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2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation Review: MultiPro to the Rescue

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Auto123 reviews the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation.

The GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation you see here displays kind of a funny nomenclature. I mean, after all: with a name like “Elevation”, you could think – as I did – that it stands pretty high up the pecking order of the Sierra 1500 lineup.

Not so. This truck starts at $55,748 for the 2.7L turbo motor and $57,523 for the 5.3L V8 seen here, which actually has it sitting on the lower half of the ladder, above both the base Sierra and SLE trims, but below SLT, the off-road spec AT4 and luxurious Denali model. Those last two, for their part, get their own sections on the GMC Canada webpage. Well excuse me.

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2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, front
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, front

Upon receiving the keys, however, this all came as a surprise to me. Even in midrange Elevation form, this particular Sierra is a very cool, quite upscale-looking truck with just a tinge of athleticism to clue you in on the 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque it packs underneath its muscular hood and behind its blacked-out grille.

That grille, by the way, is unique to the Elevation and comes flanked on either side by some cool-looking c-clamp shaped headlights that, along with the DRLs, are of the LED variety. Yet another box ticked on the “class it up a little” list. Ditto the black 20-inch wheels that come as standard and are matched by black wing mirror caps, window surrounds and rear bumper Corner Step bed access cutouts.

Those cutouts are big enough to fit a steel toed work boot but aren’t, unfortunately, matched by anything else around the bed. Which means accessing gear towards the front of the bed from the side of the truck might be a bit of a challenge.

There is, of course, one other important feature to discuss when it comes to bed access, but we’ll get there in just a minute.

For now, it’s worth looking inside because while there are many nice bits here, and it’s also where we start to see some of the Elevation’s first-impressions sheen wear off and the mid-range character show through.

2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, interior
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, interior

Like outside, “black” is the theme inside. Most of the panels and surfaces are finished in black or something close to it, like dark charcoal or grey. I don’t mind that as a rule – and there are some brushed-aluminum-lookalike highlights around the centre stack and on the steering wheel – but I’m less willing to forgive the massive swathe of scratchable plastic that makes up the construction of the centre stack, as well as the area just ahead of the centre armrest. Which, it should be said, flips up to reveal a third seat up front, made possible by the console-mounted shift lever.

My truck was also outfitted with cloth seats, and the fabric used is a little too close to rental car-spec for my liking. The seats themselves, however, are quite comfortable and supportive and we all know how fabric seats are less affected by the outside conditions. Never so hot in the summer, never so cold in the winter. But, if you still get cold, the Elevation truck comes with heated front seats and you can choose to just heat the seatback, or both the seatback and bottom cushion.

I do like the interior lighting. The gauge cluster isn’t super exciting-looking but the fonts used are nice and big so you can easily absorb the information thereon through your peripheral vision. The 8-inch infotainment display, meanwhile, is nicely sized (although both Ford and Ram offer larger display choices for their pickups) and like the gauge cluster, get sharp graphics if not graphics that are all that sparkly. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, and CarPlay works wirelessly.

2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, second row
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, second row

The back seat of this Crew Cab model is spacious enough for the team, and while the floor isn’t completely flat, transmission tunnel intrusion isn’t too too bad, measuring less than an inch off the floor. So, if you prefer to flip the seats up and fit coolers and toolboxes back there, you should have no trouble doing so. Or, if you’re looking for more storage without having to lose any seating, smart compartments within the seatbacks will do the trick quite nicely.

Also helping reduce frustration when it comes to loading the Sierra is the MultiPro tailgate. Basically, instead of just being a panel that drops down, this tailgate can be set to do a number of different tasks depending on your needs. It can be made to act as a bed extender for the 5.8-foot bed (an 8.2-footer is also available), a tailgate step or a traditional tailgate, or put to a number of other uses. It takes a little getting used to which buttons and releases need to be pressed for everything to work but once done, it’s a great feature to have and comes as standard on the Elevation.

There is a problem, however, and that’s towing. You see, certain hitches will get in the way of the MultiPro’s operation, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when it comes time to configure your Sierra. In my tester’s configuration, meanwhile, I could tow up to 10,900 lb and haul 2,433 lb. Of course, opting for rear-wheel-drive will increase those capacities, more so in terms of trailering.

2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, bed with gate down
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, bed with gate down

When unladen, this truck drives pretty much as it looks. That is to say, you know you’ve got a nice, deep-chested naturally aspirated V8 slung out ahead of you. When you press the go pedal, forward acceleration is properly brisk and comes accompanied with a nice, throaty growl from the exhaust. Then, when cruising, it quiets down and offers the pleasant drive you want when coasting on the highway or navigating rush-hour traffic.

The solid-axle rear suspension has been tweaked a little bit for trailering, which is how you get those strong tow figures (that get stronger if you add the optional max tow package), and the ability to haul what you can. Thing is, it hasn’t done all that much for the ride, which is on the firm side compared to other pickups. The independent front suspension does make it a little easier to digest. Opting for the Denali version, meanwhile, adds active dampers. Can’t get those at this level, though, which is too bad.

Overall, though, if you can deal with the ride – and GMC’s popularity in Canada suggests that many truck buyers do – the Sierra Elevation is a very cool truck with a great engine and capability, and is one of the best-looking trucks on the market thanks to a good mix of the modern and traditional. This is a truck that does a good job of walking the line between cool and capable. It’s an intriguing proposition.

2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, three-quarters rear
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, three-quarters rear

We like

Unique styling
MultiPro tailgate flexibility
Strong V8 power
    
We like less

Interior plastics
Small infotainment display
MultiPro hitch issues
    
The competition

Chevrolet Silverado
Ford F-150
RAM 1500
Toyota Tundra

2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, rear
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 GMC Sierra Elevation, rear

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Photos:D.Heyman
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