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2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Review

The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 finishes in the middle of our full-size pickup truck rankings. It's powerful and capable, with a roomy interior, but it doesn't quite hit the high notes as well as some competitors.

Pros & Cons

  • Smooth ride
  • Spacious, quiet cabin
  • User-friendly infotainment features
  • Less luxurious inside than rivals
  • Lower towing capacity than some competitors

New for 2021

  • More available trailering features
  • Improved towing capacity with diesel and turbo-four engines

Rankings & Research

The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500's #4 ranking is based on its score within the Full Size Pickup Trucks category. Currently the GMC Sierra 1500 has a score of 7.7 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 21 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.6
Performance: 7.9
Interior: 7.9
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.6 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a GMC Sierra 1500?

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Is the GMC Sierra a Good Truck?

Yes, the GMC Sierra is a good truck. It offers five capable powertrains, including a fuel-efficient diesel, and it has respectable towing and hauling capacities for the class. The Sierra is quiet and comfortable, with a cushioned ride and spacious seats. The interior looks good, and there are plenty of intuitive tech features.

2021 GMC Sierra Dimensions and Weight

  • Length: 19 feet, 2 inches to 20 feet, 1 inch
  • Height: 6 feet, 3 inches to 6 feet, 7 inches
  • Curb weight: 4,369 to 5,516 pounds
Why You Can Trust Us: 21 Reviews Analyzed

We don’t base our car reviews on our personal opinions. Instead, we combine the findings of professional test drivers with data such as reliability ratings and safety scores to give you a complete overview of every vehicle we rank.

This 2021 Sierra review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

Should I Buy the GMC Sierra?

On paper, the Sierra doesn't have any real weaknesses. However, in the context of the full-size pickup truck class, it doesn't shine that brightly. There are some rivals within the class with higher towing and hauling capacities, better off-road ability, or more stylish and luxurious cabins. Some, such as the Ram 1500, can essentially do everything that the Sierra 1500 can do, and then some.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't buy a Sierra. It's a good truck, and it's competitively priced, making it an OK value in the segment. But you may want to see how it stacks up against the competition before you drive one off the lot.

Find a 2021 GMC Sierra for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 GMC Sierra: What's the Difference?

The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 sees only minor changes. A few new trailering features, such as a trailer length indicator and jack-knife alert, are now available. Additionally, the Sierra gets improved towing capability with the diesel (9,300 pounds, up from 7,400) and turbo-four (9,200 pounds, up from 6,900) engines.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Sierra »

Here are the key changes for the GMC Sierra over the last few years:

  • 2017: gained available forward collision warning
  • 2018: a rearview camera and touch-screen infotainment system added to standard features list
  • 2019: fully redesigned with more engine options and more driver assistance features
  • 2020: slight drop in max towing capacity; adaptive cruise control and a bed-view camera became available
  • 2021: improved towing capacity with select engines and some new trailering features

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Sierra, 2019 Sierra, and 2020 Sierra reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the GMC Sierra Cost?

The Sierra carries a base price of $29,700, which is below the starting price of some competitors. The Sierra AT4 is the best off-road trim, and it starts at $53,800, while the top-of-the-line Sierra Denali starts at $55,200. That's in line with rivals' top-trim prices.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

GMC Sierra 1500 Versus the Competition

GMC Sierra 1500 vs. Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 finishes near the top of our full-size pickup truck rankings every year because it does everything well. It's completely redesigned for the 2021 model year, with revamped styling, a revised engine lineup, and an updated features list. The 2021 F-150 hasn't been reviewed yet, but its highlights include a full hybrid powertrain, the all-new SYNC 4 infotainment system, and projected towing and hauling capacities that should be among the best in the class.

Compare the Sierra and F-150 »

GMC Sierra 1500 vs. Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 finishes well ahead of the Sierra in our rankings. It has the most cushioned ride in the class, can tow and haul more than the Sierra, and has a more fuel-efficient base engine. The Ram has one of the most upscale interiors in the class, surpassing the GMC's cabin quality, and it features two rows of spacious seats and a user-friendly infotainment system. Basically, anything the Sierra can do, the Ram 1500 can do as well or better.

