Untethered: 10 features your vehicle needs so you can work anywhere


Working from home has become commonplace, especially after a global pandemic forced workers to retreat to their homes during a national shutdown.

Cars were parked, highways were eerily empty, and even the dirt across the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex was cleared; While Internet bandwidth turned into a commodity and laptops became lifelines, Zoom calls made it possible to hold corporate meetings in training pants.

When the world slowly opens up and long summer days invite us outside, isolated workers should flee from the blue light and set out on the road – without taking a day off. Most new vehicles now offer many of the comforts you need to work anywhere. Whether it’s the beach, the park, the mountains or the campsite (as long as it’s not Big Sur because even mobile service is non-existent).

I took a 2021 GMC Sierra to San Onofre, a state beach in California just south of San Clemente, for a day to get out on the waves and tick a few boxes on my to-do list. Its beefy 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine is the embodiment of work and play. Its power and torque will take you far off the beaten track, and its range is generous enough to get back and forth without much urgency to recharge (however, be sure to check for diesel availability at nearby stations). The truck’s spacious cabin and almost 6-foot bed offer multiple places to work or hang out, and its configurable tailgate simplifies access to equipment and supplies. It also bends outwards to act as a stand-up desk.

Whatever your adventure, here are 10 things to look for in a vehicle if you want to work anywhere, inspired by a truck that can work and play at the same time.

2021 GMC Sierra AT4
2021 The GMC Sierra AT4 looks right at home in San Onofre, California, a world-class surfing destination south of San Clemente. Carly Schaffner

Four-wheel drive

For adventurers who like to hike in the desert or mountains, or for those who live in regions that see heavy rain or snowfall, a vehicle that sends power through all four wheels is a no brainer. Four-wheel drive is more intended for stability on the pavement but can have the same reliable effect if you stick to flatter degrees and loose gravel (against boulders). The GMC Sierra AT4 has more than enough for off-road excursions, including automatic rear differential locking, a two-speed gearbox, off-road suspension and a 2-inch monotube damper lift. It also has a slide plate and Hill Descent Control for extra noisy fun.

Skillful telematics

What is telematics really? A vehicle’s telematics system is the back-end telecommunication equipment that connects it to the outside world, for GPS, wireless internet services and other cloud or remote systems. The most important part of telematics for a successful mobile office is a Wi-Fi connection. If the vehicle acts as a live hotspot, all phones and laptops can be connected.

GPS is also a key feature to have, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now so ubiquitous that a smartphone can do as good a job at finding and navigating, and does not have a steep learning curve like some domestic vehicle platforms. General Motors OnStar system is very intuitive to use and is mostly uniform for all four brands: GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac. Sierra AT4 is equipped with an 8-inch touch screen that enables a wireless connection of both systems as well as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection.

Multiple USB ports

Both drivers and passengers now expect access to USB ports on board all modern vehicles. Some car manufacturers go so far as to make sure that each passenger has two. GMC Sierra has two front and two rear and a wireless charging plate. The generous mix of ports takes the stress out of charging multiple devices.

120-volt outlet

In addition to USB ports, a “home-style” 120-volt AC outlet will power the campsite or necessities such as a slow cooker or inflatable mattress. In the case of a productive workday, a laptop can be kept charged as well as an iPod, freeing up one of the built-in USB devices. Photographers will also find this type of power source handy for charging camera equipment. However, these plugs have limitations, so be sure to check what the outlet can handle. Sierra AT4 has a 120-volt connector in the instrument panel and load platform.

Lots of legroom

Not all cottages are created equal. For a cozy workspace, check to see the available legroom in both the front and rear seats of your vehicle. The Sierra AT4 offers 44.5 inches of legroom in the front row, which is quite spacious, even for a tall adult. The back row is just as impressive with 43 inches of legroom.

Adjustable front seats

Also, if your front seats are electrically adjustable, you may be able to find a more agronomic position offered by your rigid office chair. If your lower back is lucky, the vehicle will also have lumbar support. The front seats of the Sierra AT4 are configurable in 10 different ways and include the lumbar spine. Each seat except the center rear also offers heating and ventilation.

2021 GMC Sierra AT4
Sierra’s bed is almost 6 feet long and, in addition to its usual truck tasks, works well as an outdoor office with two rear corner steps for easy access to the bed in addition to the MultiPro tailgate that folds up to serve as a footrest. It also has an integrated 120-volt socket and a Bluetooth speaker. Carly Schaffner

Easy access to the bed

This is a truck-specific feature, but sometimes it is best to travel with equipment such as surfboards or bicycles with a pickup. And when the load is unloaded, the bed can be used as a temporary desk or seating area – just spread out a blanket or pillow. (Some large SUVs also have giant cargo spaces that hold large toys and act as a seating area with the tailgate open). GMC’s Sierra has a distinct tailgate that shares six different ways, aptly named the MultiPro tailgate.

The primary gate can be lowered (quite softly) all the way down with a release on the key washer, from inside the truck or from a power button on the gate. When it is down, a secondary gate can be folded out to create a step. The gate can also be lowered halfway and a panel inside it will be folded up to create a border that will secure long loads (such as long wooden planks or giant dirt bikes). When it is all the way up, the secondary gate can be folded out to create a desk or to provide easy access when a tonneau guard is installed. There is nothing tricky about this tailgate – it is completely intuitive to use and one wonders why GMC did not come up with it earlier.

Electric rear window

This is another truck-specific feature, but a power-reducing rear window is so important when you are sitting in the front seat and need to let in some air. This is especially the connection if you are on a conference call and want a little under-radar breeze. Crawling into the rear window to crack the rear window manually will no doubt create distraction. Some SUVs also have retractable rear windows – Toyota’s 4Runner has one. The power button to the side, the rear window itself is a nice shortcut to the passenger compartment if you are lying in bed and need to take something from the back seat; or maybe put something inside for safe storage. It can be a superhero achievement to comfortably take something from the first line, but feel free to give it a try.

A giant center console

As a mother, giant center consoles are a ray of light. Sierra’s is especially cavernous and can swallow my whole bag without jerking. On a work escape, it acts as an ideal surface for keeping loose objects organized and within reach. It is also a useful desk for a laptop, and it is upholstered in heat-resistant leather so that it does not interfere when the battery is heated.

Good sound

Music is an important tool in life. It can act as a soothing background sound when you are stressed and during a deadline, or can act as a focal point during a break. Every vehicle has a sound system, but the Sierra AT4 adds Bose premium sound that echoes inside and outside the cabin. It is also crystal clear for podcasting. And if you’re in bed, or just want remote sound, the AT4 “Carbonpro” package on a dealer-installed Kicker Bluetooth speaker plugs into the port. It is protected by the panel that folds out to create the step. I’ve heard of this speaker before but have never tested it. Not only does it look cool, it’s also easy to sync with and produces great sound. It would get many likes at a tailgate.

2021 GMC Sierra AT4
The retailer-installed Kicker connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth and pumps out some legitimate sound. It would also be the perfect tailgate companion. Carly Schaffner

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