What's New for 1997
A passenger airbag is added to models with a GVWR under 8,600 pounds, and all models get speed-sensitive steering that reduces low-speed effort. K1500 models have a tighter turning radius for better maneuverability. Automatic transmissions are refined to provide smoother shifts and improved efficiency. Three new paint colors debut.
GM has figured out a way to steal some thunder from the Dodge Ram and the new Ford F-Series. Their entire line of truck engines was refined last year, infused with notable horsepower and torque increases. For good measure, engineers made the rear portion of the extended cab model more accessible via a trick panel that opens wide from the passenger's side to make loading cargo or people much easier.
Every Sierra gasoline engine, from the base V-6 to the king-of-the-hill V-8, benefit from Vortec technology which provide healthy power and torque ratings. For example, the standard 4300 V-6 makes an ample 200 horsepower, and the optional 5700 V-8 is a much more satisfying powerplant than Ford's new overhead cam designs. Also available are regular- and heavy-duty turbodiesels sporting 6.5 liters of displacement. All Sierras have four-wheel anti-lock braking.
The side access panel makes the extended cab model a true family vehicle. Loading cargo into the rear of the cab is much easier too. To qualify for the side access panel, you must order a 1500 extended cab shortbed equipped with SLE or SLT trim and a Vortec 5000 or Vortec 5700 engine mated to an automatic transmission. In contrast, Ford provides a third door standard on all extended cab models, making life much easier.
Other comforts aren't forgotten, either. Automakers are constantly trying to make their trucks more car-like, so GM has made rear seat heating ducts standard on the Sierra. Shoulder belts are height adjustable to fit a variety of physiques, and upholstery choices include leather. Heck, you'd hardly know this was a truck, especially with the passenger car tires that give some versions of the Sierra a nicer ride and quieter interior.
Improvements for 1997 include a new passenger airbag on models under 8,600 lbs. GVWR, and the airbag can be deactivated for those times when a rear-facing child safety seat is installed. Speed-sensitive steering that boosts power assist at low speeds to make parking easier has been added. On the open road, this system firms up the steering for improved road feel. All K1500 Sierras get a tighter turning radius this year for better maneuverability, and the automatic transmission shifts more smoothly this year thanks to revised hardware.
Although Chevrolet's own C/K Series garners the greatest amount of publicity, GMC's equivalents are pretty strong sellers themselves, approaching 190,000 units each year. Sierras, in fact, account for close to half of GMC output. Americans continue to clamor for burly pickups, whether for their macho image or for real work. Whether you choose a light-duty two-wheel-drive (C1500) or the massive four-wheel-drive K3500 Club Coupe, on a 155.5-inch wheelbase, GMC gives both Chevrolet and its Ford/Dodge rivals a run for their money.