The GMC Sierra, along with its Chevrolet Silverado brother, last met with a proper redesign way back in 1999. Since then, there's been an onslaught of new products in the full-size pickup market from both domestic and, more recently, Japanese competitors. During the last six years of the current Sierra's model run, GMC has continued to make minor tweaks, but the truck has been passed by in terms of refinement and safety. Grabbing attention in 2002, the Sierra offered an innovative all-wheel-steering system dubbed Quadrasteer. This exclusive feature legitimately made managing a trailer easier by using all four wheels to maneuver, but its significant cost limited Quadrasteer's popularity and led to its discontinuation. The Sierra is offered in standard-, extended-, and crew-cab configurations in 2WD, 4WD, and AWD, with a full range of powerful engines. The 1500HD crew-cab truck returns for 2005 with a massive 6.0-liter V-8. Topping the line is the luxurious Denali, also offered in strictly crew-cab form.
The Sierra's bodywork is understated and trimmed to be more upscale than that of its more mainstream competitors. Continuous work on styling details has kept the front end looking fresh, but the Sierra is really showing its age in its dated taillamps, fussy body-side moldings, and soft body lines. The base trim levels use chrome throughout the front fascia and bumper; the Denali gets the best-looking nose, with a more premium grille, a unique fascia design with foglamps, chrome running boards, and body-colored details. Most trim levels come standard with decent-looking 17-inch wheels, though the Denali can be had with 20-inch rims. Buyers can choose from three cab configurations and two bed lengths--5.8 or eight feet. The crew cab is available only with the short box.
Efforts to keep exterior styling contemporary have been more successful than the nominal attempts inside. The Sierra uses the same oft-criticized interior bits employed across GM's full-size truck and SUV portfolio, including toy-like radio and climate controls buried in a puzzle-piece dashboard. The seam-riddled interior feels more confined than those of competitors, and its sheer presentation is overshadowed by all others'. That said, the layout of the controls is straightforward and easy to use, especially with winter gloves on. Ample, well-placed storage nooks hold travel and work essentials. And large, soft seats are quite comfortable on short trips, but firmer buckets would serve better on long-distance treks.
The Denali version touts a slightly better-dressed cabin with supportive two-tone leather seats, but the few upscale touches can't mask 1990s basic design. Options in the Denali include an in-dash six-disc CD changer, Bose speakers, and a flip-down DVD monitor for rear passengers, making it one of the most feature-packed trucks on the market. All trim levels of Sierra feature more than adequate space for the driver and front passenger. The extended cab offers better-than-average room and can seat four passengers--six if you squeeze. The crew cab has more appropriate seating for six, with ample legroom for adults.