The current-generation GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado have gotten on in age. There, that's out of the way. They still sell well but there's no doubt in anyone's minds that serious face and powertrain lifts will do loads of good to the trucks and their legions of fans.
In the meantime, GM has made some subtle changes that have made quite the difference. Let' get right down to it.
The All Terrain package.
The 2011 GMC Sierra All Terrain HD Concept, unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, is the vehicle that has lent its name to the package. It was a big favourite of mine from that year's big show. When I heard that GM was going to offer a like-named package on their Sierra, I was stoked.
By clicking on the above link, you'll figure out why I got excited. The wheels and tires, the front grille, the seats and so on breathe new life into the old dog. In fact, the response to the All Terrain Concept was so strong that I suspect that the next-generation Sierra/Silverado will be inspired by the beast; the outer shell at least.
Back to the option. Many of these fancy-named packages are nothing more than skin deep. Take away fancy decals and all you have left is a vehicle you could have purchased for a few grand less. This is not the case with the All Terrain. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
For a nugget of change over $6,000, the All Terrain group transforms the Crew-Cab short-box Sierra 1500 into an oddly refined, uber-capable, go-anywhere, do-anything truck. From the outside, you'll notice "All Terrain" badges, Z71 stickers, chrome grille and wheels. If you peek into the cabin, you'll likely see brushed metal accents and carpeted floor mats. Not much for $6K...
Wrong. The key lies in the Off Road Suspension Package that includes legendary Rancho White shocks. No foolin', this 2012 GMC Sierra SLE 1500 was the best driving GM pickup I've ever had the pleasure of piloting.
Them Rancho Shocks not only do a better job of controlling the ride but manage comfort and, wait for it, some handling. Obviously, we're not talking Corvette lateral Gs here but for a GM truck, it's never been closer in the drive department to the Ford F-150.
The shocks also have an effect on steering. The whole front end is stiffer and therefore, more responsive. For the shocks alone, the package is nearly worth the asking price.
Should off-roading capabilities be part of the Sierra's requirements, the All Terrain aggregation includes skid plates, a sophisticated Eaton rear locking differential, an external engine oil cooler which is part of the heavy-duty, enhanced cooling package and some big-ass off-road tires. Every terrain.
The 5.3L V8 is a veteran with GM's trucks. Audible and willing, it has always been up to the task for most jobs in the 1500. The recent addition of a 6-speed automatic transmission is what helps the 5.3L Sierra be one of the most fuel-efficient full-size pickups in the business. Rated at 14.3/9.4L/100km city / hwy, my significantly higher average of 17L/100 km could in part be the result of colder temperatures. The fact remains that in real life, the Sierra will never do better than 14L/100km in combined driving.
The 5.3L's 326 hp and 348 lb-ft of torque do not shy away from heavy go-pedal prodding (this could possibly explain my fuel numbers...). The box kicks down a gear or two and the truck lurches forward with rewarding gusto.
Without a doubt, the Sierra, as kitted, could kick an off-road course's butt. As well, it'll tow a hefty 9,000 lb (4,091 kg) and carry upwards of 1,700 lb (775 kg) as a payload. It is obvious that the 2012 GMC Sierra SLE 1500 is still handsome and capable but it almost ends there.
The story is old but slipping into the Sierra immediately deflated whatever bubble I was in after staring at the truck, appreciating its styling, tasteful monochromatic accents and 20-inch chrome wheels.
The plain and dated cabin is not all bad. The high-back front seats are genuinely comfortable and the rear fold-up rear bench is better than tolerable. The driver's perch is 6-way power adjustable; however, the absence of a telescoping steering column makes for a poor driving position.
The ergonomics are good as are the multiple storage areas. The excitement engendered by the outer shell should flow throughout but it doesn't. The premium cloth that covers the seating areas should be upgraded to something with more pizzazz, but not leather. There's a missed opportunity to make something more out of this All Terrain packaged truck.
In the meantime...
While we await the coming of the next GM full-size trucks (pictures of the next-generation Escalade and others have been spotted on the web), the All Terrain Package is the way to go. It makes the 2012 GMC Sierra SLE 1500 feel newer and more competent than it normally is.
As equipped, at just under $50,000, this truck is not inexpensive; however, with minimal bells and whistles, a 4WD Crew Cab Sierra SL starts at $38,545. As stated, the $6,050 All Terrain makes the family pickup a far more appealing vehicle to drive every day.