2018 GMC Sierra 1500

Performance


$29,000 MSRP
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2018 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.1

The 2018 GMC Sierra 1500 comes with a V6 engine that gets – along with the mild hybrid powertrain – the best gas mileage in the lineup. The two available V8 engines are less fuel-efficient, but they're better choices because they offer quicker acceleration and higher towing capacities. 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 (2017)
  • "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. This engine moves the truck well during daily driving, and its high torque rating allows for some light towing.

For heavier towing and hauling, you'll need more power than the V6 provides. Fortunately, the Sierra offers two V8 engines. The 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque has all the capability that most buyers will need. Or you can jump up to the lineup’s heaviest hitter – a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This larger V8 stands out among full-size pickups for its outstanding acceleration. All three engines can also switch to a four-cylinder mode to save fuel.

The Sierra also has an uncommon offering among trucks: a mild hybrid powertrain. The Sierra eAssist mild hybrid features a 5.3-liter V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and an electric motor. It also puts out 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.

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.

Unsurprisingly, the V6 and the Sierra eAssist deliver the best fuel economy in the Sierra’s lineup. Both get an EPA-estimated 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Ratings drop to 16/23 mpg city/highway with the smaller V8 and 15/21 mpg with the larger V8.

  • "The Sierra's available 5.3-liter V8 fits this truck like a glove, offering excellent power and decent fuel economy. Those who need more can step up to the 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, but they'll pay a price both at the dealership and the pump." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2017)
  • "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)

Handling and Braking

The Sierra comes standard with rear-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive is available. This isn’t the most agile truck you’ll ever drive. It’s less maneuverable than some rivals, and you’ll need to take extra care when driving on winding roads. On the bright side, the steering is sharp and the brakes are sturdy.

The Sierra’s ride is fairly smooth. You’ll still notice some bumps in the road, but that’s the case with many trucks. The Denali trim is available with a Magnetic Ride Control suspension that helps deliver a smoother ride by monitoring road conditions and making continuous adjustments to the suspension system.

  • "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 (2017)
  • "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

The Sierra 1500 isn’t the class leader in towing or hauling, but it’s one of the best in both areas. 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.

Not only does the Sierra have high towing and hauling capacities, but it also pulls heavy loads without feeling strained. Even trailers that weigh multiple tons pose little problem for the Sierra, 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 … our Sierra had no problem whatsoever lugging a 5,000-pound Airstream trailer up steep grades." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
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