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2023 GMC Sierra Review: Upscale and off-road capable

Bynewsmagzines

Mar 15, 2023
2023 GMC Sierra Review: Upscale and off-road capable

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Pros: Quiet and torque-rich Duramax diesel; premium interior; big touchscreen on most trims; great trailering tech

Cons: Worse ride than most rivals; AT4X priced like a Raptor but doesn’t go like a Raptor

The 2023 GMC Sierra half-ton pickup is a slightly more upscale cousin of the Chevy Silverado, but didn’t always feel like it. After a refresh last year, the Sierra actually delivers on the upscale part, for the most part of the equation with a comfortable, high-quality interior and better technology in most trim levels. It’s massively configurable, with four available engines and five different cab/box combinations. It’s also quite capable off-road with that AT4, AT4X and the soon-to-arrive AT4X AEV Edition.

We’re fond of the diversity of tech available in the Sierra, whether it’s the Google-powered infotainment with large, easy-to-use screens, a clear head-up display, numerous camera feeds for trailering and off-roading, or GM’s Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system. We just wish that last one was available on more than just the Denali trims.

If you’re looking for a truck whose capability is matched by its livability, the GMC Sierra is worthy of your consideration, though you can find better ride quality in other brands (we enjoyed the ride in the AT4X, however). And while the AT4X has some true off-road capability, if you’re looking for a Baja-blasting supertruck, though, you’ll find better with the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram Rebel TRX. If you don’t need the nicer interior or extra tech, you might find something more matching your needs and pocketbook with the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 or even GM’s own Chevy Silverado. It’s hard to go wrong with any of those nameplates.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

After some pleasant updates for the 2022 model year, the changes for 2023 are relatively minor. The price went up, unfortunately. The available 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel has been revised for more power and efficiency. Later in the year, the AT4X AEV Edition will add even more off-road capability to this luxurious pickup. There are also some new exterior colors available, a new Graphite Edition for the Pro trim, and new 22-inch ultra-bright wheels for the Denali Ultimate. GMC also did a little tinkering with which engines come standard or optional with which trims.

What are the Sierra interior and in-car technology like?

There are actually three Sierra interiors. The base Pro (picture above, below right) gets the old ho-hum interior and 7-inch touchscreen interface (it has a totally acceptable GM interface), which is just fine for a basic work truck like the Pro. No complaints. The SLE, SLT and Elevation then get the same new interior design as upper Chevy Silverado trim levels (picture above, below left), including a more appealing design, a console-mounted electronic shifter for five-passenger interiors, better switchgear, an upgraded instrument panel and, most notably, a 13.4-inch widescreen touchscreen running Google’s Android Automotive tech interface skinned specially for GMC. The Sierra’s rival trucks at these price ranges come standard with smaller screens.

Besides its accompanying screen size, we’ve found the Android Automotive system to be easy enough to figure out and appreciate how well integrated it is with Google Maps (as opposed to streaming it through your phone from Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which are both included BTW). You could have some issues if you’re trying to navigate in an area without cell data, so knowing how to download map content beforehand will be needed. Aside from that wrinkle, this interface is one of the better ones on the market, though it’s also competing with Ram’s exceptional Uconnect and Ford’s solid Sync systems.

OK, so to this point, everything we’ve said would basically apply to the Chevy Silverado. The Sierra Denali, AT4 and range-topping AT4X and Denali Ultimate trim levels get a special-to-GMC interior design, each with their own flavor of luxury. The AT4 trims keep it serious with an all-black motif and gloss-black trim – the base AT4 gets some camel-colored seat accents, while the AT4X gets extended leather trim and more feature content. The Denali is ritzier, gaining wood trim, extended leather and extra alloy-look trim, plus the option for a brown interior scheme. The Denali Ultimate (pictured above, top) then really steps things up with a unique “Alpine Umber” color scheme accented with baseball-like stitching, contrast piping and a very cool topographic map of Denali (the mountain) embossed on various leather surfaces and etched into the beautiful dark wood dash trim. We take a deeper dive into it in our Sierra Denali Ultimate Interior Review. 

