What's New for 2008
Other than replacing its 16-inch wheels with 17s and satellite radio becoming standard across the line, the 2008 GMC Sierra 3500HD sees no significant changes.
Like David Banner in The Incredible Hulk, General Motors simply wasn't going to take it anymore. After suffering from years of criticism over the less-than-spectacular quality of its full-size truck's interiors, its pickup line underwent a startling metamorphosis last year. In the case of the GMC Sierra 3500HD, however, the morph wasn't so much green and angry as it was friendly and usable.
The Sierra's new interior was a major upgrade, and it featured higher-quality materials, tighter build quality and a sharper overall design. In addition to the attractive interior, that metamorphosis also brought new styling, a more powerful engine lineup and a stronger frame. The latter pair of improvements allowed even higher payload and towing capacities, which increased to levels that even that muscle-bound green guy would be proud of -- 5,307 pounds and 16,500 pounds (with a fifth-wheel hitch), respectively.
Compared against its archrival in the heavy-duty arena, Ford's Super Duty, the 2008 GMC Sierra 3500HD (and its Chevy Silverado twin) edges out the Ford in work capacity and has an arguably nicer interior. Either way, you can't go wrong if you're looking for a comfortable heavy-duty hauler. But if neither the GMC nor the blue oval does it for you, there's also the Dodge Ram 3500. The Ram offers nearly equal towing ability and ride comfort but lags behind in payload capacity and available cargo bed configurations.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 GMC Sierra 3500HD is a 1-ton pickup that comes in three body styles: regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. All are fitted with a long bed and all but the 2WD standard cab can be had in either single- or dual-rear-wheel versions. Regular cabs can be had in base Work Truck or midlevel SLE trims, while the extended and crew cabs can also be had in plush SLT form. The Work Truck trim comes with the basics, including air-conditioning (extended and crew cab versions), a trip computer, OnStar telematics, vinyl seating, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, a tilt steering wheel and an audio system with a CD player and satellite radio.
The SLE trim actually consists of two subsets: SLE1 and SLE2. The SLE1 adds deep-tinted windows, chrome grille trim, foglamps, alloy wheels, a CD player, cruise control, full power accessories, cloth seating, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Step up to the SLE2 (in extended and crew cabs) and you'll get dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power front bucket seats and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
The top-of-the-line SLT adds leather seating, rain-sensing wipers (with heated washer fluid), a Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer, keyless entry/start, an exclusive dash design with wood/metallic accents, 12-way power and heated front seats, rear audio controls and Homelink universal remote.
Available options include remote starting, power-sliding rear window, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rear park assist, a power sunroof, the Z71 Off-Road Package (skid plates, off-road suspension and locking rear differential), the Safety Package (power-adjustable pedals and park assist), a snow plow prep package and a cargo management system (including sliding tie-down hooks in the front and sides of the bed).
Powertrains and Performance
A 6.0-liter V8 (353 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque), matched to a six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Sierra 3500HD trucks. Optional is the burly Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8, which boasts 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. The Duramax comes paired to an Allison six-speed automatic. Properly equipped, the Duramax allows impressive payload and towing capacities of 5,307 and 16,500 pounds (with a fifth-wheel hitch), respectively.
Buyers have a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Work Truck with 4WD has 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.
Antilock disc brakes are standard, though stability control, front side and side curtain airbags are not available. A Safety package that includes power-adjustable pedals and rear park assist is optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
Overall, the cabin's fit and finish is impressive. Simple, intuitive controls, comfortable seats, an abundance of storage cubbies, three power points and well-placed cupholders add to the user-friendly environment. There is also a one-touch, three-blink lane-change feature and standard satellite radio that make long trips more enjoyable. Rivaling the interior of a Cadillac, the plush Sierra SLT features a unique dash and door panel design with handsome wood grain and metallic accents that give this workhorse the feel of a premium luxury sedan.
Based on our experience with previous Sierras, we'd expect the 2008 GMC Sierra 3500HD to provide sprightly performance, especially with the now even stronger turbodiesel V8. On long trips, the 3500HD's supple suspension should swallow bumps (even with the heavy-duty towing option) while still allowing confident, no-slop handling with a minimum of body sway through the turns. The cabins of those previously tested Sierras were impressively quiet, a characteristic sure to continue with the latest heavy-duty lineup.