KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Long regarded as the twin of the Chevrolet Silverado, the 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 offers more differentiation from its General Motors stable-mate in looks, while sharing the same basic architecture and engine choices. Exclusive to the GMC Sierra line, though, is the Denali trim level that brings with it a variety of power and luxury features. Looking to extend their leadership in the pickup truck segment, GM engineers and designers have created a new breed of pickup, one offering an improved chassis, more precise steering and not one but two quieter, more upscale interiors. The Sierra also delivers segment-leading fuel economy thanks to the new line of Active Fuel Management-equipped V8 engines and the introduction of the 2-Mode hybrid model.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you need the hauling and towing capabilities of a full-size pickup truck, you can have them while at the same time contributing to the environment via a V8-engine lineup that offers Active Fuel Management technology and Flex-Fuel E85 capability.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you have trouble making up your mind, you might be boggled by the number of trim levels, cab sizes, bed lengths and even instrument panels. Rising fuel costs might also have you looking to a smaller, V6 powered truck.
What's New for 2009
All Sierra's benefit from enhancements to the OnStar and XM NavTracffic systems, while models fitted with the 5.3-, 6.0- and 6.2-liter engines gain a new six-speed automatic transmission. An E85-compatible 6.2-liter V8 is also now available on SLT and Denali trims.
Sufficient power and surprising ride comfort are two hallmarks of the 2009 GMC Sierra 1500. Riding on a fully-boxed frame for more chassis stiffness, with coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, the big pickup truck is surprisingly nimble and easy to maneuver. Our lengthy test drive took us over rough, washboard gravel roads, yet the Sierra's cabin retained library-like calm and quiet. We found it hard to choose between the "pure pickup" interior and the "luxury-inspired" interior, because both were handsome and functional. While the available 4.3-liter V6 is no doubt adequate, the Sierra can also be equipped with a variety of V8 engines, most with 5.3-liter displacement, while the Denali and SLT offer a 6.2-liter variable-valve-timing engine. Power delivery with each V8 engine we tested was more than ample, though we have to admit we liked the pure power of the 6.0-liter and 6.2-liter V8s. The StabiliTrak electronic stability control system is welcome standard equipment on all V8 trims.
The latest OnStar system includes available Bluetooth connectivity and a Turn-by-turn navigation with Destination Download on models equipped with DVD-based navigation.
Active Fuel Management
The Active Fuel Management system available in four different V8s cuts the operation of four cylinders when they are unneeded and enhances fuel economy.
The 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 benefits from GM's extensive reworking of both full-size pickups and full-size SUVs, and among the benefits are two distinct interiors. The work truck and SLE trim levels feature the "pure pickup" interior that features larger controls – designed to accommodate gloved hands – and a double glovebox. The SLT trim level features the same "luxury-inspired" interior also used in GMC's SLT-trim Yukon and Yukon XL full-size sport utilities. Both attractive instrument panels are mounted low and far forward for an increased feeling of spaciousness. The same can be said of the back-seat area in the crew cab models, which offers ample room and comfort. Its elevated stadium-style rear seat has a 60/40-split design and folding center armrest, and it can be easily folded up with one hand to provide an uninterrupted load floor.
While the 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 does share the "strong, silent-type" handsomeness of the Silverado, it also offers a distinct front end, front and rear fenders and hood. An upscale look is highlighted by narrow gaps between body panels, enabled by the new version's significantly stiffer frame. The grille with prominent GMC logo is complemented by large "jeweled-appearance" headlights. The pickup box is taller than in the previous version of the Sierra and, at the same time, better integrated. The stamped-in rear fender flares are designed to give the truck a muscular look. Standard wheels are 17 inches in diameter, while 22-inch wheels are also available. Easy entry into the rear seat/storage area of extended-cab models is accommodated by new rear access doors that open 170 degrees. Power-operated rear-side windows lower completely into the access doors.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 is offered in five trim levels from basic to sinfully luxurious. The base model is the WT (work truck), and then, ascending the food chain, the SLE, SLT and Denali. In fact, the Sierra Denali is virtually a distinct model unto itself and includes as standard a 6.2-liter all-aluminum V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Cloth seats are standard on WT and SLE models, and leather seating is available on SLE models. SLT models include standard leather seats, the "luxury" instrument panel, 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, six-disc audio system with Bose speakers, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and heated windshield washer system. The crew-cab SLT version is even more luxurious with rain-sensing windshield wipers and a rear-seat audio system. Even the base trim level includes a four-speed automatic transmission, tire pressure monitoring system, power rack-and-pinion steering, anti-lock brakes (ABS), air conditioning, tinted glass, full instrumentation, XM Satellite radio and two auxiliary power outlets. StabiliTrak stability control is standard on all models except those with the 4.3-liter V6 engine.
Notable Optional Equipment
The multiplicity of trim levels should allow you to fine-tune your Sierra to the equipment level you want, but options abound as well. Convenience features offered on SLE and SLT models include touch-screen navigation/sound system, power-operated moonroof, rear backup camera and a power-sliding rear window. New for the Denali trim are heated and cooled front seats. Sierra offers five distinct suspension systems, each tailored to suit specific driving requirements. They include Z83 for a solid, smooth ride, Z85 for enhanced handling and trailer towing, Z71 for enhanced off-road capability, Z60 for street performance with 20-inch wheels and NHT for maximum towing capacity.. A choice of two- and four-wheel-drive models, various cabs and bed lengths and a variety of axle ratios are also offered.
Under the Hood
The 4.3-liter V6 and 4.8-liter V8 should be more than adequate in work truck applications, but for dual-use work and pleasure driving we recommend stepping up to at least the 5.3-liter V8 engines, some with cast-iron blocks and some with aluminum. For those with a need for towing capacity, the 6.0-liter with Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing and the 6.2-liter in the Denali are good choices, although they are expected to suffer a trifle in fuel economy.
195 horsepower @ 4600 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 (2WD), 14/18 (4WD)
295 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
305 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/19 (2WD), 14/18 (4WD)
5.3-liter V8 Flex Fuel
315 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
338 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/15 (2WD, E85) 14/20 (2WD, gasoline), 10/14 (4WD, E85), 14/19 (4WD, gasoline)
315 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
338 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 14/19 (4WD)
367 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
375 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/19 (2WD), 13/18 (4WD)
403 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 (2WD, gasoline), 10/14 (2WD, E85), 12/19 (4WD), 9/14 (4WD, AWD, E85), 12/19 (AWD)
The 2009 GMC Sierra 1500's starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $19,500 delivers a capable but somewhat spartan work truck. The SLE trim level with substantial equipment starts closer to $27,000. The SLT model begins at an MSRP of about $34,000, and a fully-loaded all-wheel-drive Denali approaches the $50,000 mark. A slow down in sales is likely to bring about big incentives and discounts, so be sure to check the Incentives tab to see what savings may be on the table. We advise that you check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see the typical price consumers are paying now. The Sierra offers good projected resale values for its segment, higher than the projected residual values for the Dodge Ram, Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan, and similar to that of the Toyota Tundra.