2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD

2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD Regular Cab Review

Comfortable and capable, the heavy-duty 2018 Sierra 3500HD handles the biggest jobs in style.
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

All heavy-duty trucks are built to handle rigorous towing and hauling needs, especially for professionals in construction and agriculture trades. But they also come in handy for intrepid trailer-travelers and those with a fondness for destroyer-class watercraft. The 2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD, however, adds another layer of comfort and luxury to all these utility tasks, and it does so with rugged exterior design and cabin comforts that you're more likely to find in high-end SUVs. If you want to bask in comfort while breaking a sweat, this is the truck.

Available with two powerful engines and in several cab configurations, the 3500HD can be tailored to fit your priorities, whether interior space, cargo room or maximum towing capacity. The optional diesel engine generates 910 pound-feet of torque — about a third of what a 60-ton Abrams tank engine produces — so there's not much beyond its capabilities before entering the realm of commercial freight hauling.

Ford and Ram also make robust, luxury-trimmed pickups for extreme towing duties, but you'll likely find the 2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD just as appealing.



What's new for 2018

For 2018, the GMC Sierra 3500HD gets a standard rearview camera. Base models get an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and voice controls for audio and phone. Denali models feature a new grille design.

We recommend

The SLT splits the difference between the two more work-focused lower trims and the decadent Denali trim. It offers leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, and an assortment of standard and optional features and packages, such as specialized suspension components. And when equipped with the optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 engine, there's not much the Sierra 3500HD can't tow.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD heavy-duty pickup truck is available in four trim levels and three cab sizes: regular cab, double cab and crew cab. All are available with two- or four-wheel drive and in either single rear-wheel (SRW) or dual rear-wheel (DRW, or dually) configuration. All 3500 Sierras come with a long bed (8 feet 1 inch) except the crew cab, which in single rear-wheel form offers a choice of long bed or shorter standard bed (6 feet 6 inches).

For buyers interested in a basic heavy-duty truck, the base Sierra comes standard with a 6.0-liter V8 engine (360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet), a six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch steel wheels, an automatic locking rear differential, xenon headlights, air conditioning, a choice of cloth or vinyl upholstery, a 40/20/40-split front bench with a fold-down center armrest, power door locks, manual crank windows, cruise control and a tilt-only steering wheel.

Also standard are a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen, a USB port, a four- (regular cab) or six-speaker sound system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

From the base Sierra on up, you also have your choice of engine. A turbocharged 6.6-liter diesel V8 (445 hp and 910 lb-ft) is available, also paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Many options are available for the base Sierra. Highlights include a remote locking tailgate, LED bed lighting, a 110-volt power outlet, satellite radio, and OnStar services with 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

For a slightly less bare-bones experience, the SLE offers an 8-inch touchscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels (single-rear-wheel models only), tinted rear windows, a remote-locking EZ-Lift tailgate, remote keyless entry, carpeted floor, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and most of the base Sierra's options.

Further up the ladder is our recommendation, the SLT. Building on the SLE's equipment, the SLT adds foglights, power-folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, driver-seat 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.

For a luxurious take on your hard-working truck, go with the Denali. It adds 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, an upgraded driver information display, upgraded interior trim, ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Many of the standard features on upper trims can be added at lower trim levels in grouped packages. Other optional highlights depend on trim level and include different axle ratios, a bed storage box, tonneau covers, trailering mirrors, a sunroof,  a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailering prep package, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a Driver Alert package, which includes front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and a safety-alert driver's seat.

Only available on the SLT is the All Terrain HD package, which includes 18-inch wheels, the Z71 off-road suspension, skid plates, front-and-rear parking sensors and a heated steering wheel. A separate Suspension package (available on the SLE and the SLT) offers hill descent control, skid plates, specially tuned shock absorbers and unique styling treatments.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD (6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 | 6-speed automatic | 4WD). The Silverado and Sierra are mechanical twins, although the GMC features more upscale interior quality and appointments. Our observations still apply.

Driving

The optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel is an impressive engine that gives the 3500HD big towing numbers and impressive acceleration. Steering and braking are less impressive, but objectively this truck performs well by most standards that matter to truck buyers.

Acceleration

The 6.6-liter diesel makes massive torque and more than sufficient power, which give it a surge of acceleration off the line. Surprisingly, it goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.7 seconds. In-town acceleration is more reserved, but there's still plenty of power to get up to freeway speed.

Braking

The brake pedal feel is strong and consistent in everything other than full panic-stop scenarios. During Edmunds testing, we were able to press the pedal all the way to the floor, which is far from ideal. A 60-0 mph panic stop required 132 feet, about average in this class.

Steering

The steering is well-weighted, but it takes several full revolutions of the steering wheel to turn this rig. There isn't much of a connection between the steering wheel and the tires, but that didn't factor too heavily into our score since most vehicles in this class feel similar.

Handling

The big surprise is how well this gargantuan vehicle takes turns. There's minimal body roll around corners unless you're going way too fast. In parking lots and tight spaces, it maneuvers well enough for a dual rear-wheel setup, but this won't be your grocery-getter.

Drivability

The low-end torque gives plenty of off-the-line acceleration and shifts from the six-speed automatic are smooth even under full-throttle acceleration. The cruise control and the exhaust brake keep a good handle on the 3500's downhill speed. Out in the open country, this is a very drivable truck.

