Used 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Review
A wide range of body styles, a comfortable, quiet cabin and a lineup of powerful and fuel-efficient engines make the 2015 GMC Sierra a solid pick in the full-size pickup class.
In addition to serving as the rugged workhorses of farmers, construction companies and small business owners, modern light-duty pickups are commonly seen handling daily driver and family vehicle duties. As such, manufacturers have made an effort to make them more comfortable as well as more fuel-efficient in recent years. That was certainly true with GMC's redesign of its Sierra 1500 pickup last year, which also included increases in overall cabin quality and the debut of new technology features. For this year, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 (as well as its Chevy Silverado 1500 twin) stands as a strong entry in this very competitive segment.
As is typical for this class, the Sierra offers a wide range of power choices. The range starts off with a fuel-saving V6 engine sporting a respectable 285 horsepower and a maximum towing capacity of 7,200 pounds all the way up to a muscle-bound 6.2-liter V8 that should be more than enough to handle most folks' heavier towing and hauling requirements. The Sierra also packs the latest in safety and convenience technology. The former include available forward collision- and lane-departure warning systems, while the latter includes an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, smartphone integration, ventilated front seats and a rear-seat video entertainment system.
Naturally, we'd expect folks shopping this segment to consider the Sierra's long-time and similarly capable rivals. The redesigned 2015 Ford F-150 deserves your attention because of its new fuel economy and performance-enhancing design. We're also still very pleased with the 2015 Ram 1500, which offers the best ride of the segment and an available diesel engine. For the weekend dirt enthusiast, the 2015 Toyota Tundra can be equipped with an optional TRD Pro package, which makes it extremely adept at off-roading.
With such a strong group of well-rounded choices, your pick for a full-size pickup may come down to something as minor as the availability of a certain feature or even styling preference, but know that the GMC Sierra 1500 should be on your short list.
trim levels & features
The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 is a full-size pickup offered in a variety of cab/cargo-bed configurations in both two- and four-wheel drive. Body styles include regular cab, extended (double) cab and crew cab. Regular cabs can be had with either a 6.5-foot standard bed or an 8-foot bed. Extended cabs come with the 6.5-foot standard bed, while crew cabs can be had with either a 5.75-foot short bed or the 6.5-foot standard bed.
Regular cabs can be had in base or midlevel SLE trims. Double cabs and crew cabs are available in base, SLE and well-appointed SLT trims. The plush Denali is only available in the crew cab body style.
The base Sierra comes with 17-inch steel wheels, chrome bumpers and grille, air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks, a tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, rubber floor covering, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat and a four-speaker AM/FM sound system with a 4-inch color display and USB and auxiliary inputs.
The SLE adds stainless steel finish wheels, deep-tint glass, an "E-Z" lift/lower tailgate, LED cargo box lighting, power/heated mirrors, keyless entry, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, adjustable driver lumbar support, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, OnStar telematics with 4G LTE WiFi capability, a color driver information display and an upgraded IntelliLink audio system (with an 8-inch color display, satellite radio, Pandora radio, a CD player and voice control functionality).
Optional on the SLE is the Carbon-22 Edition, which features unique 22-inch alloy wheels, a rear locking differential (2WD models only), foglamps, a black grille surround, tubular side steps, a trailering package, a 10-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, remote vehicle start, remote garage opener, a rear-window defogger and a 110-volt AC power outlet.
Stepping up to the SLT includes the SLE features and adds chrome trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, remote starting, power folding mirrors, a trailer towing package, universal garage opener, an anti-theft system, a rear window defroster, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 110-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated eight-way power driver and passenger front seats and driver-seat memory settings.
The top-of-the-line Denali features a unique grille, added chrome exterior trim, assist steps, 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a locking rear differential, front and rear park assist, a customizable information display, a navigation system, a Bose audio system, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power lumbar support (driver seat) and a heated steering wheel.
The Z71 package, which is available on the SLE or SLT, features off-road-oriented hardware such as special shock absorbers, a heavy-duty air cleaner, hill-descent control, underbody shields, recovery hooks and a few unique exterior and interior styling tweaks.
