Used 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Review
A wide range of body styles, a comfortable and quiet cabin, and a lineup of powerful, fuel-efficient engines make the 2015 GMC Sierra a solid pick in the full-size pickup class.
Here are some reasons why you might want to choose a 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 over its Chevy Silverado fraternal twin. Perhaps you find its styling more dignified, in which case this year's addition of LED lighting and unique grilles for every trim level is bound to please. Perhaps you live closer to the local GMC-Buick dealership. Perhaps you like the high-luxe style of the Sierra Denali as opposed to the high-lux style of the Silverado High Country. Perhaps your father-in-law owns a Silverado and you'll be damned if you own the same truck as that crusty old coot.
Whatever your reasons may be, the 2016 Sierra 1500's noteworthy changes will likely make your heart grow fonder. Besides the abovementioned styling updates, the eight-speed automatic transmission can now be paired with the 5.3-liter V8 (though only on the SLT and Denali), and the addition of lane keeping assist to the options list should help prevent inadvertent crushings of subcompact hatchbacks on tight rural roads. The IntelliLink touchscreen electronics interface also receives faster responses and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Any way you shake it, there's nothing but good news here for Sierra loyalists and undecided shoppers alike.
In total, the 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 is an even more well-rounded truck than last year, and it definitely merits a spot on your short list. Still, we also recommend checking out its key competitors. The Ford F-150 boasts impressive powertrains, driving manners and overall design, while the Ram 1500 offers the segment's best ride and the unique availability of an efficient and capable diesel engine. For the weekend dirt enthusiast, the Toyota Tundra can be equipped with an optional TRD Pro package, which makes it extremely adept at off-roading. Of course, there's also the me-too Chevrolet Silverado, but then, you know, the father-in-law. Or whatever.
trim levels & features
The 2016 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 5.8-foot short bed or the 6.5-foot standard bed.
There are four trims. The base and SLE Sierra are available in all body styles, while the SLT is offered as a double cab or crew cab, and the Denali is crew cab only.
The base Sierra comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, power locks, a locking tailgate, power windows (double and crew cabs), air-conditioning, cruise control, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, a folding rear seat (full-width double cab, 60/40-split crew cab), a tilt-only steering wheel and a sound system (four-speaker for regular cab; six-speaker otherwise) that includes a 4.2-inch color display, USB connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack. With four-wheel drive, the base Sierra features a floor-mounted transfer case.
The Sierra Convenience package adds remote keyless entry, a remote-locking tailgate, heated power mirrors (with an integrated driver-side blind-spot mirror), a rearview camera, a 110-volt AC outlet, LED cargo box lighting and, on the regular cab, power windows. The Elevation Edition includes those items plus special 20-inch black alloy wheels, LED foglights, tinted windows, body-color exterior trim, carpeted floors (versus vinyl), a 7-inch IntelliLink touchscreen interface, OnStar communications, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Pandora internet radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Apart from the Elevation Edition's special wheels and styling elements, the Sierra SLE includes all of the above plus 17-inch alloy wheels, an electronically controlled transfer case (4WD), a damped tailgate, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch IntelliLink touchscreen, HD and satellite radio and a CD player. The SLE Convenience package adds rear parking sensors, a rear window defogger, a sliding rear window and power-adjustable pedals. The SLE Preferred package adds a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (V8 only), an eight-way power driver seat and dual-zone automatic climate control. The SLE Value package adds the same items but further adds trailering equipment and a rear locking differential with two-wheel drive. Those living in the Lone Star state get a special Texas emblem added to their Sierra when the SLE Value package is ordered. Other SLE options include leather upholstery and a heated front bench seat, or cloth-upholstered front bucket seats that include power lumbar adjustment, a six-way power passenger seat, a full center console and wireless smartphone charging.
The SLT comes standard with the 5.3-liter V8 engine, includes all of the above equipment (the bench seat remains standard) and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, LED taillights, power-folding mirrors with driver auto-dimming and puddle lamps and driver-seat memory settings. Leather-upholstered front bucket seats are optional. The SLT Preferred package adds front and rear parking sensors, a power-sliding rear window and a heated steering wheel. The SLT Crew Cab Premium Plus package adds those items plus 20-inch wheels, full LED headlamps, tubular side steps (available separately), heated and ventilated front bucket seats, a spray-on bedliner, a navigation system (available separately on the SLE), a Bose audio system and the Enhanced Driver Alert package (see Safety section). The crew cab can be equipped with a sunroof and an Entertainment package that includes a single 9.2-inch display and a DVD/Blu-ray player.
