I was eager to try the 4WD GMC Sierra because I had never driven a vehicle with Quadrasteer. This is a $1,995 option that turns all four wheels as necessary to handle maneuvers into tight parking areas or to back a trailer around a corner.
Though I didn't get a chance to use this feature with anything attached to the rear hitch, Quadrasteer comes in handy in tight places even without anything behind the truck. The less area you have to maneuver this full-size hauler, the more you appreciate the small turning radius you get from Quadrasteer. It does indeed make the truck more maneuverable when space is at a premium.
On the highway, the effects of four-wheel steering are basically unnoticeable. The Quadrasteer-equipped Sierra behaves like the big pickup that it is. The ride and steering is fine, but when unloaded, the Sierra stutters over bumps as do other vehicles in this class. The four-speed automatic-equipped truck we tried performed well on the highway. The 4WD kicks in automatically but we never had an occasion to use it.
This medium-duty truck carries the Vortec 6000 V8 gas engine, which is a 6.0-liter 16-valve powerplant producing 300 hp at 4,400 rpm and 360 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. There seems to be plenty of oomph for towing or hauling. But we couldn't help but think, as we watched the gas gage for the 26-gallon tank drop steadily, that we would have opted for a diesel if we had gotten the truck for serious work anywhere near its 10,000-lb maximum towing capacity. (There is no rating as yet on the Sierra's fuel economy.)
Say one thing, though: Occupants of a Sierra ride in style. There is plenty of room in both the front and rear seats of the cab, and standard SLT trim-level decor includes dual-controlled AC, a Bose speaker system and a six-disc CD changer, comfortable leather-appointed seats, and niceties such as an autodimming rear mirror, radio controls on the steering wheel, and heated seats.
The vehicle we tried also carried a $1,295 rear-seat entertainment system that includes a 7-in. flip-down screen and a $325 satellite radio which shares an external antenna with the OnStar system. That radio may end up costing me some money. My wife was hooked on it once she found out the 100 channels of satellite audio included the sound portion of popular cable TV stations.
The Sierra is a good-looking truck from the outside. Though the current design dates from 1999, the '04 model carries a chrome grill molding and chrome wheels, as well as a chrome rear bumper. All this makes it look a bit more refined than its Chevy namesake, the Silverado. Cruise control is standard as are front recovery hooks, daytime-running lamps, and halogen headlamps. Also standard are ABS and discs for all four wheels. The truck rides on 16-in. rims though 17-in. versions are available for 4WD models.
The 2500 Sierra competes most closely with the Chevy Avalanche, Dodge Ram, and Ford F-250. One caveat on the Sierra is that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety didn't give it a superlative rating for the 40-mph offset-crash test.
The only other problem we see with this truck is that options can make it a bit pricey. The package on the vehicle we tried included $235 worth of heavy-duty trailering equipment, $200 polished-aluminum wheels, $55 roof-marker lamps, and a $50 rear-axle upgrade. These, with an $815 destination charge, brought the total to $43,653. Note, however, that buyers seem to think the Sierra is still a good deal at this price. Sales reports show that it has been briskly moving off dealer lots over the last few years.
-- Lee Teschler