$21,030 - $43,239

2017 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 was new.


Performance: 8.1

The 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 offers you a choice of three engines. A V6 is standard, and it provides the best fuel economy of the bunch. If you want more power, better acceleration, and higher towing capacity, you're better off with one of the two available V8 engines. The Sierra's ride isn't the smoothest in the class, especially over rough roads, but it is generally comfortable for a truck. Don't expect to cut up curvy roads though; the Sierra doesn't feel especially maneuverable, despite its sharp steering.

  • "Slow throttle response is the only real gripe. Backed by 460 lb-ft of torque, the eight-speed transmission doesn't need to hunt for the right gear. The engine's switch to four-cylinder mode for fuel economy is imperceptible." -- Edmunds
  • "Sierra lags the Ram 1500 in ride quality, but it's a strong competitor in this class." -- Consumer Guide (2015)
  • "We drove the Sierra up the coast of Southern California to the Camarillo, where we picked a 23-foot Airstream trailer. Either with or without the trailer, it's amazing how quiet the Sierra is inside the cabin – we would hardly have noticed the nearly 5000-pound trailer behind us if not for the fact that it obstructed the rearward view. And the engine had no trouble handling the extra weight." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The Sierra 1500's base engine is a 4.3-liter V6 that puts out 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. That's more torque than you'll find in some rivals' V6 engines, and it gives you the power to do some light towing if you want. The V6 is also the most fuel-efficient of the Sierra's engines, earning an EPA-estimated rating up to 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

For heavier towing and hauling, you'll need more power than the V6 provides. Fortunately, the Sierra is available with two V8 engines. The smaller of the two is a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, and the big boy is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The 5.3-liter V8 can handle most anything you throw at it, but the larger V8 stands out among full size pickups for its outstanding acceleration. It can also switch to a four-cylinder mode to save fuel.

The Sierra's V8 engines don't have quite the fuel efficiency of the V6. The 5.3-liter V8 gets an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, which is better than the V8 engines offered by class rivals like the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.

A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard, and an eight-speed automatic is available. If you opt for the eight-speed, be aware that it feels a little slow to respond at times.

  • "When fitted with the 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, the Silverado/Sierra is among the quickest-accelerating full-size pickups. The eight-speed automatic doesn't shift particularly fast; it's also not remarkably responsive to manual shifting." -- Edmunds
  • "The base powerplant is … a good fit for fuel efficiency-focused buyers who also need to do some light towing from time to time." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "We spent considerable time behind the wheel of a 5.3-liter V8 model and felt the powertrain was more than capable in nearly every situation." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Handling and Braking

The Sierra comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive is available. The truck has a generally pleasant ride, though successive small impacts may bounce you around a bit, which is pretty typical for a truck. The Denali trim is available with a Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which helps deliver a smoother ride by monitoring road conditions and making continuous adjustments to the suspension system.

While the ride may be fairly smooth, the Sierra's handling could be better, according to a few reviewers. Other trucks are more maneuverable, and you'll probably want to be cautious on winding roads, especially if your truck is equipped with off-road tires. Steering is accurate, however, and the Sierra's brakes are strong.

  • "Unfortunately the off-road tires do nothing for the Silverado/Sierra's already average handling. It's big and needs to be driven slowly on winding roads." -- Edmunds
  • "Beneath the exterior lies more newness - a stiffened frame, a retuned suspension and a new electric power steering system. Thanks to these revisions, the Sierra possesses a better-controlled, more comfortable ride along with more predictable handling than before." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "No matter what engine is under the aluminum hood, both pickups have a quiet demeanor, an occasionally choppy but otherwise soft ride, and a smaller feel from behind the wheel than that of those big-rig-emulating competitors. The Sierra's steering is accurate and doesn't require constant corrections. A firm and confidence-inspiring brake pedal is almost sports-car-like, and the braking distances recorded by the Sierra's Chevrolet analog were class-leading." -- Car and Driver (2014)

Towing and Hauling

For 2017, the Sierra 1500 sees a 500-pound increase in its maximum towing capacity, making it a class leader for towing. When properly equipped, the Sierra can tow up to 12,500 pounds, and it has a max payload of 2,250 pounds. In addition to a high capacity, the Sierra has features that make your life easier when pulling a trailer, including a trailer brake controller and the transmission's tow/haul mode, which holds gears longer.

Even trailers that weigh multiple tons pose little problem for the Sierra; it can pull heavy loads with ease, even up hills, and the tow/haul mode lets you focus on driving safely instead of worrying about what gear you're in while pulling a trailer.

  • "That's largely due to its new fully boxed frame, which … also helps with towing, as do the fully integrated trailer brakes. We also couldn't live without tow/haul mode, which takes the guesswork out of manually operating the automatic transmission when you'd rather be focusing on things such as guiding the pickup safely up a hill." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "When it came to towing, however, our Sierra had no problem whatsoever lugging a 5,000-pound Airstream trailer up steep grades." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

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