Available on the SLE and SLT crew and double cabs is the All-Terrain package, which adds 18-inch wheels, an off-road suspension featuring Rancho shocks, an underbody shield, a unique grille, rear parking sensors, a spray-on bedliner and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The All-Terrain SLT Premium package adds 20-inch wheels, front parking sensors, a heated steering wheel and a power-sliding rear window to those features.
The GMC Sierra 1500 Denali includes special exterior styling elements, 20-inch wheels and adaptive magnetorheological suspension dampers (GM's Magnetic Ride Control) along with most of the above equipment (the sunroof and Enhanced Driver Alert and Entertainment packages are optional, and the All-Terrain package is not available). The front bucket seats are standard. The optional Tri-Mode Power Steps package includes a rearward articulating power-deploying step for bed access and foot-activated, power-deploying side running boards.
performance & mpg
Standard on all but the SLT and Denali trims is a 4.3-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. It comes matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and, as with every Sierra 1500, either rear- or four-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity, when properly equipped, is fairly generous at 7,600 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. With this engine, the base and SLE include a six-speed automatic; the SLT and Denali have an eight-speed automatic. Properly equipped, trucks with this engine can tow up to 11,100 pounds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 mpg (16 city/23 highway) with the six-speed and curiously worse with the eight-speed at 18 (16 city/22 highway). Opting for four-wheel drive lowers these estimates by 1 mpg combined.
Optional on the SLT and Denali is a 6.2-liter V8 good for 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed automatic is standard. Properly equipped, this engine can tow up to 12,000 pounds. Regardless of drivetrain, the EPA estimates it will return 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway).
Standard safety features on the 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, trailer sway control, front and rear side airbags, and side curtain airbags. Standard on all but the base Sierra is a rearview camera, a driver blind-spot mirror and OnStar, which includes services such as automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance. The optional Enhanced Driver Alert package includes front and rear parking sensors, a forward collision warning system, lane departure prevention and a safety alert seat that buzzes the driver's bottom to warn them as needed.
The Sierra 1500 received a top five-star crash rating from the government for overall, front and side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2016 Sierra 1500 its highest possible rating of Good in its moderate-overlap front-impact crash test, the only test that agency has conducted thus far on this vehicle.
The 2016 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, and it also gets surprisingly good fuel economy. There's still a bit of vibration during hard acceleration, however, and the throttle can seem rather sluggish and unresponsive — no doubt for the sake of saving fuel.
The six-speed automatic provides smooth and timely gear changes in normal driving, but there's too big a gap between the transmission's gear ratios when towing. The addition of the eight-speed automatic on the SLT and Denali trims is therefore welcome, though the Ram 1500 comes standard with an eight-speed in every trim. The 6.2-liter V8 is a different story, as it comes standard with the eight-speed and provides that welcome bit of extra grunt to tackle almost any job (and serve up eye-popping acceleration when unladen).
Overall ride and handling dynamics are commendable, making this truck a fine choice for daily driving. The Sierra 1500 feels robust structurally, and although the Ram 1500 delivers a more refined ride, most Sierra versions are compliant and comfortable over broken pavement. (The stiffer ride on trucks with trailering package can get tiresome.) The Sierra is also very quiet, with road noise snuffed out and only a whisper of wind noise at freeway speeds. Off-road, the Sierra All-Terrain exhibits confidence-inspiring composure while negotiating rutted trails and challenging grades.
Frankly, the GMC Sierra's cabin isn't quite as special to behold as those of the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150. Higher trim levels can certainly be deemed luxurious, but on the whole, this GMC is more function than form. At the same time, anyone familiar with older GMC pickups who climbs inside this latest version will immediately notice the much improved materials and build quality, especially on the lower trims. There's also an abundance of bins and cubbies, and the center console on five-passenger Sierras boasts plenty of USB ports to keep your devices charged and connected. As if that isn't enough, there's now wireless charging for 2016.
The IntelliLink infotainment interface takes care of most navigation, audio and phone functions, and deserves special mention for its clear, intuitive controls. Plus, it gets even better for 2016 as its processing speed has thankfully been sped up and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make calling up playlists, podcasts, contacts and certain apps much easier.
Space and comfort are competitive in the Sierra's three cabs. We also appreciate the front-hinged rear doors on the double cab as opposed to the rear-hinged clamshell doors on the F-150. Rear-seat space in the crew cab isn't quite as sprawl-friendly as that offered by Ford or Ram (let alone the Toyota Tundra's limolike CrewMax cab), but families will still find plenty of space back there. Flipping up the rear bench reveals a flat load floor.
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.