2020 GMC Sierra HD 2500/3500 First Drive: More muscle, more style

General Motors’ pickup strategy is quite simple; attack the market with two brands where competitors only offer one choice. As for heavy consumers, we’ve already seen what they’ve done with the all-new platform, controversial style and impressive traction technology of the 2020 Silverado 2500 and 3500, and now it’s time for the GMC side of the family to roll out their HDs and unique features. .

2020 The GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 models are based on a completely new, stronger, longer and higher step frame, specially designed to provide greater maximum numbers for towing and payload. In all configurations, specific consideration for thicker, lighter and more advanced materials has been included in the frame, upgraded suspension components and even in the drivelines themselves, resulting in higher maximum payloads (over 7,000 pounds) and maximum traction numbers (over 35,000 pounds). Here’s a funny fact GM engineers want you to know: each configuration of GM’s 1-tonne double (regardless of cab, engine, powertrain) can pull in more than £ 30,000. Neither Ford nor Ram can say the same.

A large piece of this HD puzzle lies, as you might imagine, under the hood. Although the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel (rated at 445 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 910 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm) is basically a transmission engine choice, it is now mated to a brand new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission, which has a larger, faster computer control. In addition, there is a completely new choice of gas engine in the form of a 6.6-liter V-8 with direct injection, marked at 401 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 464 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. This new engine replaces the long-overdue 6.0-liter with a mountain of proven and new technology and can be compared exceptionally well with the new Ford and Ram gas V-8 offerings.

From an exterior design perspective, GMC engineers continue their efforts to differentiate themselves from their Chevrolet brothers. For better or worse, GMC has taken a more conservative approach, keeping their multi-block grille, front bumpers and headlight designs more in line with the halftone models. The most dramatic changes to the Sierra HD fronts are in real size, largely driven by the extra airflow requirements needed for both diesel and gas engine choices. The front still offers dual intake routes for cold air (one integrated in the hood, the other through the wider grille), but now also adds a hefty mini grill under the bumper to direct air either to the intercooler (for diesel). ) or transmission cooler (for the gas). Window belts have been lowered for better visibility for drivers and passengers and the actual height of the bed sill is also lower. We especially like that all HDs will offer integrated side steps in the rear bumper and bed body (one in front of the rear wheel well, one in the bumper corner) on all models for easier and faster access to everything in the bed.

We recently had the chance to do a lot of highway towing, off-road driving and payload in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming (about 6,000 feet above sea level), with several new Sierra HD models and in short, here’s what we found:

Highway towing: Duramax / Allison is an absolute monster when pulling heavy loads. Unlike some max-tow powertrains, the 6.6-liter turbodiesel delivers 100 percent of its off-line torque and the new 10-speed transmission does an excellent job of smoothly and progressively getting all the power to the rear wheels. Our first 3,500 double-cabin 4×4 Denali (listed just under $ 82,000) towed a Keystone Montana turntable camper with dual extendable sockets, which weighed in at about 13,000 pounds dry. With the exhaust brake on and in Tow / Haul (which gave us some pretty aggressive downshifts of degree brakes every time we pressed the brake), our time with the truck and trailer was pretty comfortable and stress-free. Add to this a myriad of trailer camera options (front, both side mirrors, bed, tailgate and one last wired camera on the back of the camper), so we could see almost anything or anyone who wants to sneak up on us. We should note that GM is the only HD truck manufacturer to offer an integrated Transparent Trailer feature that (when set up correctly) allows the driver to see through the trailer you are pulling to the drivers following you (many of whom may want to pass). This technology is not only cool, it provides an extra level of security and situational awareness that we have never experienced. In addition, we towed with a gooseneck flatbed that reportedly weighed over 25,000 pounds with a ton double and thought the driveline’s function was strong enough to pull the load with confidence, and we felt pretty complex all the time. Of course, we have to reserve our final assessments for long-distance towing (and any overheating problems) until we can get a test car and set up a drive in several states.

