- Super-useful tailgate features
- Strong, attractive heavy-duty style
- Wide variety of powertrain choices
- Still feels a little like a work truck inside
- Gets expensive quickly
- Feels as big as it looks
Vehicle Type: The GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup truck with seating for up to five people.
Price Range: The GMC Sierra 1500 ranges in price from $29,795 to $56,990, including destination, but before options or taxes.
Powertrain: Several powertrains are on offer for the 2021 model year Sierra 1500.
They include a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine with 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, a 4.3-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque, four versions of a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, and a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque.
A ten-, six-, or eight-speed automatic is equipped, depending on the engine. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and four-wheel-drive is available.
See more 2021 GMC Sierra Photos.
The GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that is closely related to the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. It’s offered with a staggering variety of powertrain choices and in several trims but can become expensive with options and in certain configurations. Still, the GMC is more upscale and offers a more premium experience than its Chevy Silverado corporate cousin.
The Sierra 1500 is offered in six trims: Sierra 1500, SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4, and Denali. The truck is aimed at new car buyers that want a full-size American pickup with strong towing, payload, and off-road capabilities. The Sierra competes with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan, and Toyota Tundra.
Overall Score: 6.7/10
Safety Features: 4/10
The Sierra 1500 can be equipped with a variety of advanced safety features, but none are standard. The base truck gets a backup camera and a teen driver mode that allows parents to set parameters on radio volume and other vehicle settings.
Available features include a front/rear parking assist system, perimeter lighting, recovery hooks, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alerts, lane departure warnings, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and more.
The GMC Sierra 1500 scored decently in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests but missed out on a Top Safety Pick award. It earned Good ratings in all crashworthiness categories except for small overlap front passenger-side, where it earned a Marginal rating. Headlights were rated Poor, front vehicle-to-vehicle crash prevention was rated Superior with optional technology equipped, and LATCH system ease of use was rated Marginal. The NHTSA has not yet rated the Sierra.
The GMC Sierra is one of the most customizable vehicles on the market, from an options and configurations standpoint. The downside to this flexibility is that most of the features buyers want are locked away, either in more expensive trims or in options packages.
With options and desirably powertrains, Sierra’s price tag climbs quickly. The AT4 trim, for example, with options, can top $60,000. That’s luxury car money for a pickup truck.
GMC charges extra for paint colors other than white, and its options packages quickly add to the truck’s price tag. That said, its diesel engine option is far less expensive than those from Ford, and there’s a variety of choices here that can’t be had elsewhere.
Tech Features: 6/10
The Sierra comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, six speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an AM/FM radio, a 3.5-inch monochromatic driver information display, and two USB ports.
Available features include an eight-inch touchscreen, HD radio, additional USB ports, SiriusXM radio, navigation, a Bose audio system with seven speakers, Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a head-up display, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a memory system for seats, an eight-inch digital gauge cluster display, in-vehicle trailering tech, wireless charging, and a universal home remote system.
General Motors’ infotainment systems are among the easiest to use in the auto industry. Icons and menus are clearly labeled and are colored to be highly contrasted from the surrounding screen area. This makes the systems easy to use and far less distracting than infotainment systems that require multiple touches to achieve a simple setting or task.
The Sierra’s MultiPro tailgate offers incredible flexibility in use. It can be configured as a step, to allow deeper access into the bed, to accommodate longer cargo that needs to hang over the edge, and more. Though most will consider it a novelty, there is also an available speaker system in the tailgate.
The Sierra is also offered with a Carbon Pro bed feature, which adds an extra-tough carbon-fiber layer of protection and gives a great level of confidence when loading heavy or sharp items into the back. Hauling a load of extremely heavy patio tiles did not even scratch the bed’s surface, which is a huge benefit.
Inside, Sierra’s cabin has plenty of storage space, though it could be segmented or organized a bit better. The center console is cavernous and large enough to carry a purse, tablet, or other medium-size items. The truck’s door pockets are large and offer additional cupholders, while a useful cubby on top of the dash helps keep smartphones and other items secure while driving.
