$11,296 - $24,824

2012 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 was new.


Performance: 8.3

Reviewers don’t like the 2012 Sierra 1500’s underpowered V6 engine, dated four-speed automatic transmission or unusually large turning radius, but they say it rides smoothly and they love the burly V8 engine options. Plus, the Sierra 1500 gets fairly good gas mileage for a full-size pickup.

  • "Ample power and an unexpectedly civil ride are two the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 truck's best attributes.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The GM twins feel lithe and manageable compared with the pickups from Ford and Dodge, but they lack the solid air of the competition.” -- Car and Driver
  • "The base V6 engine also struggles to adequately motivate this large truck. And maneuverability is hampered by a large turning radius that leads to frequent multiple-point turns.” -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 offers several engines, depending on the trim level. Base models come standard with a 4.3-liter V6 that makes 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. An available 4.8-liter V8 makes 302 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque, and the biggest engine available on the regular Sierra 1500 is a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 315 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The GMC Sierra 1500 Denali comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. All engines except for the base V6 can also run on E85 ethanol fuel. The V6 and 4.8-liter V8 are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, while the 5.3- and 6.2-liter V8s are paired with a six-speed automatic.

The Sierra 1500 gets pretty good fuel economy for the class, with its gas mileage ranging from 15/22 mpg city/highway to 12/18 mpg, depending on the model, according to the EPA. To see the fuel economy of a particular model, check out the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500’s full specifications.

Most models of the GMC Sierra 1500 come standard with two-wheel drive, but offer four-wheel drive as an option. The Sierra 1500 Denali offers optional all-wheel drive, which can be left engaged when used on dry pavement, unlike the other trims’ four-wheel drive systems.

Test drivers don’t like the base V6 engine, calling it sluggish, but say that the V8 engines in the Sierra’s lineup provide plenty of power for most drivers. If you want to tow the Sierra’s maximum amount, opt for the top-of-the-line 6.2-liter V8. Though the six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive, test drivers don’t like the outdated four-speed.

  • "While the 4.3-liter V6 is adequate for most light jobs, we prefer the pulling and passing power provided by the 5.3-liter V8.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “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 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. 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
  • “Lows: Old-school four-speed auto.” -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Given its size, reviewers are quite pleased with the 2012 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. A few test drivers note a turning radius that’s rather large, even for the class, but most note that they like the Sierra’s brakes.

  • "Over the course of a few days, we traveled along smooth highways, narrow back roads and unpaved washboard tracks. Even over the roughest surfaces, the 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 truck's cabin remained calm, bothered neither by noise or vibration.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While it isn't the nimblest truck when it comes to turning circle, the Sierra's overall ride, which features five suspension configurations ranging from off-road to on-road themed, is more than acceptable for a full-size truck.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "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
  • “Being these are large pickups, there’s noticeable body lean in fast turns and quick changes of direction with the (base) Z85 suspension. … The steering is nicely weighted, if a bit numb, and the brakes are responsive with fine pedal feel.” -- Consumer Guide

Towing and Hauling

The 2012 Sierra’s maximum towing and hauling capacities vary by cab, box size and drivetrain. All models can tow at least 7,000 pounds and haul at least 1,513 pounds. Configured properly, the Sierra 1500 can tow up to 10,700 pounds and haul 1,908 pounds. Though that’s a lot, it’s not class-leading: The Ford F-150 can tow up to 11,300 pounds. However, the Sierra outdoes the Ram 1500, which has a maximum towing capacity of 10,450 pounds.

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