What's New for 2008
Coming off a redesign last year, the 2008 GMC Sierra 1500 has only minor changes this year. Satellite radio is now standard equipment and an integrated trailer brake controller is optional. GMC says it will also be offering 22-inch wheels (as a dealer accessory) and a flashier version of the Z71 Off-Road package called the Sierra All Terrain.
Recently, General Motors trucks were known for providing excellent utility but disappointing levels of passenger comfort and interior quality. That generalization was laid to rest last year, however, when the GMC Sierra, as well as its more common twin, the Chevrolet Silverado, received a major redesign.
As a result, the 2008 GMC Sierra 1500 is now one of the best choices for a full-size half-ton pickup. The full redesign addressed nearly all of the previous Sierra's faults. Highlights included updated styling, an improved interior with higher-quality materials and tighter build quality, a more rugged frame and redesigned steering and suspension components for better handling response and ride comfort. GMC also added new safety features like stability control and side curtain airbags.
This latest GMC Sierra is now very suitable for a wide array of truck buyers, from the general consumer to the contractor. It boasts a wide variety of body styles and configurations, an available 403-horsepower V8, a comfortable ride, decent handling and steering and enough comfort and entertainment features to rival a luxury sedan.
Compared to the Chevy Silverado, the 2008 GMC Sierra is a little more upscale in terms of styling -- particularly on the Denali trim -- but overall, the differences are minor. Both are highly recommended for half-ton-truck shoppers. Alternately, if one doesn't find GM's trucks to his or her liking, the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are two other highly recommended models to check out.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 GMC Sierra 1500 is a half-ton full-size pickup. There are three body styles available: standard cab, extended cab and crew cab. Standard cabs can be had with either a standard bed (6-foot, 6-inch) or long bed (8-foot). Extended cabs can have a short (5-foot, 8-inch), standard or long bed. In the interest of maneuverability, crew cabs come only with the short bed.
Regular cabs can be had in base Work or nicely equipped SLE trims, while the extended and crew cabs are also available in the plush SLT trim. There's also an SL trim and a top-of-the-line Denali trim for crew cabs only. The Work trim comes with the basics, including air-conditioning (extended and crew cab versions), a trip computer, OnStar, vinyl seating, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio and a tilt steering wheel. The SLE trim actually consists of two subsets, SLE1 and SLE2. The SLE1 (and the largely similar SL) build on the Work trim with cruise control, cloth seating (with adjustable driver lumbar support), full power accessories, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Opting for the SLE2 nets you alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control (in extended and crew cabs), front bucket seats and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The premium SLT has all of the previous equipment, plus rain-sensing wipers (with heated washer fluid), a Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer, leather seating, remote engine start, an exclusive dash design with wood/metallic accents, 12-way power, heated front seats and rear audio controls. Sierra Denali models trump the SLT with a unique powertrain, on-road-biased suspension tuning, special wheels, exterior styling enhancements, a heated steering wheel and a turn-by-turn navigation feature for OnStar.
Depending on the Sierra ordered, notable available options include a variety of towing packages, the Z71 Off-Road Package (skid plates, off-road suspension and locking rear differential), the All-Terrain Package (similar to the Z71 but with special interior and exterior enhancements), 20- and 22-inch wheels, upgraded audio systems, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, heated power-folding outside mirrors, a sunroof, a power-sliding rear window, a cargo management system and rear park assist. There is also an optional "EZ Lift" tailgate that requires only about half the effort (compared to the standard tailgate) to open and close.
Powertrains and Performance
There are five different engines available for the Sierra 1500. Work trucks have a 4.3-liter V6 (195 hp, 260 pound-feet of torque) as standard. This can be upgraded to a 4.8-liter V8 (295 hp, 305 lb-ft) or a 5.3-liter V8 (315 hp, 338 lb-ft). The SLE trims will have one of the two V8s as standard, while the SLT has the 5.3-liter engine as standard. Optional on select models is a 6.0-liter V8 that makes 367 hp and 375 lb-ft. It typically comes as part of the Max Trailering Package. With that package, the Sierra can tow up to 10,500 pounds. Unique to the Denali is a 6.2-liter V8 cranking out 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque.
A four-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode is standard on all Sierra pickups with the exception of the Denali, which has a six-speed automatic. Buyers have a choice of two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or, in the case of the Denali, all-wheel drive. The Work and LS trims with 4WD have a traditional floor-mounted selector for the transfer case. All other 4WD trims have Autotrac, which features an automatic setting that shifts into 4WD when wheel slippage is detected. Though fuel economy for the workhorse 5.3-liter V8 4WD is hardly impressive (the 2008 EPA estimate is 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway), it ranks as the most efficient V8 available in a mainstream full-size truck.
Antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum) are standard, with an all-disc setup available via the Max Trailering Package or the Denali trim. A stability control system with roll-mitigating technology is standard on crew cabs and optional on extended cabs. Side curtain airbags and adjustable pedals are optional on most models. In government crash tests, the Sierra earned a top five-star rating for protection of front occupants in head-on collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
Tight build quality, an attractive dash design and comfortable front seating combine with sound ergonomics to make the Sierra's interior enjoyable on long road trips. The rear seat in crew cab models is also quite comfortable, and the seat cushions can be folded upwards for a nearly flat load floor. Interior storage is adequate, but some might take issue with the cupholders (too small) or the organization of the center console box.
Though not top of the class in terms of steering and hampered by a slightly larger turning circle than most other trucks, the 2008 GMC Sierra is still a very comfortable and easy truck to drive. On long trips, the supple suspension and quiet cabin come into play to make the truck a pleasing companion. Acceleration is certainly acceptable with either the 4.8- or 5.3-liter V8. The optional 6.0-liter V8 can get the truck to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, while the Sierra Denali is quicker still.