2019 GMC Sierra review: Don't sweat the truck stuff
The 2019 GMC Sierra, like every other pickup truck on the market, needs to be two vehicles in one. With prices creeping ever skyward, it's important to pick a truck that can handle both work and play with aplomb, and the new Sierra does just that. All the traditional truck stuff -- towing, hauling, etc. -- gets handled with complete competency, with some extra credit for a unique trick in the bed. In its secondary job as a family vehicle, it succeeds thanks to GM's tech-forward feature lineup. No matter which job it's time for, the Sierra is ready to clock in.
Design avoids the ugly stick, new tailgate impresses
Both the GMC Sierra and its Chevrolet Silverado sibling get major updates for the 2019 model year. While the Silverado's scrunched front end isn't for everyone, the Sierra wears a design that's a bit more traditional. Sure, the grille makes up 90 percent of the front end, but it blends well with the rest of the truck's blocky good looks, casting an imposing shadow over most other cars on the road.
The rear end keeps GM's clever inset bumper step, and while I think it's sort of ugly, its practicality can't be beat. However, it might not be necessary if your Sierra packs the same MultiPro tailgate that my SLT-trim tester does. It's a tailgate within a tailgate that can act as a laptop stand, a big ol' step or a temporary bed extender. It's some truly clever stuff that should help the Sierra stand out with buyers.
The interior keeps it pretty simple. There's no major redo here -- instead, GMC goes for the familiarity play with a layout that's largely the same as before. My crew-cab tester has two very spacious rows of seats wrapped in comfortable leather, and the front row seats are separated with a center console capable of holding every tchotchke accumulated across a lifetime, including enough space under the armrest for an entire purse.
My favorite feature in the Sierra is the electronic parking brake, which is a single button that can only be pushed one way. I don't have to fumble to remember whether engaging the brake requires a pull or a push -- if it's on, the button turns it off, and if it's off, the button turns it on. It's the little things, you know?
Capable without being uncomfortably rugged
Not everyone will buy a 2019 Sierra for truck stuff, but people who regularly tow or haul won't be lacking for capability. Spec the Sierra with a crew cab, the optional 6.2-liter V8 and an $850 trailering package for its improved cooling, a beefier suspension and a different rear axle ratio, and this truck will tow 12,100 pounds. If payload is more important, ditch the 6.2-liter V8 (but keep the crew cab and trailering package) and the Sierra will haul 2,140 pounds of whatever.
My tester is optioned out for max trailering, so it has all the goodies mentioned above. The 6.2-liter V8 adds $2,495 to the Sierra SLT crew cab's $50,000 base price, but I think it's worth it. With 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque on tap, it sounds (and nearly feels) like 75 percent of a base Corvette , providing loads of hustle with an empty bed and ample torque in every gear. The 10-speed automatic is fine on the upshifts, but downshifts take a surprising amount of time as the truck figures out which gear is ideal for its given throttle position.
The remaining driving dynamics are pretty pleasant, as far as unladen pickup trucks go. There's some audible cabin sound when the suspension shuffles the truck over bumps and potholes, but tire and wind noises on the highway are relatively muted. The Sierra exhibits the same wishy-washy characteristics as every other body-on-frame pickup truck, but compared to other vehicles in the segment, it feels near the top comfort-wise.
With its base (for now) 5.3-liter V8, the 2019 Sierra can achieve an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway, but my tester's 6.2-liter V8 drops those numbers to 15 city and 20 highway. Thankfully, they're easy to beat -- in fact, my observed numbers with the 6.2-liter V8 were pretty close to the 5.3-liter's estimates. That's without anything in or attached to the truck, though -- slap a race car on the back or fill the bed with rocks, and all bets are off.
Tech and safety abounds
Currently, all Sierras have the same 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which can be upgraded to include embedded navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, though, so navigation is still available by cheaper means. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is present, as well.
The infotainment system itself runs the freshest version of GM's software. First seen on Cadillac before migrating slowly to other GM marques, this new system is snappier and prettier, ditching its skeuomorphic past in favor of something flatter and simpler. It allows for cross-car personalization, too, thanks to a user profile system that will bring stored navigation destinations and other data from car to car. It's a good system, made even better.
There are two parts of the system that I am obsessed with. The first is the Trailering app, which is an entire bit of tech dedicated to pullin' stuff. It offers checklists to make sure no step (like hooking up the electrical) is forgotten, and it lets me save multiple trailer profiles in case I need to tow a boat one day and a horse trailer the next. The other is the Camera app, which shows every possible angle of the truck, including a top-down view. For an extra $250, GMC will add an extra camera on each mirror, as well as a top-down camera on the tailgate that makes hitching trailers much easier.
My tester packs the $6,825 Premium Package, which offers just about every creature comfort known to man, including ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, additional USB ports, an improved audio system and every safety system possible. Many of the updates are broken down into smaller packages, too, for buyers who don't want to send the truck's price through the roof. The USB ports deserve special mention, because my tester has six of them -- two up front, two in the center console and two for the back row. Each bank of two has one USB Type-A and one USB Type-C for faster device charging, which is a nice touch. Wireless phone charging is available, too, but alas, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto don't work wirelessly with the Sierra.
The big-boy Premium Package also adds a whole load of active and passive safety systems. My Sierra tester comes toting front and rear parking sensors, lane-keep assist, a following-distance indicator and low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The lane-keep assist was especially helpful, as the truck usually feels larger than a whole lane.
How I'd spec it
As more cab, bed and engine configurations come online, the Sierra's base price will drop precipitously, but for now, I'd spec it almost exactly like my tester. Configuring a truck is almost as involved as configuring a Porsche , but the limited number of available Sierras means it's a bit easier.
A V8 crew cab is all that's available at the time of writing. It'll sneak under $50,000 (including $1,495 in destination charges) with rear-wheel drive, but as a Midwesterner, I'll take the $51,495 four-wheel-drive version. Adding the 6.2-liter V8 brings the price to $53,990. I don't need the ruggedness of the AT4 trim or the fancy-pants attitude of the Denali , so I'll stick with the SLT trim, which is the least expensive of the three.
I would keep the $6,825 Premium Package, because I want all the safety systems, in addition to the extra USB ports, ventilated front seats, power rear window and revised center console. I'd skip over my tester's $995 sunroof, the $495 fancy red paint and the $850 trailering package, but I'd invest the $250 in the extra cameras. That brings the total to a lofty $61,065. That's not too far off my tester's $62,605, but it cuts some of the fluff. My tester should be $63,605, but GMC currently discounts the Premium Package's price by $1,000, which is good, because it's expensive.
Down to brass tacks
With a bunch of fresh trucks on the market, this is one hot segment. The 2019 Silverado is almost a carbon copy of the Sierra, but its design is polarizing and it lacks the versatile MultiPro tailgate. The 2019 Ram 1500 offers a better ride and an optional 12-inch touchscreen, but I'm not sold on its unibrow-ish front end. The 2018 Ford F-150 was only a refresh, but I can go to a dealership today and pick up one with a diesel engine, and I can't do that with the Sierra (yet).
The 2019 GMC Sierra offers a comprehensive bag of tricks that enhances both of its major functions. From a work perspective, it's versatile and capable, while from a play perspective it's comfortable and filled with the latest cabin tech. It won't let you down, no matter what you have in store for it.