What's New for 2010
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 with the 5.3-liter V8 receives tweaks that yield incrementally better fuel economy, including a standard six-speed transmission and variable valve timing. The 6.2-liter V8 also gets a standard six-speed. The 6.0-liter V8 has been dropped, but all remaining V8s can now run on E85 as well as gasoline. Side curtain airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and stability control are standard on all models, and USB connectivity is optional on SLE and SLT (standard on Denali).
"Sierra" is the rare automotive name that isn't completely inscrutable. It means "mountain range" in Spanish, and a mountain range has a lot in common with a good pickup truck. Rugged. Tough. Unyielding. See? Every now and again, automakers pick a name that actually makes some sense. And in this case, the vehicle lives up to its billing -- the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 is one of the best full-size trucks you can buy.
As ever, the 2010 Sierra is a robust specimen. There are no fewer than three optional V8 engines, and towing and hauling ratings are top-notch. However, drivers are demanding a lot more from their trucks these days than just the ability to do grunt work. To this end, the Sierra offers plenty of standard and available features, including luxuries like a navigation system and a USB jack that are generally associated with passenger cars and SUVs. There are also two interiors, the more upscale of which (SLT and Denali trims only) is sourced from GM's full-size luxury SUVs and features a full center console and good-quality materials.
The base interior, however, which is the interior most Sierras are stuck with, is about as spartan as it gets in this segment. It offers plenty of functionality, but hardly anything in the way of visual interest. Rivals like the Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra have nicer interiors even in base trim. Other demerits include a lackluster base V6 and a rather cumbersome turning circle.
Competition is stiff in this segment, as evidenced by our latest full-size truck comparison test -- the Ram and Tundra both beat out the Sierra's twin, the Chevy Silverado, even though the GM trucks are still a fairly new design. But the entrants were closely bunched in the scoring column, and we still have a lot of respect for the GM twins. The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 shares enough characteristics with its namesake that we don't hesitate to recommend it alongside its capable full-size peers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 is a half-ton full-size pickup that's available in three body styles: standard cab, extended cab and crew cab. Standard cabs can be had with 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 tilt steering wheel, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The SL adds full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control and adjustable lumbar support for the driver.
Moving up, the SLE also offers premium cloth seating (with a lockable compartment and a power outlet built into the center cushion of the split front seat), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The premium SLT adds a premium interior design with a full center console and upgraded materials, rain-sensing wipers (with heated washer fluid), a Bose audio system with a six-CD changer, leather seating, remote engine start, an exclusive dash design with wood and 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, a turn-by-turn navigation feature for OnStar and USB connectivity (optional on SLE and SLT).
Depending on the Sierra ordered, notable available options include a variety of towing packages, the Z71 Off-Road package (skid plates, an off-road suspension and a locking rear differential), the All-Terrain package (similar to the Z71 but with special interior and exterior enhancements) and the XFE (extra fuel economy) trim variant for the two-wheel-drive 5.3-liter V8 crew cab (which features aerodynamic enhancements and lightweight aluminum components that improve fuel economy).
Other options include 20- and 22-inch wheels, a rear back-up camera, upgraded audio systems, Bluetooth, a navigation system with real-time traffic reports, a rear-seat entertainment system, heated power-folding outside mirrors, a sunroof, a power-sliding rear window, a cargo management system, rear park assist and the "EZ Lift" tailgate that requires only about half the effort (compared to the standard tailgate) to open and close.
Powertrains and Performance
There are four different engines available for the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500. Work trucks have a 4.3-liter V6 (195 horsepower, 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, depending on style, while the SLT has the 5.3-liter engine as standard.
Available on select models is a 6.2-liter V8 (403 hp and 417 lb-ft). The 6.2 comes standard on the Denali. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on the two big V8s, while the 4.8-liter V8 and the V6 come only with a four-speed automatic. In 0-60-mph testing, we clocked the related Silverado with the 6.2-liter V8 in a very quick 6.6 seconds. Properly equipped, a Sierra 1500 can tow up to 10,600 pounds.
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.
Fuel economy estimates range from 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for a crew cab XFE down to 12/19/14 mpg for the Denali AWD.
Antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum) are standard, with an all-disc setup available via the Max Trailering package on the Denali trim. A stability control system with roll-mitigating technology is also standard across the lineup, as are front-seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In government crash tests, the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 earns top five-star ratings for frontal collisions. As of this writing, neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had subjected the newly side airbag-equipped 2010 Sierra to side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sierra's base interior is a little dull relative to the competition. However, the Sierra SLT and Denali feature a unique upscale dash and door panel treatment with a full center console and attractive wood grain and metallic accents, although you'll pay a stiff entry price for this privilege. The rear seat in crew cab models is quite comfortable, and the seat cushions can be folded upward for a nearly flat load floor. Interior storage is adequate, but some might take issue with the smallish cupholders and the haphazard organization of the center console box.
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 is part of the new breed of big trucks that are actually pleasant to drive. The steering is light but reasonably precise, and the truck's comfortable seats and smooth, quiet ride make long road trips enjoyable. However, the Sierra's turning circle is a little larger than that of most other trucks. Acceleration is sluggish with the base V6 but just fine with even the modest 4.8-liter V8. The 5.3-liter V8 feels brawny, and the 6.2-liter V8 turns the Sierra into a veritable muscle truck. We much prefer the six-speed automatic that comes standard with the two bigger V8s; the four-speed feels past its prime.