Styling & Design: 8/10
The Sierra was redesigned in 2019 and got a stronger, more muscular look. GMC also did away with the awkward wheel arch shapes and gave the truck a more modern and streamlined profile. Despite its size – and it is large – Sierra’s style is cohesive and well-proportioned. Crew cab and double cab models still manage the same smoothness with extra doors.
The AT4 trim, with its factory lift kit and rugged off-road style, does not look awkward or gaudy, and even the range-topping Denali trim makes tasteful use of its miles of chrome trim. The truck just looks good, and that’s saying something for such a large vehicle.
The Sierra’s interior can be decked out with nice leather and upscale tech, but it still carries a utilitarian feel. The upright dash and squared-off shapes everywhere make it feel like a work truck, and the smattering of low-rent materials, such as hard plastics throughout the cabin doesn’t help.
Driving Experience: 7/10
Full-size trucks aren’t always known for their ride quality, but the Sierra 1500 might be an exception. Most trim levels ride comfortably and maintain composure over rough pavement. The AT4 trim, with its large, knobby tires, soaks up the worst road conditions without a second thought.
It may seem counterintuitive that a four-cylinder engine could be useful in a full-size truck, but Sierra’s four-cylinder is more than capable of holding its own and even delivers decent towing capacity, too. The available 3.0-liter Duramax diesel engine is smooth and refined and offers solid torque and towing numbers. It’s also one of the quieter diesel engines on the market, and can easily fly under the radar for people concerned about noise.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
The Sierra’s available four-cylinder engine delivers EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20/23/21 mpg city/hwy/combined with 2WD and 18/21/19 with four-wheel-drive. Those are respectable numbers for a full-size pickup truck.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Sierra AT4 equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 returns fuel economy of 15/20/17 mpg, which is more in line with expectations for a full-size truck.
The variety of powertrains available means that the Sierra delivers a wide range of fuel economy numbers. Buyers wanting better economy that don’t need max towing capability can opt for the four-cylinder engine, while those that want more power can trade off fuel economy. The diesel engine offers both power and efficiency, however, at up to 22/26/24 mpg city/hwy/combined.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The base model GMC Sierra 1500 has an MSRP that starts at $29,795 and comes with a regular cab, a 4.3-liter V6 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, a two speakers audio system, a 40/20/40 folding bench seat, rubberized vinyl floor covering, a manual tilt steering wheel, a 3.5-inch monochromatic driver information display, outside temperature display, manual windows and door locks, USB ports, a 12-volt power outlet, single-zone manual climate controls, 17-inch wheels, a full-size spare, chrome bumpers, a corner-step rear bumper, LED headlights and taillights, a standard tailgate, black door handles, LED daytime running lights, stability control, six airbags, hill-start assist, a rearview camera, and teen driver settings.
Pricing for the Sierra SLE starts at $39,995 and comes with a trailer hitch, hitch platform, wiring harnesses, hitch guidance, remote start, a heated steering wheel, rear-window defogger, keyless open and start, dual-zone climate controls, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, LED bed lighting, an EZ-lift tailgate, an automatic locking rear differential, a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, auto start/stop, an eight-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM radio, six speakers, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, power windows and door locks, body-color door handles, and a rear-seat reminder system.
The $41,695 Sierra Elevation adds 20-inch wheels, body-color bumpers, and GMC’s six-function Multi-Pro tailgate.
The Sierra SLT starts at $48,595 and comes with a 5.3-liter V8 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, an eight-inch touchscreen, HD radio, voice controls, additional USB ports, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, power passenger’s seat adjustments, an in-vehicle trailering app, 18-inch wheels, and an HD rearview camera.
The $55,395 Sierra AT4 gets four-wheel-drive, hill descent control, a two-speed automatic transfer case, off-road suspension, a two-inch factory lift, skid plates, red recovery hooks, dual exhausts, and 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires.
The range-topping GMC Sierra Denali trim starts at $56,990 and adds 20-inch wheels, lane change alerts with side blind spot alerts, rear cross-traffic alerts, front and rear parking assistance, perimeter lighting, and GMC’s ProGrade Trailering Package, which adds hitch guidance, hitch view, and the in-vehicle trailering app.
If we were shopping for a Sierra 1500 today, the AT4 trim would be hard to ignore. Factory off-road enhancements and rugged styling are great additions to the already capable Sierra and make it useful both on-road and off.