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2014 GMC Sierra (Diane Jang)
2014 GMC Sierra (Diane Jang)

Test Drive: GMC Sierra

GM's best selling vehicle? It's a guy thing Add to ...

Pop quiz: What is the best-selling vehicle in the lineup sold by General Motors in Canada? Give up? It’s the GMC Sierra pickup.

Yet another example of how Canadians differ from Americans. In the United States, sales of the Sierra massively trail its corporate pickup sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado. Mechanically, the two are identical, though GMC buyers, we’re told, are a little fancier and better educated than the Silverado’s. Put it this way: the typical Sierra driver is a guy who owns the electrical contracting company, while the Silverado guy is a prosperous journeyman electrician or maybe the foreman.

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And I am saying “guy” because almost all full-size pickup are bought by men. Not all, of course, but the reality is that a big pickup is a manly thing. If that is politically incorrect, sorry. You’re free to send your comments and letters.

GM, of course, is rightly proud of the restyled and re-engineered Sierra and Silverado. This is no small matter. In Canada, Sierra and Silverado sales combined were about 34,000 though the end of May, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (18,585 Sierras, 15,308 Silverados). Through the same period, Ford of Canada sold 50,626 F-Series pickup, while Chrysler sold 34,052 Rams. We are talking big business in big trucks.

The rebooted Sierra is packaged differently than the Silverado, and the styling cues are unique to each, too. Yes, it does take a trained eye to spot the differences, but GM officials say they plan to roar ahead with even more differentiation between Sierra and Silverado as the days and weeks and years unfold.

Certainly the Sierra is a handsome rig, big and brawny and carefully styled to appeal to the fairly conservative buyer who is willing to spend as much as $60,000 or more on a well-loaded pickup. For that you get a beefy, solid truck with a quiet ride and a cabin that screams anything but “roughing it.” GM’s designers have clustered like-controls together – not the case in the outgoing model – and focused on keeping the materials feeling expensive not rich, with the fit and finish a match for any car.

The engines, though, are where this story begins. GM is rolling out the Sierra (and Silverado) in stages, with quad cab models (front-hinged rear doors, not rear-hinged) powered by the new Ecotec3 5.3-litre V-8 (355 hp/383 lb-ft torque). This is a modern engine, with direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation (to save fuel when you don’t need the power) and variable valve timing.

With it, the Sierra has a “segment-leading” tow rating of 11,500 pounds and fuel economy is, we’re told, “best in class:” 13.0 litres/100 km city and 8.7 highway. For the record, the handy readout for ongoing fuel economy hovered at 29 litres/100 km during my road trip hauling along a 24-foot trailer to the Sierra West ranch.

As the new GM pickups roll out, a 4.3-litre V-6 (285/305 lb-ft) and a 6.2-litre V-8 (420 hp/450 lb-ft) will join the lineup. The former has a tow rating up to 7,200 pounds, while the latter can tow something close to a suburban bungalow at 12,000 pounds. All three are gas engines.

The record should show, however, that Chrysler’s Ram will soon be the first full-size, light-duty pickup sold in Canada with a diesel engine option. This is among the reasons why GM is anxious to make sure potential buyers know how efficient and effective the new gas engine lineup has been engineered to be. I never felt a need for more grunt when pulling a 24-foot trailer, though at times the V-8 had to work, going up to nearly 5,000 rpm when climbing a hill in tow mode.

GM’s engineers certainly thought through the needs of any buyer who trailers for fun or work. The brake rotors are the brilliant Duralife type that last twice as long or more then old-fashioned tradition brake rotors. The trailer brake controls are integrated, there is a Hill Start Assist function to get you going on a grade and Tow/Haul mode changes the transmission shift points to make towing more efficient. The rear-vision camera is superb for trailer hook-ups, too.

All in all, an excellent pickup. Long-time Sierra buyers have no reason to wander to the Ram or Ford dealer. But then, pickup buyers are notoriously loyal, so few ever would. GM has nicely defended its pickup turf here.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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