Compare the Sierra and Ram 1500 »

GMC Sierra 1500 vs. Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Chevrolet Silverado is basically the Sierra's twin, so there's not much that separates these two trucks. They have the same available powertrains and features lists, and they're similar in terms of passenger space and fuel economy. The Sierra is a bit more upscale inside, but the Chevy can tow and haul more.

Compare the Sierra and Ram 1500 »

Compare the Sierra, F-150, and Ram 1500 »

Sierra Performance: Powerful and Smooth

Sierra Engine

This GMC pickup comes standard with a V6 engine that puts out 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. This powertrain isn't the best choice if you plan to do a lot of towing and hauling, but it can handle some light work and gets the job done in city and highway driving. The same can be said for the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque.

Two V8s are available: a 5.3-liter that produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, and a 6.2-liter that puts out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Both V8s feel stronger than the V6 from an acceleration and overall power standpoint. The larger V8 moves the Sierra easily in just about all situations, and it unlocks the Sierra's maximum towing capacity.

Finally, there's a turbodiesel that produces 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The diesel is smooth and refined, and it delivers surprisingly quick acceleration if you're not towing anything.

The V6 is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. The other engines are mated with eight- or 10-speed automatics.

Sierra Gas Mileage

The Sierra gets 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway with its base V6 engine, ratings that are only slightly better than models with a V8 (15/21 mpg city/highway). A smaller engine that returns comparable ratings to larger, more powerful engines should provide enough incentive to get those more powerful engines.

Ratings improve to 20/23 mpg city/highway with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though that's still less fuel-efficient than a V6-powered Ram 1500.

Opt for the diesel, and the story changes. Diesel-powered Sierras get 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, some of the best ratings in the class.

Sierra Ride and Handling

The Sierra delivers a smooth ride, even over rough roads, so you won't mind driving it to work every day. It has poised handling, but the Sierra's massive size means it will never feel nimble.

Sierra Off-Road Performance

Every Sierra offers four-wheel drive and thus feels capable when the pavement ends. However, the AT4 is the trim that provides the best off-road ability. It handles most terrain without issue, and it comes with features like hill descent control, skid plates, a suspension optimized for off-roading, and a two-speed transfer case.

Sierra Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Sierra can tow up to 11,800 pounds and haul up to 2,250 pounds. That's a lot of capability – certainly enough to pull a boat or a moving trailer – but some rivals have higher capacities.

Read more about performance »

Sierra Interior: Quiet and Spacious, with Easy-to-Use Technology

Sierra Cargo Space

The Sierra is available with three bed lengths: 8-foot, 6-foot-6-inch, and 5-foot-8-inch, though not every bed length is available with every cab. Several bed features are available, including an in-bed 120-volt household-style power outlet, an audio system integrated into the tailgate, integrated LED lights, and a multifunction tailgate (GMC calls it MultiPro) that draws rave reviews.

How Many People Does the Sierra Seat?

Regular Cab Sierra models seat three people. Double and Crew Cab models seat up to six people, or five you if you get front bucket seats. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and drivers enjoy good visibility. Double Cab models offer sufficient rear-seat space for adults, though they're not nearly as welcoming as the Crew Cab's rear seats, which are downright expansive.

Sierra and Child Car Seats

Sierra models with a rear seat have two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for the rear outboard seats, as well as an upper tether for the rear middle seat. The tether anchors can be hard to find and could be confused for other hardware, and the lower anchors are set too deeply in the seats.

Sierra Interior Quality

The Sierra has a quiet, well-built cabin with plenty of quality materials, but it can't match the luxurious feel of some competitors. The Sierra doesn't feel as modern from a style standpoint, either.

Sierra Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

GMC's infotainment system is user-friendly and easy to master. The center-stack controls are easy to reach, and the menu layout is intuitive. The touch screen responds quickly to inputs, and connectivity features make it easy to pair your smartphone with the vehicle.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, a six-speaker audio system (two speakers in Regular Cab models), Bluetooth, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
  • Available infotainment features: wireless device charging, an 8-inch touch screen, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, a Wi-Fi hot spot, additional USB ports, voice recognition, and navigation
  • Other available features: a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, remote start, and two 120-volt household-style power outlets

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Sierra Reliability

Is the GMC Sierra Reliable?

