2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Review
2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Impressive hauling and towing capabilities
- refined, quiet ride
- responsive steering
- comfortable seats
- solid build quality.
- Mediocre cabin storage
- no telescoping steering wheel.
The 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is nearly identical to its predecessor on the outside, but underneath GMC has added an all-new frame and revised suspension components. Also new are an optional turbocharged diesel engine and a host of electronic driver aids. A new premium Denali trim level has also been added to the mix.
Thanks to newfound capabilities, the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is an excellent choice for a heavy-duty truck.
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Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD SLT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of N/A undefined in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
Sierra 3500HD SLT
Avg. Large Truck
Aside from the few crossover SUVs in its current lineup, GMC is synonymous with trucks. And not compact city trucks, either. We're talking heavy-duty trucks for people who build things. And when it comes to heavy-duty pickups, the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is a standout performer among some very tough competitors.
This year the heavy-duty Sierra receives plenty of improvements to help it keep up with -- and in some instances, prevail over -- its competition. A new frame, which GMC says is considerably more rigid than before, contributes to increased towing and hauling capacities. In addition GMC has bolted in some revised suspension components that give the truck not only more load capacity but also a more comfortable ride.
With these new heavier loads to pull, a new, optional 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel enters service with some fairly impressive stats. Output is rated at 397 horsepower and an eye-bulging 765 pound-feet of torque (a jump of 105 lb-ft of torque over last year's turbodiesel). This increase doesn't come at the expense of the environment or pocketbook, either. According to GMC, this new diesel works with a heavy-duty six-speed Allison 1000 transmission to deliver fuel economy that's 11 percent better than the previous diesel powertrain.
On the outside, only a few changes will be apparent to the savvy shopper. A new louvered hood, a revised grille and a chrome front bumper with an opening for added cooling round out the cosmetic changes. Behind the steering wheel, you might notice a smoother ride thanks to more isolation from hydraulic body mounts and a revised independent front suspension with more heavy-duty components yet a pavement-friendly calibration. The new Denali model should be noticed by all, though, as it brings GMC's upscale nameplate and distinctive styling elements to the heavy-duty truck line for the first time.
These changes for the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD and its Chevy Silverado twin are meant to keep this GM truck in the game with the newly revised lineup of Ford Super Duty pickups. In terms of towing and hauling capabilities, the 2011 Ford F-350 is in a virtual dead heat with the Sierra (with the GMC winning by only a few hundred pounds), with the 2011 Ram 3500 bringing up the rear. However, in our heavy-duty pickup comparison test, the GMC Sierra 3500 boasted the best all-around performance and felt the most composed while towing a very heavy load, thanks to its more precise steering and arrow-straight tracking.
To be fair, the Ford offers more in the way of work-solution options, while the Dodge earns high marks for its uncommonly upscale interior. None of these choices really represents a winning or losing decision, as each pickup delivers plenty of power and utility. In the end, the choice of the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD over the rest will likely come down to personal preference.
Performance & mpg
The standard power plant for the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is a 6.0-liter V8 engine that produces 360 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.
An optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is surely the engine choice for those who plan on towing or hauling on a regular basis. This new engine produces 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Emissions are cleaner before thanks in part to a urea-injection system. If the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) runs low, however, vehicle speed will be limited to 55 mpg. If the DEF reservoir is empty, speed is lowered to 40 mph.
Rear-wheel drive is standard for all models and four-wheel drive is optional. The Work Truck 4WD receives a traditional, manually engaged transfer case with a floor-mounted shift lever, while the other trim levels get Autotrac, an electronically controlled transfer case that can engage 4WD automatically when tire slip is detected. Properly equipped, a 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD can haul up to 6,635 pounds of payload. It can tow up to 17,000 pounds with its standard ball hitch and pull 21,700 pounds with a fifth-wheel connection. To further improve towing, the Duramax V8 turbodiesel incorporates a big-rig-inspired exhaust braking system to improve chassis stability and also reduce brake wear.
In terms of safety, the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD features antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start control and trailer sway control as standard. Front side and side curtain airbags are available as options, as are power-adjustable pedals, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
With all of its chassis improvements, the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD represents a big step forward for heavy-duty trucks. The stiffer frame permits the use of a stouter front suspension that can handle higher loads, yet improved body isolation and a more refined suspension calibration help smooth out rough roads. Heavy-duty pickups are now comfortable enough to drive every day without regrets.
When stacked up against the Ford F-350 and the Dodge Ram 3500, the Sierra 3500 has a few clear advantages. Superior steering precision compared to the Ford and a smaller turning circle than either rival are readily apparent and appreciated in everyday driving. And when towing a trailer, the GMC V8 turbodiesel accelerates with more authority and climbs grades with less diesel clatter while also delivering superior fuel economy. When descending a grade, the Duramax V8's new exhaust brake works with well-timed downshifts from the transmission to lend an edge in vehicle stability over the Dodge.
The interior of the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is nearly identical to that of the 2010 model. The base-model Work Truck is the most utilitarian of the trim levels, with vinyl upholstery and floor covering. The SLE offers a more inviting cabin with cloth upholstery and carpeting, although both models come standard with a standard three-person front bench. Opting for the bucket seats will add a center console with storage. The SLT and Denali are the classiest of the bunch, with an interior similar to that of the GMC Yukon SUV.
