever needed to bring the trailer back from a fish tail. Trailer sway control is also an option on the Sierra which should guarantee that a quick squeeze is never needed, but having the control quickly accessible further inspires confidence.
The innards of Chevy’s new half-ton are also the same as the Sierra; actually, they are too much the same. While a Sierra can be dressed up with some appointments that the SIlverado can’t, at a base level it would nice to see more differentiation on the insides of these two trucks.
Dropping that extra cash should merit a design change on the inside that goes beyond some wood inlays and a GMC badge. If GM really wants to sell the idea that the Sierra offers more than the Silverado, then the insides of these trucks should look the part just as much as the exterior.
With the engines, transmissions, chassis and actual working bits identical between Sierra and Silverado, why buy one over the other? Well, vanity seems to be the clear reason. The split between these two sister vehicles comes down to what type of person walks into that showroom. Someone with a taste for flair, style and has a thicker pocketbook is probably going to gravitate towards the Sierra, while the Silverado remains the bread and butter blue collar work truck.
So is the Sierra worth it? For the right type of person, absolutely. With the serious rise in luxury pickup sales lately, the GMC Sierra has more of a home now than it ever has, giving GM more versatility in the huge-profit world of pickup trucks.