$10,170 - $23,322

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 was new.


Performance: 8.5

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500's greatest asset is its four available engines, which allow buyers to customize the powertain. Reviewers aren’t disappointed with these options. They do say that the base V6 engine is sluggish compared to the powerful V8s that come with more expensive models. It’s also not as powerful as the base engine on the F-150, which has 107 more horsepower.

  • "These aren’t as quiet or comfortable as the newer offerings from Ford and Dodge, but there is a liveliness and competence in the GM trucks. Light, almost carlike steering and good brake feel." -- Car and Driver
  • "The six-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with the two bigger V8s does an admirable job of keeping power on tap, while the four-speed feels outdated by comparison." -- Edmunds
  • “Acceleration is more than adequate with the 5.3-liter V8 and robust with the Denali's 6.2 V8. The smooth-shifting transmission kicks down quickly for more passing power." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The GMC Sierra 1500 has several engines that come with six or eight cylinders. Reviewers say the base 4.3-liter V6 engine, which produces 195 horsepower and 260 pound feet of torque, is sluggish in comparison to the V8s. The V6 is only available with standard box regular cab and extended cab models.

There are four V8 engines. The first is a 4.8-liter with variable valve timing engine that produces 302 horsepower and 305 pound feet of torque that is optional on the Regular Cab and Extended Cab Long Box, and standard on the Extended Cab Standard Box and the Crew Cab Short Box. The second engine is a 5.3-liter FlexFuel that can take a gasoline or gasoline/E85 mix. It’s available on most models, except the Denali Trim. The third engine is also 5.3 liters, and like the previous engine, produces a maximum of 326 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. This engine, however, is only available on Extended Cab, Standard Box and Crew Cab, Short Box all-wheel drive models. The main difference between the 5.3 liter engines is that one has an iron block for two-wheel drive, and the other has an aluminum block for all-wheel drive. The most powerful V8, a 6.2-liter engine that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, is standard on the Denali and optional on certain Extended Cab and Crew Cab models.  

With so many engine options, fuel economy varies considerably. According to the EPA, the Sierra 1500 earns 15/20 mpg city/highway on gasoline.

  • "Acceleration is more than adequate at all speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Acceleration is sluggish with the base V6, while the 4.8-liter V8 provides adequate power. The 5.3-liter V8 feels brawny and the 6.2-liter V8 turns the Sierra into a veritable muscle truck." -- Edmunds
  • "And for those who want more power (or towing capacity) the 6.2-liter is tops in its class, offering significantly more power and torque (pulling force) with very little penalty in fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

Given its size, reviewers are quite pleased with the 2011 GMC Sierra’s handling abilities. But this doesn’t mean that the Sierra provides a car-like ride. Reviewers say it’s a bit stiff, which is typical for a truck.

Different suspension options are available, and each is tuned for different performance strengths. The Z60 is tuned for best street performance, while the Z71 is for off-roading.

  • "With an unladen cargo bed the Sierra's ride quality is fairly stiff, but the suspension does a good job soaking up large imperfections in the road. Reasonably precise steering response gives the driver much appreciated confidence when driving at highway speeds." -- Cars.com
  • "The steering is light but reasonably precise, and the truck's comfortable seats and smooth, quiet ride make road trips enjoyable. The Sierra's turning circle is a bit larger than you'll find in most other trucks, however." -- Edmunds
  • "Riding on a fully-boxed frame for more chassis stiffness, with coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, GMC's big pickup truck is surprisingly nimble and easy to maneuver." -- Kelley Blue Book

Hauling and Towing

The Sierra’s hauling capacity varies by cab and box size. The Regular Cab with a standard box and the 4.8L engine can carry up to 1,815 pounds, while the Crew Cab 1500 XFE with the 6.2L engine can carry up to 1,980 pounds.

  • "As ever, the Sierra is a robust specimen. There are no fewer than three optional V8 engines, and towing and hauling ratings are top-notch." -- Edmunds
  • "If you need the hauling and towing capabilities of a full-size pickup truck, you can have them while at the same time contributing to the environment via a V8-engine lineup that offers Active Fuel Management technology and Flex-Fuel E85 capability." -- Kelley Blue Book

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