By KBB.com Editors
GMC's Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD heavy-duty pickups don't look much different from the 2010s they replace, yet they're substantially upgraded and improved for 2011, and new top-of-the-line Denali models blend premium luxury and rugged, heavy-duty work truck capabilities. Most of the available investment budget went into all-new frames (much stiffer and stronger fully-boxed, high-strength steel) and suspensions (25 percent higher-load-rated independent front, asymmetrical leaf-spring rear) and the new Duramax turbo diesel V8/Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission powertrain. They boast an impressive array of segment bests, beginning with that new Duramax diesel, which is not only more powerful but also 11 percent more fuel efficient than its predecessor.You'll Like This Car If...
If you are a satisfied past or current Sierra HD owner, you will love these much-improved new ones despite their mostly carryover styling. Their performance, capabilities, refinement and fuel efficiency have improved, especially with their new and surprisingly quiet available Duramax turbo diesel V8.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you are a loyal and satisfied Ford or Dodge (now Ram) HD pickup owner, you may not find sufficient reason to switch to a new GMC. The Ram was new for 2010, the F-250/350 for 2011, and both are fully competitive in most areas.What's New for 2011
The 2011 GMC Sierra HD's Duramax turbo diesel's power, torque, maximum conventional and fifth-wheel tow and payload ratings are best in class. Its fifth-wheel tow capability is 21,700 pounds, it can tow up to a 17,000-pound conventional load with its factory-installed hitch, and the Duramax is fully B20 biodiesel compatible.Driving It Driving Impressions
We found towing a 9,500-pound trailer with a 2011 3500HD relatively easy due largely to its new 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8 and Allison transmission powertrain. Its massive (segment-best) 765 pound-feet of torque got that hefty rig rolling with ease, and its (segment-best) 397 hard-muscled horses kept it moving surprisingly smoothly and quietly. The ambience inside its nicely-appointed cabin was a pleasant surprise – so quiet at any speed that we could easily chat with passengers in the crew-cab's back seat. Another plus is the highly-effective, engine compression-assisted brakes. New for 2011 is "smart" exhaust braking that progressively restricts the diesel's exhaust, depending on speed and grade, to help slow the rig with added compression braking – especially useful on downhill grades. Other Sierra HDs we have sampled also showed marked improvements in ride, handling, steering and brake feel due mostly to their new, much stiffer frames and redesigned suspensions.Favorite Features
This system progressively restricts the diesel's exhaust – depending on speed and grade – to help slow the rig with added compression braking.
A favorite on any vehicle, this available feature is much appreciated on working trucks that operate in hot and cold weather extremes.
The 2011 Sierra HD Work Truck (WT), SLE and SLT interiors are little changed in appearance but more refined in quietness and crafstmanship. A variety of useful compartments provides out-of-sight storage for everything from work gloves to laptops. With mobile WiFi, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and navigation, plus multiple charge points for multiple devices, these new trucks can be highly capable mobile workplaces. Denali models feature specific brushed-aluminum trim, power-adjustable pedals, a Bose premium surround audio system and 12-way power seats.Exterior
2011 Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD models sport new a three-bar grille, a full-width chrome steel front bumper and a new louvered, powertrain-badged power-dome hood. A new lineup of 17- (dually), 18- and 20-inch wheel/tire combinations is available. Luxury Denali models are distinguished by a specific four-bar chrome grille with round air inlets, plus body-color bumpers, chrome door handles, chrome accents and polished forged aluminum wheels.Notable Standard Equipment
Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and Intelligent Brake Assist and six-speed automatic transmission are standard on all models, while StabiliTrak electronic stability control, Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist (but not Hill Descent Control) are standard on single-rear-wheel (non-dualie) models and new "Smart" Exhaust Braking comes with the available Duramax Diesel. Also standard are chrome front and rear bumpers, engine and transmission oil coolers, a driver information center, tilt steering wheel, automatic headlamps and front tow hooks. Standard safety features include front-seat airbags and a new high-strength tubular steel frame crossmember that improves crashworthiness.Notable Optional Equipment
Optional (or unavailable) on base 2WD Work Trucks are cruise control, power locks, windows and mirrors and a rear window defroster. The next-level SLE trim provides those plus remote keyless entry, OnStar, XM Satellite Radio, and a CD player, but not the rear-window defroster. The top-of-the-line SLT trim (available on Extended and Crew Cab models) adds leather, power seats and much more, while Denali models are fully loaded. Option packages are available, and other major options include navigation, a CD changer, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, remote start, premium wheels, a sunroof, a rear backup camera, an integrated trailer brake controller and pelvic/thorax and head-curtain airbags.Under the Hood
The standard heavy-duty Vortec 6.0-liter gasoline V8 has a cast-iron block, aluminum heads and cam-in-block variable valve timing (VVT), which allows the engine to use late intake valve closing to improve efficiency and achieve an optimal balance of low-rpm torque and free-breathing, high-rpm horsepower. The 2011 Duramax turbo diesel offers significantly more power and torque, 11 percent better fuel efficiency, 30 percent less engine noise, improved strength and durability, new "smart" exhaust braking with the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission and full B20 biodiesel capability. Its NOx emissions are reduced by some 63 percent via a Selective Catalyst Reduction aftertreatment system that uses urea-based Diesel (Emission) Exhaust Fluid (DEF) in a 5.3-gallon tank that needs to be replenished about every 5,000 miles.
360 horsepower @ 5400 rpm
380 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
6.6-liter diesel V8
397 horsepower @ 3000 rpm
765 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
The 2011 Sierra HD is offered in Work Truck (WT), SLE and SLT trim levels with prices starting at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $29,000. The new Denali models start close to $46,500. The available Duramax turbo diesel V8/Allison transmission combination lists for just over $8,000 - unchanged from 2010 despite substantial upgrades in power, torque and fuel efficiency and new B20 biodiesel capability. MSRPs of the popular 2500HD crew-cab models are roughly $1,600 higher than comparable 2010 (Dodge) Rams and $600 higher than 2011 Ford Super Duties. Be sure to check the Sierra's Fair Purchase Prices before going to the dealership to see what buyers are actually paying in your area. Based on past experience, the Sierra's five-year resale values should be roughly comparable to the Fords and better than the Rams.