Full 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD is nearly identical to its predecessor on the outside, but underneath GMC has added all-new frame and suspension components, a new diesel engine with exhaust braking, and a host of electronic driver aids. A new range-topping Denali trim level has also been added to the mix.
Aside from the few crossover SUVs in its current lineup, GMC is synonymous with trucks. And not compact city trucks, either. We're talking heavy-duty trucks for the working people. And when it comes to heavy-duty pickups, the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD is a standout performer among some very tough competitors.
This year the Sierra line of heavy-duty trucks receives a host of improvements to help it keep up with -- and in some instances, prevail over -- said competition. Starting with a completely new fully boxed frame for added rigidity and strength, GMC then bolted on new suspension components for a more comfortable ride. On top of this, the Sierra's towing and hauling capacities have increased.
With these new heavier loads to pull, a new 6.6-liter "Duramax" turbodiesel option enters service with some fairly impressive stats. Output is rated at 397 horsepower and an eye-bulging 765 pound-feet of torque. That's a jump of 105 lb-ft over last year's diesel. That increase doesn't come at the expense of the environment or pocketbook, either. According to GMC, this new diesel, along with the new Allison 1000 transmission, delivers 11 percent better fuel economy and lower emissions than the previous model.
On the outside, only a few changes will be apparent to the savvy shopper. A new powertrain-badged louvered hood, revised grille and chrome front bumper with an opening for added cooling round out the cosmetic changes. Behind the wheel, these same savvy shoppers may also notice a smoother ride courtesy of a revised independent front suspension and hydraulic body mounts. The new Denali model should be noticed by all, though, as it brings GMC's upscale nameplate and telltale styling elements to the heavy-duty truck line for the first time.
The new changes for the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD and its Chevrolet Silverado twin follow closely on the heels of Ford's latest revisions to the F-Series Super Duty lineup. In terms of towing capabilities, the 2011 Ford F-250 is barely edged out by the Sierra, with the 2011 Ram 2500 bringing up the rear. The GMC also boasts the best all-around performance and feels the most composed while towing a very heavy load, thanks to its more precise steering and arrow-straight tracking. However, the Ford offers more in the way of maximum payload and work-solution options, while the Dodge earns high marks for its uncommonly upscale interior.
None of these choices really represents a winning or losing decision, as each pickup delivers plenty of power and utility. In the end, choosing the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD over the rest will likely come down to personal preference.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD is offered in regular cab, extended cab or crew cab body styles. The regular cab is only available with a long bed (8 feet), while the extended and crew cabs can also be had in standard bed lengths (6.5 feet). Trim levels start at the base Work Truck and climb to the SLE, SLT and new range-topping Denali.
The Work Truck trim level includes 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a trip computer, vinyl floor coverings, a 40/20/40-split front bench with fold-down center armrest, vinyl upholstery, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo. Stepping up to the SLE adds alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, carpeted floor coverings, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver-side lumbar adjustments, cruise control, OnStar, satellite radio and a CD/MP3 player. Many of the SLE features are available on the Work Truck as options.
The SLT trim level is only offered on extended and crew cab body styles and augments the SLE's features list by adding 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, an automatic locking rear differential, a heavy-duty trailering package (with integrated trailer brake controller), heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, remote starting, heated leather front bucket seats with power adjustments, a floor-mounted front center console, Bluetooth, and an upgraded Bose stereo system with a USB port. Some of these features are available as options for the SLE.
On top of the SLT features, the Denali will get you a four-bar chrome grille, chrome exterior accents, rear parking sensors, the EZ-lift tailgate, skid plates, power-adjustable pedals and brushed aluminum trim. Most of these features are available on supporting trim levels as options.
Additional options are dependent on trim level and include 20-inch wheels, an aluminum bed extender, a protective bedliner, a sliding or stationary tool box, a cargo rail, a sliding bed divider, a sunroof, power-sliding rear window, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather seats, a navigation system, mobile WiFi, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a rearview camera. Four-wheel-drive models can add the Z71 off-road package (includes skid plates and off-road suspension components) and a Snow Plow Prep package.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard power plant for the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD is a 6.0-liter gasoline V8 engine that produces 360 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. An optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is surely the engine choice for those who plan on towing or hauling on a regular basis. This new engine produces 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a beefier six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Emissions are cleaner than the previous diesel engine, thanks in part to a urea-injection system. If the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) runs low, however, speeds will be limited to 55 mpg. If the DEF reservoir is empty, that speed is lowered to 40 mph.
Rear-wheel drive is standard for all models, with four-wheel drive optional. The Work Truck 4WD receives a traditional floor-mounted transfer case, while the other trim levels get Autotrac, a knob-controlled electric transfer case that features an automatic setting that engages 4WD when wheel slippage is detected. Properly equipped, a 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD can haul up to 3,704 pounds of payload and tow up to 13,000 pounds with its standard ball hitch, and 16,500 pounds with a fifth-wheel connection. Aiding trailering on downhill grades, the diesel engine also features a big-rig-inspired exhaust braking system to increase control and reduce brake wear.
In terms of safety, the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD features antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start control and trailer sway control as standard. Front side and side curtain airbags are available as an option. Power-adjustable pedals and rear parking sensors are standard on the Denali (optional on others) and a rearview camera is available for all models.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD's interior is nearly identical to the previous year's. As such, the Work Truck is the most utilitarian of the trim levels, with vinyl covering and very little in the way of creature comforts. The SLE offers a more inviting cabin with cloth and carpeting, but both models come standard with a standard three-person front bench that requires a more trucklike dash. Opting for the bucket seats will add a center console with storage. The SLT and Denali are the classiest of the bunch, with an interior similar to that of the Yukon SUV.
The front seats are quite comfortable, though some drivers might find the driving position a bit awkward because of the tilt-only steering wheel (it's too close to the dash) and gas and brake pedals that are far apart in order to accommodate work boots. The extended cab's rear seats are acceptable in terms of comfort, and the crew cab is certainly roomier, though the crew cab trucks from Dodge and Ford provide slightly roomier rear quarters.
With all of its chassis improvements, the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500 represents a big step forward for heavy-duty trucks. The stiffer frame permits the use of a suspension that can not only handle higher loads but also smooth out rough roads more efficiently.
When stacked up against the Dodge Ram 2500 and the Ford F-250, the GMC 2500 has a few clear advantages. Superior steering precision compared to the Ford and a smaller turning circle than either rival are readily apparent and appreciated in everyday driving. And when towing a trailer, the Chevy V8 turbodiesel accelerates with more authority and climbs grades with less diesel clatter while also delivering superior fuel economy. When descending a grade, the Duramax V8's new exhaust brake works with well-timed downshifts from the transmission to lend an edge in vehicle stability over the Dodge.