Ann Arbor - If sport-utilities can dress up as luxury cars (the GMC Yukon Denali, for instance), why can't a pickup truck do the same? Why, indeed, asks GMC, which has outfitted its light-duty Sierra pickup with luxury bits to create the Sierra C3.
Outside, the C3 wears body-colored trim, seventeen-inch wheels, and a version of the Yukon Denali's front fascia. Inside, there's two-tone leather, wood, and nearly every option under the sun.
What's most interesting about the C3 is under the skin: the Denali's 6.0-liter OHV V-8, producing 325 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque, and permanent all-wheel drive, which forgoes off-road pretension in favor of on-road traction.
We expected the C3 to be a muscle truck like the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning, but the C3 is more of an executive express. The cabin is luxurious, with front captain's chairs that rival first-class seats on a Boeing 747. (The rear bench seat is still coach class, however.) It's also satisfyingly quick, lunging from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is very respectable for a 5000-pound truck. More important, the all-wheel-drive system keeps this high-powered pickup from becoming a handful. We spent one rainy afternoon tossing the C3 into corners, mashing the throttle, and powering out of turns without squealing tires, lurid power slides, or insurance claims. The C3 simply goes where you point it.
Despite the C3's undeniable virtues, we're hard pressed to justify its price tag: At almost $39,000, the Sierra C3 is the most expensive light-duty pickup out there. But in these truck-mad times, we doubt GMC will have any problem selling every one it builds.