Full 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD receives the latest version of OnStar, which includes turn-by-turn navigation. There's also available Bluetooth phone connectivity, and the optional navigation system offers an available real-time traffic feature. Additionally, a backup camera is now optional on extended and crew cabs.
For a small subset of truck shoppers, regular heavy-duty pickups just won't do the job. These folks need maximal capability, often in "dually" dual-rear-wheel form -- and for them, there are true beasts like the 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD. Having received the most recent redesign in its class, the Sierra 3500HD is an up-to-date truck, and its superior driving dynamics and extraordinary interior quality nicely complement its expected hauling and towing talents.
The '09 Sierra 3500 receives a handful of useful upgrades, including a new version of OnStar and Bluetooth connectivity. The rest of the truck remains unchanged from its complete overhaul two years ago, which brought fresh styling, a dramatically improved interior, better handling, a more powerful engine lineup, a stronger frame and higher payload and towing capacities. As ever, this is a truck that will get the job done. Thanks to these changes, it will also keep you comfortable while doing it.
Whether you opt for the Sierra 3500HD or its Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD twin, you can't go wrong with these well-mannered brutes. The aging Dodge Ram 3500 offers similar ride comfort and towing capacity, but its interior quality is subpar, and it's due to replaced by an all-new model. The Ford F-350 is the Sierra 3500HD's closest competitor, but the GMC offers a bit more in the way of hauling and towing capacities, and its interior is arguably a cut above, particularly in SLT trim. Ford trumps everyone with the F-450, which will tow an ungodly 24,500 pounds. However, as long as you don't regularly tow the Queen Elizabeth 2 out of the water, the 2009 GMC Sierra 3500 is an excellent choice for your heavy-duty needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD full-size heavy duty pickup is available in three body styles and two rear-axle designs: regular cab, extended cab and crew cab, with a choice of single or dual rear wheels (2WD regular cabs are available only with single rear wheels). All 3500HD models receive a "long" eight-foot cargo bed. Regular cabs are offered in base Work Truck or midlevel SLE trims; extended and crew cabs can also be had in plush SLT form.
The Work Truck trim comes with a solid roster of standard equipment, including air-conditioning (optional with regular cab), a trip computer, a CD audio system with satellite radio, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation, vinyl seating, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat and a tilt steering wheel.
The SLE trim adds deep-tinted windows, chrome-styled steel wheels, cruise control, full power accessories, heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth seating, keyless entry and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The top-of-the-line SLT is only available with the extended and crew cabs. It adds a locking rear differential, a heavy-duty trailering package (with an integrated trailer brake controller), remote engine start, an upgraded dash design, a Bose audio system (with a six-disc CD changer and rear audio controls), 12-way power-adjustable heated front bucket seats and leather upholstery.
Options, depending on truck configuration, include a backup camera, power-sliding rear window, a navigation system with available real-time traffic, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rear park assist, a sunroof, camper-style side mirrors, the Z71 Off-Road package (including skid plates, off-road suspension and locking rear differential), the safety package (including power-adjustable pedals and park assist), a cargo management system and an "EZ-lift" tailgate.
Powertrains and Performance
A 6.0-liter V8 generating 353 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque is standard on all Sierra 3500HD trucks, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Optional is the burly "Duramax" 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8, which boasts 365 hp and a space-time-continuum-wrenching 660 lb-ft of torque. The turbodiesel comes paired with an Allison six-speed automatic. Properly equipped, the 3500HD can haul up to 5,300 pounds and tow up to 13,000 pounds.
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, but stability control, front side and side curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD features two different interior designs depending on trim level. The Work Truck and SLE sport a traditionally plain but functional dash design with an open lower center portion to accommodate the standard three-person front bench (a center console is added with the optional bucket seats). Conversely, the top-of-the-line SLT gets the same layout as the GMC Yukon SLT SUV, which lends the Sierra's cabin a classier feel thanks to its luxury car-like center-stack design, high-quality materials and wood and metallic accents. Either way, controls are straightforward and relatively easy to reach, though the available dual-zone climate controls are small and difficult to operate with gloves.
The front seats are quite comfy, though some editors found that the pedals were placed too far apart for comfort. Moreover, the tilt-only steering wheel is located too close to the dash for longer-legged operators. Space in the crew cab's backseat is very spacious, while most average adults should find the extended cab's backseat acceptable. A welcome addition for 2009 is the optional rearview camera for extended- and crew-cab models, which makes parking easier and also streamlines the process of hitching up a trailer.
Compared with the heavy-duty trucks from Ford and Dodge, the 2009 GMC Sierra 3500HD distinguishes itself with well-weighted steering that gives the driver a greater sense of vehicle control. Heavy-duty pickups are never going to ride like luxury sedans, but the 3500 is surprisingly quiet and comfortable over long distances. Both engines are strong, but if you can swing the price premium, the brawny performance and decent fuel economy of the Duramax diesel make it a tempting choice.