Many upper trims' features are offered on the lower ones as options, while other available features (depending on trim level and configuration) include various axle ratios, a power sliding rear window, a power sunroof, side steps, parking sensors, ventilated front seats, a Bose audio system, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-Ray-capable DVD player. Notably, the Max Trailering package features power-folding mirrors with memory preset, an integrated trailer brake controller, heavier-duty suspension calibrations and a higher-capacity radiator.
Another key option group is the Driver Alert package, which features a lane-departure warning system, a forward collision-alert system, a safety alert seat, and front and rear parking sensors. There are a few other packages available as well -- highlights include 20-inch wheels, side steps, front and rear parking sensors and a power sliding rear window.
performance & mpg
Standard on all but the SLT and Denali trims is a 4.3-liter V6 with 285 hp and 305 pound-feet of torque. As with all other Sierra 1500 engines, it comes matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity, when properly equipped, is fairly generous at 7,200 pounds. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway) for rear-wheel drive. With 4WD, they drop to 19 mpg combined (17 city/22 highway).
The 5.3-liter V8, which is standard on the SLT and Denali and optional on other Sierras, makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Properly equipped, trucks with this engine can tow up to 11,200 pounds. With rear-wheel drive, Sierras with the 5.3-liter V8 rate 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). Those with 4WD rate 18 mpg combined (16/22).
Optional later in the model year for the SLT and Denali is a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque matched to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Properly equipped, a Sierra with this engine can tow up to 12,000 pounds. Whether this engine is matched up to a 2WD or 4WD drivetrain, the EPA fuel economy numbers are 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway).
Standard safety features on the 2015 GMC Sierra include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control (with trailer sway control), front and rear seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes services such as automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen-vehicle assistance.
Options include a rearview camera, front and rear park assist and a suite of driver aids that includes a lane departure warning system and a forward collision alert system.
In government crash tests, the Sierra 1500 received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2015 Sierra 1500 its highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal offset crash test, the only test that agency has conducted thus far on this vehicle.
The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500's V6 provides respectable power and refinement. Unless you anticipate a lot of heavy towing and hauling, we suggest test-driving the V6 when you visit the dealer. As you would expect, the 5.3-liter V8 delivers solid thrust with good manners, though there's still a bit of vibration during hard acceleration. Unfortunately, the truck tends to feel sluggish regardless of mode due to a rather lackadaisical gas pedal response.
The six-speed automatic provides smooth and timely gearchanges in normal driving. But despite the pull of the Sierra's husky engines, we've noticed that there's still too big a gap between the transmission's gear ratios when towing. That said, we've towed a trailer with an 8,600-pound load behind a Sierra equipped with the 5.3-liter V8 and the Max Trailering package, and there was plenty of reserve grunt. With even more torque as well as two more gears to work with, we'd expect the 6.2-liter V8 with the eight-speed automatic to be even more effective when put to hard work.
Overall ride and handling dynamics are commendable, making this truck a fine choice if daily driving is a must. The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 feels robust structurally, yet most versions are compliant and comfortable over broken pavement, though the stiffer ride on trucks with the Max Trailering package can grow tiresome. The Sierra is also very quiet, with road noise snuffed out and only a whisper of wind noise at freeway speeds. The GMC is steady around turns, and its steering is well weighted. Off road, the Sierra exhibits confidence-inspiring composure while negotiating rutted trails and challenging grades.
Anyone familiar with older GMC pickups who hops inside this latest version can't help but notice the much improved materials and build quality, especially on the lower trims. There's an abundance of bins and cubbies, and the center console on five-passenger Sierras boasts plenty of USB ports to keep your devices charged.
The IntelliLink system deserves special mention for its 8-inch touchscreen that features clear, intuitive controls; redundant knobs and buttons; and a very effective voice command interface. You'll use this interface to take care of most navigation, audio and phone functions in the GMC Sierra. Good as it is, however, it can sometimes be slow to respond to commands.
With a choice of a bench seat or buckets (depending on trim level) up front, as well as available heating, ventilation and adjustable lumbar support, the Sierra's thickly padded seats promise plenty of long-trip comfort. Drivers will appreciate the available telescoping steering wheel, as it provides driving position adjustability few other trucks can match. Getting in and out of the backseat on crew cabs is fairly easy thanks to generous door openings, while clambering into the bed is also eased via clever steps and handholds built into each rear corner.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.