Used 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD Review
With its considerable capabilities and comfortable nature, the 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD is an excellent choice for a heavy-duty truck.
The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD is designed to feel right at home in the most demanding towing and hauling situations. If you need a workhorse that brings maximum brute force to the job, this could very well be your next truck. To wit, the Sierra 3500HD has a maximum payload rating of 6,111 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of 23,200 pounds. Those numbers are slightly different this year, as GMC has adopted the SAE J2807 trailering standard, but one thing's for certain; that's a massive amount of capability by just about anyone's standards.
Fresh off last year's redesign, the Sierra 3500HD gets a number of useful upgrades for 2016, including standard xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, available wireless phone charging, a remote locking tailgate and improved IntelliLink infotainment systems with faster processors and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. One thing that hasn't changed is the 3500HD's agreeable driving character, enhanced on pricier models this year by a Digital Steering Assist system designed to improve both precision and maneuverability. With two burly engines and a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, plus three body styles, two available bed lengths and four different trim levels, the Sierra 3500HD can be configured for a wide variety of business and personal applications.
Then again, so can its virtually identical twin, the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD, as well as the Ford F-350 Super Duty and the Ram 3500, all three of which are excellent alternatives. It's also worth considering the 2500-level trucks if you're not absolutely sure you need the extra brawn. But if nothing less than the toughest heavy-duty pickup truck will do, the 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD is a must-drive based on its refined nature, beefy powertrains and industrial-grade skill set.
trim levels & features
The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD is offered in regular cab, double cab and crew cab body styles with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. All cab styles can be had in either single-rear-wheel (SRW) or dual-rear-wheel (DRW, or "dually") configuration, and all come with a long bed (8 feet) except the crew cab, which in SRW form offers a choice of the long bed or a standard bed (6.5 feet).
Trim levels start at the base Sierra and climb to the SLE, SLT and range-topping Denali. The SLT trim is available only on the double and crew cabs, while the Denali is available only as a crew cab.
The entry-level Sierra comes standard with chrome bumpers, 18-inch steel wheels, an automatic locking rear differential, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, air-conditioning, a choice of cloth or vinyl upholstery, a 40/20/40-split front bench with a fold-down center armrest, rubber floor covering, power door locks, manual crank windows, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, a 4.2-inch central display and a four-speaker (regular cab) or six-speaker sound system with a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack.
Optional on the base Sierra 3500HD is a 7-inch IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system that includes OnStar, 4G LTE WiFi, Bluetooth, voice controls, satellite radio, Pandora Internet radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Stepping up to the SLE adds those optional infotainment items plus an upgraded 8-inch central touchscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels (single-rear-wheel models only), tinted rear windows, a remote-locking EZ-lift/lower tailgate, LED cargo box illumination, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, carpeting, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 4.2-inch driver information display, a CD player and HD radio.
The SLT trim level adds more chrome trim, foglights, power-folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, remote ignition and a 110-volt household-style power outlet.
On top of the SLT features, the Denali will get you more chrome exterior accents, chrome side steps, a spray-in bedliner, a power-sliding rear window with defogger, front and rear parking sensors, a navigation system, wireless phone charging, a Bose audio system, a configurable 8-inch driver information display, upgraded interior trim, ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Some of the upper trims' extra standard features can be added to the lower trim levels as options. Other option highlights, depending on trim level, include different axle ratios, a bed storage box, various tonneau covers, trailering mirrors, a sunroof, a Driver Alert package (includes front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and a safety alert driver seat), a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailering prep package and a rear-seat entertainment system. Also available is the Z71 Off-Road package, which includes 18-inch wheels, hill descent control, skid plates, specially tuned shock absorbers, a different front stabilizer bar and unique styling tweaks.
performance & mpg
The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD is offered with a choice of two different engines. A 6.0-liter V8 engine that produces 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque is standard, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can opt for a bi-fuel version of this engine, allowing the truck to run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG). When operating on CNG, power output drops to 301 hp and 333 lb-ft of torque. A turbocharged 6.6-liter diesel V8 that puts out 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque, paired to a different six-speed automatic, is available as an option.
Rear-wheel drive is standard for all models, with four-wheel drive optional.
Properly equipped, a 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD can haul up to 6,111 pounds of payload. It can tow up to 20,000 pounds with a standard ball hitch and 23,200 pounds with a fifth-wheel/gooseneck hitch.
Standard safety features on the 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control (with trailer sway control), front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Standard on all except the base trim is OnStar (includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen-vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation). Upper trims also include power-adjustable pedals, a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors.
Optional safety equipment includes the Driver Alert package, which includes the front and rear parking sensors plus lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and a safety alert seat.
The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD offers a relatively comfortable ride quality for a heavy-duty pickup. Measured against its Sierra 1500 sibling, there's more wind and tire noise, but the cabin still manages to remain pretty quiet overall. Handling is decent, with body roll reasonably well-controlled in turns and a light, precise steering feel. The SLE (except regular cabs), SLT and Denali trims also get an upgraded steering system called Digital Steering Assist. That said, as with all big pickups, maneuverability is often a challenge, especially in tight spaces.
When there's a big payload to haul or a sizable trailer to move, however, the Sierra 3500HD shoulders the load without breaking a sweat, especially when fitted with the optional torque-monster turbodiesel engine. The diesel engine's exhaust brake is a welcome feature when descending long grades fully loaded, particularly since it works in conjunction with the transmission's automatic downshifts. The cruise control system is tied into this loop, helping to better hold your set speed on steep hills.
Inside the 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD you'll find an interior that ranges from work-truck basic on the entry-level model to downright posh on the top-of-the-line Denali. In general, though, materials quality is satisfying, and the design is both attractive and functional. Gauges are easy to see, and important everyday controls like climate and audio knobs are well-placed and dead simple to use. Upper trim levels even feature nice details like accent stitching atop the dash.
The available 4.2-inch and 8-inch information displays located between the tach and speedo are easy to read and reconfigure. The GMC IntelliLink touchscreen displays, meanwhile, offer sharp graphics and intuitive operation, along with handy Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to bring your smartphone fully into the driving experience.
In terms of seating, the various front seat options offer good comfort and support. The only quibble here is that the base and SLE models' lack of a telescoping steering wheel may make it difficult for some folks to find a comfortable driving position (note that the telescoping wheel is optional on SLE). Rear seats on crew cab models avoid a common pickup pitfall with seatbacks and bottom cushions that don't force occupants into an unnatural position that's too upright to be comfortable.
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.