How big is the Sierra?

The Sierra 1500 Crew Cab offers limo-like sprawl-out space in its back seat aided by a colossal rear door. As expected, the Double Cab’s rear seatback is more upright and less comfortable. Legroom may be class-leading, but it’s still tight behind a tall driver, meaning the Double Cab’s back seat is ultimately best suited for occasional use, or children. At least its front-hinged rear doors are a better setup than the F-150 Super Cab’s annoying clamshells. As usual, you can get a three-person 40/20/40 split bench up front (all trims but AT4 and Denali) or bucket seats with a full center console (not available base or SLE).

What about the bed? The thinner, taller walls introduced back in 2019 have resulted in a bed that ultimately holds more than anything else in the segment not named Silverado. Better still, maximum payload ranges from 1,550 to 2,250 pounds, which is generally a few hundred pounds more than an F-150 (though the right configuration from Ford offers more) or Ram 1500. Yet, there is more to consider with the Sierra’s bed than just its volume and payload. For starters, it offers the MultiPro tailgate, which provides myriad configurations that are seriously useful when loading and unloading. You can even outfit it with a dedicated Kicker sound system. But wait, there’s more! The Denali and AT4 trims can be equipped with the CarbonPro carbon fiber composite bed that GMC says provides added “strength, durability and scratch resistance” to go with a potential 59-pound weight reduction depending on configuration. Basically, it’s a bed and liner in one.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

What are the Sierra fuel economy and performance specs?

The base engine on the Pro, SLE and Elevation is a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic and gets cylinder deactivation (yes, it can run on just two cylinders). It achieves between 19 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with 2WD. With 4WD, it gets 18/20/19 mpg. Trim levels with mud tires lowers those estimates to 17/18/17.

Standard on the SLT and Denali, and optional on Pro, SLE and Elevation, is a 5.3-liter V8 that produces 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. With 2WD, it gets 16/21/18 mpg. With 4WD, it gets 16/20/18 mpg. Again, mud tires drop fuel economy, this time to 16 or 17 mpg combined depending on trim level.

Standard on the AT4X and Denali Ultimate, and optional on the SLT, AT4 and Denali, is a 6.2-liter V8 that displaces 6.2 liters and produces 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a 10-speed transmission. It gets 15/19/17 mpg in all but the AT4 and AT4X, in which it gets 14/17/15 mpg because of those mud tires.

A 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six that produces 305 hp and 495 lb-ft of torque is standard on the AT4 and optional all other trims except Pro and AT4X. It too gets the 10-speed automatic. It returns 24/29/26 mpg with 2WD, 22/27/24 mpg with 4WD or 21/23/22 mpg in the AT4.

What’s the Sierra like to drive?

Like every American full-size truck, the Sierra and Silverado’s driving experience depends greatly on the engine you choose – and as GM offers more engines than anyone else, the spread of difference is even greater. Even before the turbocharged four-cylinder was seriously upgraded for 2022, we found it to be as beefy and efficient as advertised, easily assuaging concerns that you can’t put a four-cylinder in a full-size truck. Still, if you can swing the payment, the Duramax diesel engine is a better choice – its torque matches the big 6.2-liter V8, its fuel economy will be vastly superior, and it’s shockingly quiet.

But we’re guessing most Sierra buyers will be looking at a V8. In that case, we’ve found that 6.2-liter is obviously stronger than the 5.3-liter truck, but you also don’t strictly need it. We’ve towed hefty loads with both, and the 6.2-liter is more an example of overkill than necessity. The availability of the Max Tow package on the Duramax diesel model improves its max tow rating to 13,200 pounds, making it an even better alternative to the big V8.

To this point, however, everything we’ve written also applies to the Silverado. The Sierra’s breadth of driving experiences is actually even greater due to the Denali trim’s adaptive dampers that provide superior ride and body control to the standard suspension. We’ve noted that Silverado/Sierra trucks have a tendency when driving over imperfect pavement for either punishing harshness (big wheels) or unusually nautical bounding (small wheels). Neither occurs with the more civilized, big-wheeled Denali. If you’re looking for a reason to choose Sierra over Silverado and have the money for a big-dollar truck, this is it.