The 2021 Sierra has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

GMC Sierra Warranty

GMC backs the Sierra with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Sierra Safety

Sierra Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 GMC Sierra an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2020 Sierra.

Sierra Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Teen Driver (lets you do things like set audio volume and speed limits for secondary drivers)
  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane change alert
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Rear camera mirror
  • Head-up display
  • Safety alert seat

Read more about safety »

Where Is the 2021 GMC Sierra Built?

GMC builds the 2021 Sierra in Indiana, Michigan, and Mexico.

Which GMC Sierra Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 GMC Sierra comes in six trims: base, SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4, and Denali. As is the case with most trucks, before you can pick a trim, you need to select a cab and bed because not every combination is offered in each trim. There are three cab styles and three bed lengths. Once you get that sorted out, you need to decide which of the five engines you want. After picking a cab, bed, and engine, you can then pick a trim.

The best options for most buyers are the SLE and SLT trims. These two sit in the middle of the lineup and offer a nice array of technology. The SLT comes with a few more infotainment and comfort features, but it also carries a higher price tag than the SLE, so you'll have to judge whether the added features justify the higher cost.

We list the standard features for each trim below, but keep in mind that all trims offer option packages that provide additional features. The prices of these packages vary from trim to trim and even between different body styles of the same trim. The same is true if you want to add four-wheel drive.

GMC Sierra Powertrain Options:

  • Base engine: 4.3-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque; starts at $29,700 (available in Sierra)
  • Available engines:
    • 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque; starts at $33,600 (available in Sierra, SLE, Elevation)
    • 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder with 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque; starts at $40,400 (available in SLE, Elevation, SLT, Denali)
    • 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque; starts at $32,690 (available in Sierra, SLE, SLT, AT4, Denali)
    • 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque; starts at $50,500 (available in SLT, AT4, Denali)
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-, eight-, or 10-speed automatic, depending on engine choice

GMC Sierra Appearance Packages:

  • Elevation Black package (prices start at $1,095): black GMC emblems and assist steps

GMC Sierra Work Packages/Options:

  • Trailering package (prices start at $395; available in Sierra): adds an automatic locking rear differential, hitch guidance, and a 2-inch receiver hitch
  • Snow Plow Prep package (prices start at $400; available in Sierra, SLE, SLT): adds a 220-amp alternator, a high-capacity air filter and auxiliary transmission oil cooler, heavy-duty front springs, and transfer case skid plates
  • Max Trailering package (prices start at $850; available in SLE, Elevation, SLT): adds an automatic locking rear differential, an enhanced cooling radiator, revised shock tuning, heavier-duty rear springs, a 9.76-inch rear axle, a 3.42 axle ratio, and an integrated trailer brake controller
  • Prograde Trailering System (prices start at $490; available in SLE, Elevation): adds a trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring system, hitch guidance with hitch view, and an in-vehicle trailering app

GMC Sierra Trims:

GMC Sierra

The base Sierra carries a starting price of $29,700 and comes with Teen Driver, a rearview camera, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

GMC Sierra SLE

The Sierra SLE starts at $40,300. In addition to the base trim's features, the SLE comes with keyless entry and an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, an additional USB port, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

GMC Sierra Elevation

The Sierra Elevation starts at $42,100. Standard features include in-bed LED lighting, remote start, and two additional USB ports.

GMC Sierra SLT

The Sierra SLT sports a starting price of $47,000 and comes standard with a locking rear differential, a trailer brake controller, GMC's MultiPro tailgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, two 120-volt household-style power outlets (one in the cab and one in the bed), leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Also included is an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, HD Radio, and voice recognition.

GMC Sierra AT4

The Sierra AT4 starts at $53,800, and it's the best in the lineup for off-road adventuring. Standard features include a 2-inch suspension lift, hill descent control, skid plates, an off-road suspension, a two-speed transfer case, front bucket seats, and ventilated front seats.

GMC Sierra Denali

The range-topping Sierra Denali starts at $55,200 and comes standard with wireless device charging, a safety alert seat, front and rear parking sensors, lane change alert, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, and navigation.

Which Sierra Cab Style Is Right for Me?

