I employed the GMC Sierra to tow my 19-foot Glastron boat, a burden of only 4000 pounds. That was a rather piddling load for this well muscled machine and it barely knew a load was in tow. What amazed me most is how quiet, smooth riding, and generally enjoyable this dual-rear-tired pickup has become. The Duramax turbo diesel is quiet, smoke free, and impressively strong especially from rest. It is supremely well matched to the Allison automatic transmission. Anyone who seriously needs this much capacity will be well served by this mega truck.
– Don Sherman, Technical Editor
How fitting to have this truck around Halloween because this thing’s a monster. The 2011 GMC Sierra 3500 HD has amazing capability; for proof, just look at the numbers. This turbocharged Duramax diesel engine produces 765 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque, and it’s available at just 1600 rpm.
The crew cab interior is spacious enough for four or five adults, and the leather-trimmed seats offer good comfort over long distances. The dual rear wheels make navigating urban areas a challenge, but people who buy a truck like this will likely rarely worry about that issue. Speaking of navigation, this truck wasn’t equipped with the $2250 option. And with a rig this big, I’d prefer to have the rearview camera system to make trailer hookup a snap. For a $55,930 truck, a $450 backup camera system is a drop in the bucket, and a worthwhile option.
– Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
After a week of driving mostly sporty Automobile of the Year and All-Star candidates on rural roads, it was quite a switch to find myself negotiating downtown Ann Arbor in this giant dualie pickup. As Mike pointed out, though, the city is not the habitat for a truck like this. This is the kind of vehicle that excels at towing big trailers full of things like horses, cars, and hay bales or hauling bedfuls of construction equipment and mountains of firewood. In my rural farm town (where the streets are pretty wide), the Sierra felt right at home, but the only thing I hauled was a medium-size pumpkin. What a disgrace!
This truck is more capable than what 99.9% of private owners need, but for those select target customers, this $56K one-ton truck is surely fantastic, with its heated seats, satellite radio, very spacious cabin, huge bed, and, of course, near limitless towing capability. And when you need a truck like that, you probably don’t worry about fuel mileage very much. Over fifty commuting miles, with the truck empty, I achieved an indicated 13.3 mpg on diesel.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
At 259 inches long and 95.9 inches abreast at its widest point, there’s no arguing that the Sierra 3500 is a large truck. Funny, then, that it feels a little smaller than other one-ton dually 4×4 pickups. I didn’t, for instance, have to use the optional step bars to enter and exit the cab. Even so, ground clearance doesn’t appear to have been sacrificed; GM measures front and rear clearances at 9.6 and 8.4 inches, respectively.
As Rusty says, it’s hard to truly evaluate a truck like this without being able to exercise it to the extent of its abilities. Unladen, the 3500 dually rides a little rough when compared to the Silverado 2500 I drove earlier this year, but the torsion beam front suspension does help smooth the ride. I’d imagine most buyers of a truck with these capabilities will typically have a sizable load or trailer along for the haul, which would further improve ride quality.
GM has done a great job giving its latest heavy-duty pickups with both outstanding powertrains (especially the Duramax/Allison pairing) and a rugged frame, but it’s high time the company grants the lineup some additional style particularly in the cabin. GM once led the full-size truck pack in terms of interior design, but the cabin is growing dated, especially in comparison to the [Dodge] Ram.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I was totally impressed with the exceptional ride quality of the single-rear-wheel Chevrolet Silverado HD 2500. As Rusty notes, this dual-rear-wheel 3500 rides substantially rougher. It’s also a monstrous chore to navigate in the tight parking lots of Ann Arbor, as I nearly wrinkled both rear fenders within the first 50 feet of my drive.
For $55,930 you’ll get a seriously strong truck and some decent comfort features, but it’s worth nothing that you get a nicer cabin in a $19,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact car. While GM continues to wage a battle with Ford in the arms race of insane power and hauling numbers, it’d really be nice to see some forward progress on the interior. Please?
– Eric Tingwall, Assistant Editor
2011 GMC Sierra 3500 HD Crew Cab SLT 4×4
Base price (with destination): $46,440
Price as tested: $55,930
6.0-liter Vortec V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Z85 trailer handling suspension
Heavy duty trailering group
Heavy duty locking differential
Electronic shift transfer case
17-inch steel wheels with chrome trim
Front recovery hooks
Cargo box illumination
Deep tinted glass
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
60/40 split rear seats
AM/FM stereo with CD player
Bose premium speaker system
Steering wheel-mounted radio/cruise controls
XM satellite radio
Tilt steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel V-8 engine — $7195
Allison 6-speed automatic transmission — $1200
SLT convenience package — $585
Adjustable power pedals
Rear parking assist
Dual 125-amp alternator — $270
Skid plate package — $150
Diesel engine winter cover — $55
Trailer wiring provisions — $35
Key options not on vehicle:
Navigation system — $2250
Rear seat entertainment system — $1480
Power sunroof — $995
Rearview camera system — $450
Size: 6.6L turbocharged diesel V-8
Horsepower: 397 hp @ 3000 rpm
Torque: 765 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 7377 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch steel wheels with chrome trim, 225/75R17 Michelin LTX all-season tires