What's New for 1998
Styling is retuned inside and out, resulting in a sleeker look and better interior ergonomics. Dual second-generation airbags are standard, and seats are upgraded for improved comfort and appearance. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on 4WD models and uplevel stereos are new for 1998. New colors inside and out round out the changes.
Looking for a way to distinguish the GMC Sonoma from the pedestrian Chevrolet S-10, marketers have decided to sell the Sonoma as a capable alternative to the traditional sporty coupe. With an aggressive new look, available sport suspension, third-door extended cab, snazzy sportside bed and a strong 4.3-liter V6 under the hood, it shouldn't be a hard sell.
Despite this new advertising image, Sonomas can be fitted to suit just about any requirement, from strict utility hauler to off-road bruiser. Choose from three wheelbases, two cab types, a regular size or long cargo bed in Wideside or Sportside configuration and two- or four-wheel drive. Whew! You still have to consider three trim levels, five suspension systems, three engines (a four-cylinder or two V6 choices) and manual or automatic shift.
GMC substantially improved the Sonoma for 1998. New styling results in a more cohesive, upscale look than the previous Sonoma imparted, and a revised interior includes dual second-generation airbags and improved ergonomics. Seats have been revised to provide better comfort and a nicer appearance. Rear bumpers get a center cutout to improve access to the cargo bed, and towing capacity is increased to 3,500 pounds. Four-wheel drive models have standard four-wheel disc brakes, and there are new uplevel audio systems available.
With the high-output, 180-horsepower Vortec 4300 V6 on tap, and the Sport Suspension package, the Sonoma performs as energetically as high-priced sports cars did a decade or so ago. By any definition, that's progress. The Sportside box and sharp five-spoke alloys nicely complement the top powertrain and suspension, turning the Sonoma into a true factory sport truck. For off-roading duties, GMC offers the Highrider, riding three-ply all-terrain tires and sporting a reinforced frame (four inches wider, two inches taller) and toughened suspension. Either Sonoma outperforms the Ranger on or off the pavement, but when it comes to interior fittings, Ford has the General beat by a wide margin.
Inside, Sonomas and Chevrolet S-Series pickups are virtually identical, with a roomy cab and fresh interior design. Center stack controls are canted toward the driver for improved access. Unfortunately, the plastic used for dash panels and switchgear still looks as though it was sourced from Fisher Price. On extended cab trucks, an optional left side access panel makes loading passengers or cargo into the rear of the cab much easier, but takes the place of one of the fold-out jump seats in the rear.
Ford's Ranger, Dodge's Dakota and Toyota's Tacoma come across as more refined vehicles than the Sonoma, and their sticker prices reflect this impression. In compact-truck value per dollar, though, GMC just might deliver all the goods you're seeking, especially if what you're seeking is a sport truck able to dust a Nissan 200SX SE-R off the line and in the twisties.