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2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance

U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Performance Review


Performance: 7.9

The 2020 GMC Sierra has an engine for everyone. It is available with a V6, a turbo-four, a turbodiesel, and two V8s. This truck handles fairly well and delivers a smooth ride. It's plenty capable in towing and hauling situations, and it can hold its own off road. Fuel economy ratings are typical for a full-size pickup.

  • "I spent most of a day crossing the beautiful roads outside St. John's, Newfoundland in a 2019 Sierra Denali, a top-shelf model with nearly all the literal bells and figurative whistles, including that big 6.2-liter lump of a V8. Its effortless torque surges the empty truck forward with aplomb." -- CNET (2019)
  • "Steering is firm without the feeling of being overboosted, and braking is tight and linear thanks in part to a new electro-hydraulic booster. The brake pedal has been moved closer to the accelerator (more SUV-like than traditional pickup)." -- Truck Trend (2019)
  • "The steering is firm and direct and the turning radius is surprisingly small. Still, it's a big truck and you feel every bit of its nearly 7-foot width." -- Autoblog (2019)

Acceleration and Power

The Sierra comes standard with a 4.3-liter V6 engine that puts out 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain is fine for driving to and from work, but it isn't the best choice if you plan to do a lot of towing and hauling. The same can be said for the optional turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. It produces 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque; it's mated to an eight-speed automatic.

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. The 5.3-liter is available with an eight- or 10-speed automatic transmission, depending on configuration. The 6.2-liter is paired with a 10-speed automatic. Both V8s feel stronger than the V6 from an acceleration and overall power standpoint. The larger V8 moves the Sierra easily in all situations, and it unlocks the Sierra's maximum towing capacity.

Finally, there's a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that's paired with a 10-speed automatic. It 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.

According to EPA estimates, the Sierra gets 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway with its base engine. Those are typical ratings for a full-size pickup, though some competitors are more efficient. Ratings are about the same with the smaller V8: 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. With the turbo-four, ratings jump to 20/23 mpg city/highway. The diesel is the most efficient engine in the lineup, propelling the Sierra's ratings to 23/30 mpg city/highway.

  • "Fire up the Duramax and it's clear this diesel is quiet even compared to some gas engines. It's also uncommonly smooth. … Basically, this engine feels just as refined as the V8s. It's zippy too. When the truck isn't taxed with a trailer, the Duramax whisks the Sierra to 60 in around 8 seconds according to informal iPhone testing. And unlike some turbo-diesels, this one has almost no turbo lag. But the coolest thing about this engine is the super-wide torque band. You can spend most of your drive time at part throttle, letting that wave of torque push the truck along with the 10-speed snapping off light, quick shifts." -- Autoweek
  • "The 6.2L's 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque leave little to be desired. Thanks in part to the massive range of the new 10-speed transmission, there's power on tap whenever it's desired. We never felt that the truck was underpowered, and there's little wait for it to kick in. The transmission reacts very quickly to throttle input and drops the appropriate number of gears for the acceleration desired (thanks largely to its ability to skip multiple cogs up and down). Shifts are smooth and seamless." -- Truck Trend (2019)
  • "Both [V8s] feature cylinder deactivation and stop/start capability for improved fuel economy. … Both provide ample, linear power, and the transmissions kick down fairly quickly when the throttle is stabbed at speed." -- Consumer Guide (2019)

Handling and Braking

The Sierra delivers a smooth ride even over rough roads, so it makes a solid daily driver in addition to being a capable work truck. It has poised handling, but the Sierra's massive size means it will never feel nimble. Rear-wheel drive comes standard, and four-wheel drive is available.

For true off-roading, the Sierra AT4 is the trim you want. It handles most outdoor 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.

  • "Ride quality is excellent, and braking is nicely predictable and linear." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)
  • "On roads that ranged from smooth highways to cramped city streets, the Denali rode well and was easy to command. Its adaptive dampers were effectively flexible, although the live rear axle and giant 22-inch wheels still shuddered over sections of harsh pavement that the latest Ram 1500, with its rear coil springs or optional air springs, seems less upset by. The GMC, however, has sharper, more linear steering with more feedback than most big trucks, and the Denali actually felt poised when cornering at higher speeds." -- Car and Driver (2019)
  • "While Denali proved to be the king of the highway, AT4 reigned supreme when the tarmac gave way to dust. … Off-road the AT4 doesn't disappoint. The Rancho shocks work well at soaking up bumps and ruts in the road, and the Goodyear tires provide loads of traction. … Ripping through the woods like a rally car was a blast, even it if it wasn't the most technical. We had no issues with shock fade, and passenger comfort was high with little to no violent head toss from the cross ruts and dips in the road. A Baja racer the AT4 is not, but for the everyday outdoor enthusiast it's more than suitable." -- Truck Trend (2019)

Towing and Hauling

A properly equipped Sierra can tow up to 12,100 pounds and haul up to 2,240 pounds. Those are good totals, but they aren't class leading. You can add a few features that help with towing, such as a trailer brake controller and a trailer camera package. Even multiton loads don't pose much of a problem for the Sierra, making this truck a good workhorse no matter what you need to pull.

  • "The Sierra, with the new diesel engine, can tow up to 9,100 pounds. Is this a huge problem for GMC? In terms of bragging rights, absolutely. But 9,100 pounds is still plenty of capacity. And if you really want maximum towing, you can get the gasoline V8 for up to 12,100 pounds." -- Edmunds
  • "We … can confirm that the lifted Sierra [AT4 with the 6.2-liter V-8] can tow about 5000 pounds without breaking a sweat." -- Car and Driver (2019)
  • "From cameras that show you a view of the hitch while connecting a trailer and an extra camera to show you the area behind the trailer when on the road, to trailer-tire-pressure monitoring and a vehicle-specific capability label on the door jamb, the new Sierra has an expansive list of trailer towing features." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)
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2020 GMC Sierra 1500

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