Off-road driving: One of the biggest sales surprises recently for GMC is their latest terrain package, called AT4 (actually a developed trim from previous All Terrain packages). Offered on both light and heavy platforms, the AT4 package for HD offers larger wheels and tires, specially tuned Rancho monotube dampers, extra cable plating underneath, a Traction Select system with a unique terrain mode, Hill Descent and hill hold functions, a 15- inch head-up color screen with an off-road inclinometer and a high-resolution surround camera. The 2500 or 3500 AT4 is exclusive to the GMC brand (meaning there is no Chevy Silverado HD Trail Boss right now) and, with the exception of an anti-roll bar and winch, this may be the closest to a Ram 2500 Power Wagon competitor . We had the chance to punish some AT4s at both higher speeds, choppy gravel roads, as well as some rocks and nasty 4×4 tracks we found near Grand Teton National Park. The unique thing is that the gearbox offers both four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high-range and four-wheel drive low-range modes, each with different Off Road position settings in the gearbox to help improve traction control and throttle response. We found this extremely useful when navigating a deep river wash that eventually became rocky and then turned into tire-swallowing, fluffy, smooth sand. Moving back and forth between the 4WD settings is just push buttons, which requires that we are only in neutral when entering or exiting 4 Low. To state the obvious; this was the most fun we had in a GMC pickup all week. And, we should also note, the AT4 package does not suffer from any downgrade in maximum payload or towing compared to other non-AT4 HD discs (something Power Wagon can not say).

Cruising with payload: We also had the chance to run quite long stretches of mountain highways with both a Sierra Denali 2500 and Sierra AT4 2500 with on or just over 2,000 pounds of freshly cut logs in bed (all properly fastened). Particularly remarkable, which is a pet for us, loved the fact that even with so much weight in the back, there were very few rear suspensions from the rear springs. None of our test cars showed any problems with coping with the weight or sacrificing any ride or handling quality when we cut through the canyons parallel to the Snake River. However, we should note that our AT4 loaded with logs had the new V-8 gas engine, which seemed to have a little more trouble keeping up with the traffic when we crossed a mountain pass, and with four fewer gears than Allison (but lower 3.73: 1 shaft gears – all Duramax HDs get 3.42: 1 gears), it still seemed to struggle a bit more. With all this said, we were still quite impressed with how well both the Denali and AT4 suspensions handled the load, which gave a balanced and complex chassis during cornering on mountain roads.

But what about the interiors? If you were looking for something dramatic or a huge upgrade in the 2020 GMC HD interior, you will not be satisfied. For the most part, everything we have already seen from GMC (mainly from the new interiors in the light trims) will be transferred to the HD range. Expect that the state-of-the-art Denali will still fall less than Ram and Ford do with their top moldings – meaning you will still see the standard chrome frames with brushed aluminum accents and plastic wood details in the center console and door panels. We actually like the idea that the interior should look the same between light and heavy, but we would really like to see more drama with materials and choices of better quality. On top of that, the softer dashboards and sewing choices are still pretty good, just not for a truck that can easily drive over the $ 75,000 mark. We believe this is the biggest opportunity for GMC and, unlike some of our colleagues, we are willing to wait and see what is likely to come in the next mid-range update.

The roll-out of the new GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 models is now taking place, but the more popular models (which means crew cab 4×4) will come first, then the others later. Expect AT4 and Denali crew cabins first, with other trim and cabs rolling out thereafter. Eventually, the 2020 GMC HD will offer three cab configurations, two bed lengths, two engine selections and five trims – the value-oriented Sierra trim, the more common SLE and SLT, and then offer the more well-equipped AT4 and Denali for those who want to fully choose and have more style. Entry Level Sierra HD standard cab will start at $ 38,790. The more popular 2500 SLE 4×4 crew cab will have a starting price of $ 1,900 cheaper than the outgoing model and will include these upgrades: a stronger, more efficient 6.6-liter V-8 gas, LED headlights, traction selection, more payload and tensile capacity, more side steps and more load bindings in the bed. Prices for this specific model start at $ 46,990. Top-of-the-line 3500 dual Denali 4×4 crew cab will have a starting price of $ 69,490 and include 6.6-liter Duramax and 10-speed gearbox, surround cameras, Multi-Pro tailgate and much more. Realistically, though, you can expect one of the heavy skiers to get pretty close or over $ 80,000 with all the boxes checked. Definitely not cheap by any means, but think about the upgrades offered for the 2020 model, there is a strong value proposition to make.

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