Full-sized pickups like the GMC Sierra 1500 offer something for everyone, from a tough work truck to a kitted out luxury vehicle. The GMC sometimes lags behind the three big names in pickups — Ram, Ford, and Chevy — but the Sierra is still a great vehicle that offers a plethora of options.
Right now, the third generation of the GMC Sierra 1500 is on the market. This generation began with the 2019 model year, and includes the latest technology, new trim options, and two new engines: a turbodiesel and a turbocharged four-cylinder. Prior to that, the second generation of the GMC Sierra ran from 2014-2018.
Are you considering buying a full-sized pickup? Here’s everything you need to know about the last two generations of the GMC Sierra.
Price and Value: The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 has a base starting price of $29,600, although higher level trims can cost more than $59,000. These prices are about average for a full-sized pickup. However, the Chevrolet Silverado — which has the exact same body and mechanics as the Sierra — costs about $1,000 less.
To save money, shoppers should consider buying a second generation GMC Sierra. You’ll have slightly fewer engine and trim options, but most drivers will still find a Sierra that fits their needs. Even features that became standard on the 2019 model, like Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto®, are available as options on a second-generation Sierra.
Seating and Capacity Specs: The GMC Sierra, like many full-sized pickups, offers many options for bed and cab size. Here are the choices that are available:
Cab Size: Both the second and third generations of the GMC Sierra are available in three cab designs: regular cab, double cab, and crew cab.
- Regular cab: The regular cab has one bench, with seating for three people. There are two doors and no back seats
- Double cab: The double cab has either a bench or bucket seats in the front, and a bench in the back seat. This cab seats five to six passengers. The rear seats have 35 inches of leg room on the 2019 model, which is comparable to the space in the back seat of a sedan. There are four full doors, just like a sedan, although the back doors are smaller than the front doors.
- Crew cab: The biggest cab option has seating for five to six passengers. Like the double cab, the crew has a bench or bucket seat in front and a bench seat in the back. The big difference is the eight additional inches of leg room in the rear seats and the fact that all four doors are the same size.
Bed Size: The GMC Sierra comes in three bed lengths.
- Short bed: This bed is 5 feet 8 inches long, and can only be put on crew cab trucks.
- Regular bed: The standard 6 foot 6 inch bed is available to be paired with double cab or crew cab trucks.
- Long bed: This 8-foot bed is only available to be paired with regular cab trucks.
Engine Options and Fuel Economy: The third generation of the GMC Sierra (model years 2019 and later) has five engine options, while the second generation Sierra offers three engine options. They are:
- 285-horsepower V6: This is the base engine for both generations. It gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg combined in two-wheel drive.
- 310-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder: This engine is available only on the third generation. It gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg combined fuel economy.
- 5.3 liter 355-horsepower V8: This engine, available on both generations, gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg combined fuel economy in two-wheel drive.
- 6.2 liter 420-horsepower V8: The most powerful engine, available on both generations, also gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg combined fuel economy.
- 277-horsepower Turbodiesel: This engine option was introduced for 2019 and gets 26 mpg combined fuel economy, according to GMC. It is the first time a diesel engine is made available on the Sierra 1500. Prior to this, drivers who wanted a diesel engine needed to opt for a heavy-duty GMC truck.
Features and Trims: The third generation of the GMC Sierra is available in six trims: Sierra, SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4, and Denali. The second generation was available in four trims: the base, SLE, SLT, and Denali. Here’s what you can expect from each.
- Sierra: The base model comes with a V6 engine, a rear-view camera, a seven-inch touch screen and a six-speaker sounds system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay®, and Android Auto® (standard in model years 2016 and later). In the third generation, this trim comes standard with teen driver technology which allows owners to set speed and volume limits.
- SLE: In both generations, the SLE trim includes an eight-inch touchscreen and a WiFi hotspot. On the second generation, this trim includes the EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate. On the third generation the SLE trim comes with a turbo four-cylinder engine that delivers better fuel economy than the V6.
- Elevation: This trim, which was introduced for the third generation, features the turbo four-cylinder engine, a 12-volt plug, a body-colored grille and wheel rims that have been painted black.
- SLT: In both generations, the SLT trim begins to introduce the Sierra’s luxury features. These include leather upholstery and heated front seats and 12-volt plugs in the cab and bed. The SLT comes standard with the 355-horsepower V8 engine and the more powerful 420-horsepower V8 is an available option. On the third generation, the SLT trim features GMC’s MultiPro™ tailgate, which has features including an entry step.
- AT4: Introduced for the third generation, the AT4 is the GMC Sierra’s off-road trim. It comes with standard four-wheel drive and an off-road tuned suspension. It’s also two inches higher than other GMC Sierras, allowing for better clearance when off-roading. The 355-horsepower V8 is standard on this trim.
- Denali: The top-of-the-line Denali trim comes with an array of driver’s assist features in both generations. These include blind spot monitor and front and rear parking sensors. The Denali comes standard with navigation, a Bose audio system and wireless charging ports.
Ratings: The GMC Sierra 1500 ranks just outside the top three mid-sized pickups. However, it does have some standout features:
- The third generation’s max towing capacity of 12,500 pounds when properly equipped is the second best in class.
- The third generation’s MultiPro™ tailgate is a unique feature that isn’t offered by other manufacturers.
Reliability: The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of five, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Although that’s slightly above average over all, it’s below average for the full-sized pickup class. The 2018 GMC Sierra has a reliability rating of three out of five, average for all vehicles but below average for the class. The 2018 Sierra is also subject to a recall because of a braking issue, so be sure to check the service and recall history if you’re purchasing a used GMC Sierra
Safety: The GMC Sierra 1500 is a very safe vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2019 Sierra an overall rating of four out of five stars. The previous model year had a safety rating of five out of five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating the GMC Sierra’s front crash prevention system (which is optional) as superior, but noted that the Sierra’s headlights do a poor job of illuminating the road.
The GMC Sierra comes with few standard safety features. Although a rear-view camera is standard on the third generation, you’ll need to upgrade to higher trim levels to get additional driver assist features like blind-spot monitoring.
The Takeaway: Full-sized pickups are a competitive class with many great options. The GMC Sierra is a good truck overall, with plenty of available trims and cab configurations. Its towing capacity stands out, but other than that, the GMC Sierra is comparable to other trucks in the class. The Sierra 1500’s 2019 redesign brought in a more fuel-efficient turbo four-cylinder engine and introduced a diesel engine to the 1500 for the first time. However, in terms of features, the third generation is similar to the previous generation, thus budget-conscious shoppers should consider an older Sierra to save money.