We found the front seats quite comfortable, though some editors note that the pedals are placed far apart to accommodate work boots and also noted that the tilt-only steering wheel feels too close to the dash. Average-size adults should find the extended cab's rear seats acceptable, but the crew cab is definitely the preferred choice with its roomy rear quarters. The rear doors on extended-cab models swing open a full 170 degrees to allow for easier passenger access as well as cargo loading.
2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD models
The 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is offered in regular cab, extended cab or crew cab body styles. The regular and extended cabs are only available with a long bed (8 feet), while the crew cabs can also be had in short bed lengths (6.5 feet). Buyers can choose between the conventional single-rear-wheel (SRW) and dual-rear-wheel (DRW) configurations.
Trim levels start at the base Work Truck and climb to the SLE, SLT and new range-topping Denali. The Work Truck trim level includes 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a trip computer, vinyl floor coverings, a 40/20/40-split front bench with fold-down center armrest, vinyl upholstery, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo.
Stepping up to the SLE adds 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels (DRWs get 17-inch steel wheels), tinted rear windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, carpeted floor coverings, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver-side lumbar adjustments, cruise control, OnStar, satellite radio and a CD/MP3 player. Many of the SLE features are available on the Work Truck as options.
The SLT trim level is only offered on extended and crew cab body styles and augments the SLE's features list by adding foglights, a locking rear differential, a heavy-duty towing package (with integrated trailer brake controller), heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, remote starting, heated leather front bucket seats with power adjustments, a floor-mounted front center console, Bluetooth and an upgraded Bose stereo system with a USB port. Some of these features are available as options for the SLE.
On top of the SLT features, the Denali will get you a four-bar chrome grille, chrome exterior accents, rear parking sensors, the EZ-lift tailgate, skid plates, power-adjustable pedals and brushed aluminum trim. Most of these features are available on supporting trim levels as options.
Additional options are dependent on trim level and include 20-inch wheels, an aluminum bed extender, a protective bedliner, a sliding or stationary tool box, a cargo rail, a sliding bed divider, a sunroof, power-sliding rear window, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather seats, a navigation system, mobile WiFi, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a rearview camera. Four-wheel-drive models can add the Z71 off-road package (includes skid plates and off-road suspension components) and a Snow Plow Prep package.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
3.25 out of 5 stars
broke down on the first day
Denali 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A)
duramax diesel 2011, bought 7/22/2011 build date 6/2011. exhaust fluid malfunction light on with check engine light, 5 miles from dealership, drove 150 miles, took to dealer in the am, tried programming fix, no help from gmc tech support, 8-5 m-f, thats BS.dealer tried, gm is working on new code/software to fix, working on it for 7 months, no luck,HEY GUYS, WAKE UP, this glitch is … affecting real people in the real world, probably will end up being class action against GM! God Bless.... almost forgot, reverse sensors broken from factory////????
5 out of 5 stars
Don't need a Diesel !
SLT 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A)
We shopped Ford and GMC. Bought the GMC because of build quality. Smokes the Ford in body gaps, paint, noise, warranty. Did the math on a diesel, no way for $8000. You don't see daylight for 500,000 miles. Pull a 24' enclosed with a car with the cruise control on in trailer tow mode. Absolutely love this truck. My local dealer found it for me. The paint is incredible, the interior is … extremely quiet and comfortable with the leather bucket seats. The 40,000 mile warranty over the Ford has an untold value that could mean thousands. Installed headers & exhaust, K&N, Bosch Iridium plugs & Tayler 10.4 wires etc. No effect on warranty! Didn't even look at the Chevy as we own a'10 GMC. Both Z71's.
2.13 out of 5 stars
Worst truck I have owned so far.
Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A)
At 23,000 miles the exhaust fluid warning came on, took it to the dealer and they took 2 days to fixed it. At 43,000 miles something outside the engine malfunction It cost me $18000.00 obviously they told me that that is not cover by the 100,000 mile power train, now at 53,000 miles something with the transmission went bad and the dealership is telling me that it will cost around $800.00 … to fix and of course is has nothing to do with the power train so no luck. I will never buy another GMC vehicle in my life. I can put up with the small space inside, because I liked the oversized bed, but not paying $2700.00 with in a 6 month period give me a brake.
4.38 out of 5 stars
update on repairs
Denali 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A)
update to previous report, exhaust fluid tube was not connected from the factory, dealer repaired, software was doing its function reporting a malfunction, 1000 miles today, towed a 20' gooseneck weighing approx 10,000 lbs., towed like a feather, entire truck engineering is 100% better than my 2009 chevy 3500. very quiet interior, avg 12mpg towing, 17-18mpg empty.
Features & Specs
More about the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD
Used 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Overview
The Used 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD is offered in the following submodels: Sierra 3500HD Crew Cab, Sierra 3500HD Regular Cab, Sierra 3500HD Extended Cab. Available styles include SLT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Denali 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Denali 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 2dr Regular Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Denali 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Crew Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 2dr Regular Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Denali 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Extended Cab 4WD LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Extended Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 2dr Regular Cab LB DRW (6.0L 8cyl 6A), Work Truck 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLT 4dr Crew Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), SLE 4dr Extended Cab LB (6.0L 8cyl 6A), and SLT 4dr Crew Cab SB (6.0L 8cyl 6A). Pre-owned GMC Sierra 3500HD models are available with a 6.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 322 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD comes with four wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.