Off-road

There are several laser-focused full-size trucks with specific tires, suspension and clearances designed for going off-road. This 3500HD dually is not one of those trucks. Four-wheel drive will help with inclement weather, but the stiff suspension and sheer size limit its dirt-road capabilities.

Comfort

Overall comfort isn't the Sierra 3500's strong suit. Trucks in this size range aren't exactly bastions of comfort, but this one is particularly rough on the senses with a combo of stiff seats, lots of wind noise and a rigid suspension. A big payload, however, settles things down a lot.

Seat comfort

The front seats are well-padded and well-bolstered on the sides for lateral support, while the rear seats are relatively flat. The seat padding in both the front and rear is overly firm, though, and will take some serious breaking in to get comfortable.

Ride comfort

The stiff leaf-spring suspension means the 3500HD has a rigid, uncomfortable ride when unladen. Load it up with a heavy payload or a big trailer, though, and the ride quality is significantly better. We're giving the latter more weight because we assume a dually is unlikely to be an "air-hauler."

Noise & vibration

While there isn't as much road noise as you'd expect from the dual rear wheels, there is quite a bit of wind noise from the square front end and big mirrors. The diesel engine rumbles a bit, too, but it isn't particularly grating or abrasive and it's relatively smooth while cruising on the highway.

Climate control

The Silverado's climate system cools this big cabin quickly. The climate control knobs and vents are easy to control, even with gloves on, and the fan blows pretty quietly even at full blast. The heated split front seats are a great feature.

Interior

The interior is likable and user-friendly. Hop in and you'll operate almost all the controls without busting out the manual. It has a no-nonsense vibe, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in this segment.

Ease of use

The dashboard is about as basic and user-friendly as they come. The buttons are large and readable, within arm's reach and easy to operate. The solid switchgear contributes to ease of use.

Getting in/getting out

The proper grab handles and side steps help with entry, but it's still a tall truck. Most adults will have to do some climbing to get in. Keep in mind that this is pretty standard for the segment. It's not any harder to get in and out of the Sierra than any of its main rivals.

Driving position

The optional power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a highly adjustable driver's seat mean you can pretty much get the position you want. As with most trucks this big, seating position may be a bit high for shorter drivers, but it isn't a deal-breaker.

Roominess

Pick any seating position in the 3500HD and you'll have plenty of room to spread out. Headroom, legroom, shoulder room are all extensive inside this massive cabin. Pretty much every crew-cab 3500-series truck provides lots of space, and the GMC is no exception.

Visibility

The massive windshield and door pillars give the 3500 big blind spots. The large towing mirrors help with lane changes, but knowing where this truck's corners are can be tough. A rearview camera is standard, but competitors offer surround-view cameras and the GMC doesn't.

Quality

The body panels and interior pieces are well put together, without any rattling, shaking or malfunctioning during our test.

Utility

By most standards, the 3500HD certainly is utilitarian. It can tow and haul massive loads, and it has abundant interior storage. However, offerings from Ford and Ram outclass it by pretty much every measurement and in the arms race that is towing capacity, it falls behind by a few tons.

Small-item storage

Tons of pockets everywhere — doors, center console, two gloveboxes. The front and rear have pockets everywhere. If you can't find a place for your stuff in this truck, you just have too much stuff. Some competitors have smarter slight storage solutions for phones and devices, but only by a small margin.

Cargo space

As with pretty much every other heavy-duty truck, the Sierra 3500HD is available with a standard bed (6 feet 6 inches) and a long bed (8 feet 1 inch). Our test truck had the long bed, which allows for a massive amount of cargo space. The rear seats fold up for big interior storage as well.

Child safety seat accommodation

The 3500 can fit three car seats in the back without much fuss. There are two sets of easily accessible lower LATCH anchors and three shelf anchors that are a bit harder to reach. The trick, of course, is hoisting the kids up into their high perches.

Towing

The 6.6-liter turbodiesel has massive torque and power, but the towing capacities are significantly lower than those of its Ram and Ford competitors by about 8,000 pounds with a fifth wheel. Cruise control, exhaust braking and transmission logic are all very good while towing.

Hauling

When you're not towing your fifth wheel, you can haul any variety of beds, dressers, and various household furniture pieces in the back of the 3500HD. The payload rating is only a few hundred pounds below class leaders.

Technology

Using the MyLink interface is pretty simple, but we had several usability issues with our test vehicle. The finicky voice controls and subpar device integration made for a frustrating user experience.

Audio & navigation

The menu logic on the MyLink system is easy to understand, but it's not the most elegant in the class. The touchscreen responses are slower than with class leaders. While we like the optional 8-inch touchscreen, it doesn't stand out much from rival systems.

Smartphone integration

Our experience with smartphone devices was poor, with many dropped connections over the course of the test. We generally like the interface when it's working, but even then it takes quite a bit of time to load music. It's best to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Voice control

Several attempts to use the Silverado's built-in voice controls fell short, with a success rate of about 50 percent. It was easier to use the physical knobs and touchscreen controls. That said, Siri and Google Voice can be accessed if you've paired your smartphone by holding the talk button longer.

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.