The GMC Sierra comes in three cab styles: Regular Cab (no back seat), Double Cab (small back seat), and Crew Cab (full-size back seat).

Regular Cab models have a three-person 40/20/40-split bench seat. This option isn't for people who routinely have two or more passengers. Technically, you can carry three passengers in this setup, but it may be a tight fit. The base trim is the only one that offers a Regular Cab, and it starts at $29,700.

If you occasionally have people riding in the back, you should consider the Double Cab (available in base, SLE, and Elevation trims). It seats up to six and has traditional front-hinged rear doors that you can open and close without first opening the front doors. Still, this cab doesn't offer as much rear legroom as the Crew Cab, so taller folks might feel a bit squeezed in the back. Double Cab models start at $33,600.

The Sierra Crew Cab has an expansive back seat that can hold even taller adults in comfort. There's about 43.5 inches of second-row legroom, an increase of about 8 inches over the Double Cab model. Every trim offers the Crew Cab. These models start at $36,000 with the short bed and $39,600 with the long bed.

Which Sierra Bed Length Is Right for Me?

Once you decide on a cab style, you can pick your bed length. The GMC Sierra has three bed lengths available, but not every box can be matched with every cab. The shortest bed is 5 feet, 8 inches, and it's only available with Crew Cab models. The 6-foot-6-inch bed is available with Double and Crew Cab models. The longest bed is 8 feet long and available with just the Regular Cab.

The best combination of passenger and cargo space is a Sierra Crew Cab with the midrange bed. However, that stretches the truck's total length to more than 20 feet. If you don't need all that cargo space, consider going with the short bed, which makes the truck about 10 inches shorter overall. If you're buying the Sierra for a work truck, you'll want one of the two longer beds.

Which Sierra Model Is Best for Towing and Hauling?

To unlock the best towing capacity of 11,800 pounds, you’ll want a Sierra that features the available 6.2-liter V8 engine, four-wheel drive, and the Max Trailering package. That configuration fits with the Double Cab, which only comes with the 6-foot-6-inch bed, and prices start at around $51,000.

The Sierra also has a maximum payload capacity of 2,250 pounds, which you get with the Regular Cab model. That cab only comes with the long 8-foot box, making this combination attractive for those who want a work truck.

Which Sierra Model Is Best for Off-Roading?

There's a clear choice if you want the best off-road trim. The Sierra AT4 comes standard with four-wheel drive, hill descent control, front and rear skid plates, a two-speed transfer case, a locking rear differential, and a traction select system. It has a starting MSRP of $53,800.

The AT4 also features a 2-inch suspension lift, performance off-road shocks, red tow hooks, and trim-specific interior and exterior appearance pieces. The AT4 is available with the 5.3-liter V8 engine, the 6.2-liter V8, or the turbodiesel.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

See 2021 GMC Sierra specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 is a solid entry in the full-size pickup truck class. It's well-rounded, with a roomy interior, a smooth ride, and powerful engines. However, it only finishes in the middle of the class rankings because, while the Sierra has few significant weaknesses, there are also no areas where it stands above the competition. In other words, this GMC doesn't do anything that rivals can't do equally well, if not better.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 aims to stand out in the highly competitive field of full-size pickup trucks, but the results are a mixed bag. … Instead, the 2021 Sierra 1500 is a stylish and capable option that lacks the refinement and excitement of some full-size rivals." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 2019 GMC Sierra was a perfectly good truck that lacked some tech and interior refinement. The 2020 model adds efficient diesel power and ups the tech game, but the cabin still leaves a lot to be desired. Still, with its unique tailgate option and myriad models to choose from, the 2020 Sierra is better poised to compete for full-size pickup shoppers' money." -- CNET (2020)
  • "While the new Sierra is an improvement on the outgoing model in nearly every way, it still suffers the same problem as before: it's not nearly different enough than the Silverado considering the several thousand-dollar price gap and behind the competition in terms of refinement. … We have no doubt loyal GMC owners, both north and south of the border, will love the new Sierra. But the real differentiator between it and the Silverado is the styling, not the tailgate or carbon-fiber bed. The top-trim Denali sacrifices comfort for looks, and still falls short of top-grade trims on the Ram 1500 and F-150." -- Autoblog (2019)
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