As for the new AT4X, it’s off-road-ready ruggedness doesn’t mean you’re in for a rough ride. Its Multimatic DSSV shocks that are shared with the Silverado ZR2 make this beast incredibly pleasant to live with, especially considering the model’s off-road pretensions. The ride is quiet and well controlled whether you’re cruising down a dry highway or navigating a cratered gravel road in the dead of winter. Standard equipment includes some knobby all-terrain tires and electronic locking front and rear differentials. If you plan to go off-pavement, GMC clearly now offers a better option than before, while still providing the comfort you crave in everyday driving. You can’t get Super Cruise in the AT4X, though.

What other GMC Sierra reviews can I read?

2022 GMC Sierra AT4X First Drive Review

A deeper dive into what you get with the new Sierra AT4X, including a lengthy off-road drive.

 

2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Interior Review

A deep dive into the new Denali Ultimate interior, which definitely lives up to its ultimate name with substantially better design and quality.

 

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X: Can you sleep in it?

Autoblog Producer Christopher McGraw has a weird thing about sleeping in cars, so he made a video about sleeping in the Sierra AT4X. He goes in-depth in the accompanying article, too.

 

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Driveway Test | How to use the GMC MultiPro Tailgate

Is it useful utility, a marketing gimmick to sell more trucks, or a mixture of both?

 

2022 GMC Sierra Super Cruise First Drive | Now with trailering and automatic lane-changing

We test out the Sierra with GM’s Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system, which allows you to take your hands off the wheel and automates certain driving functions on the highway.

2022 GMC Sierra Super Cruise

 

2019 GMC Sierra AT4 First Drive | Off-road overkill

We test the off-road-oriented Sierra AT4 when equipped with the 6.2-liter V8 and Dynamic Fuel Management.

 

2019 GMC Sierra Denali First Drive | The more things change …

Our first drive of the current-generation Sierra Denali, including more in-depth information about its design and engineering. Although there have obviously been changes since then, the underlying engineering and mechanicals remain consistent. 

 

What is the 2023 Sierra price?

The 2023 GMC Sierra starts at $38,995 (including $1,895 in destination fees) for the base Pro trim in 2WD with the regular cab and standard box. Prices vary wildly based on configurations, trims and engines. The highest trims, the Denali Ultimate and AT4X, Start closer to the mid-$80,000 point.

GM has repeatedly changed prices for the Sierra, but what you’ll see below is up to date as of March 7, 2023. All include the $1,895 destination charge, and are for rear-wheel drive unless four-wheel drive is standard (AT4, AT4X and Denali Ultimate). The engine in parentheses is standard power plant for each trim level.

  • Pro: $38,995 (2.7-liter)
  • SLE: $52,095 (2.7-liter)
  • Elevation: $53,795 (2.7-liter)
  • SLT: $57,745 (5.3-liter)
  • AT4: $68,595 (Duramax)
  • Denali: $67,595 (5.3-liter)
  • AT4X: $83,595 (6.2-liter, only one available)
  • Denali Ultimate: $83,995 (5.3-liter)

What are the Sierra safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every 2023 Sierra comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic headlights. Blind-spot warning, including coverage while trailering, is optional on all trim levels, except for the Denalis and AT4X, which have it standard. Adaptive cruise control is optional as a part of packages on all trims but the AT4X and Denali Ultimate, which have it standard. GM’s excellent hands-free version of adaptive cruise control, known as Super Cruise, is standard on the Denali Ultimate. It also brings with it an enhanced automatic emergency braking system.

While NHTSA hasn’t rated the 2023 model, every cab style of the 2022 Sierra got the same crash ratings from the government: four stars overall, four stars frontal, five stars side and four stars rollover. We don’t expect those to change for 2023. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2023 Sierra top marks of “Good” in all but the small overlap front: passenger-side test where it got a second-worst “Marginal” score. It also gave its LATCH child seat restraint system a score of “Marginal” for ease of use.  The IIHS hasn’t rated the Sierra’s headlights since its 2022 refresh.

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