You'd never enter a work truck in a beauty contest. The reason is that work trucks are purpose-built vehicles that tow everything from hay bales to 4-wheel ATVs without struggle or strain. The 2014 GMC Sierra 3500HD, however, considers its crew as well as its cargo, providing an always-comfortable and roomy interior. Sharing its mechanical underpinnings with the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC adds its own DNA, including the popular Denali trim. The result is a work truck better suited for the owner of a construction company than someone who works in the trenches. With many trim and model combinations, including various cab, bed and body styles, the Sierra 3500HD pickup covers all the bases.
What's New for 2014?
Except for the removal of an extended cab body style from the pickup's lineup, the Sierra 3500HD remains unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Bold and aggressive styling; rugged interior on Work Truck trims; CNG bi-fuel capability; EZ lift/locking tailgate; exceptional towing capacity
What We Don't
Denali trim available only on Crew Cab models; no manual transmission offered; side and curtain airbags not standard on all trims
The Sierra 3500HD comes with two available engines. Base models use a 6.0-liter V8 that makes 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. If that isn't enough, consider the 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8. While it "only" makes 397 hp, it produces a robust 765 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is uncertain, as the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't rate gas mileage for vehicles the size of the Sierra, but we'd expect around 12 miles per gallon in the city and no more than 17 mpg on the highway, with even the most careful driving.
Standard Features & Options
The GMC Sierra 3500HD comes in many trims, body styles and configurations. Regular and crew cabs are available, while shoppers can also choose between bed length (short or long), engine (gas or diesel) and drivetrain (2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive). As for trim levels, the Sierra 3500HD has four: base-level Work Truck, mid-level SLE and SLT, and high-end Denali.
The base Work Truck ($33,800) includes a minimal dash and interior better suited to dirt and grime. Standard equipment includes rubber flooring, 40/20/40 bench seat, air conditioning, tilt wheel, rear step bumper, 8-lug steel wheels and ABS.
The SLE ($37,500) trim adds power windows and locks, CD player, cruise control, upgraded interior, rear defrost, heated outside power mirrors and bucket seats with power driver's seat.
The SLT ($47,500) trim brings even more standard equipment, including heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, automatic temperature control, a trailer hitch receiver, aluminum wheels and Bluetooth. The SLT trim is offered only with the crew cab body style.
The Denali ($53,500) adds ventilated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, power-retractable side mirrors, a heated steering wheel, rear park assist, rear backup camera and a Bose premium 7-speaker audio system.
Optional equipment includes the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine, in-bed cargo management system, Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, navigation radio, Wi-Fi (dealer-installed hub, requires subscription), tubular running boards, EZ-lift tailgate (SLT) and a skid-resistant bed liner. Optional safety features include front side and side-curtain airbags.
Mechanical options include 4-wheel drive, dual rear-wheel axle, 4.10 rear axle, heavy-duty locking rear differential, heavy-duty trailer package (2.5-inch receiver and 2-in adapter, 7-wire harness and trailer brake control), snow plow prep (10-amp power source, 160-amp alternator and wiring harness for forward- and roof-mounted lamps and skid plates), high payload performance package, high idle, tri-folding hard tonneau cover and various work site and utility options.
Every GMC Sierra HD features anti-lock brakes, front airbags, StabiliTrak electronic traction and stability control, OnStar Crash Response and Crisis Assist and a tire-pressure monitor.
In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's tests of the Sierra HD, the truck performs as well as most, with an average overall score. Trucks without optional side airbags earned much lower ratings than trucks with airbags, with Crew Cab models scoring slightly better than Regular and Extended Cabs. The Sierra HD also earned scores from three to four out of five stars in the roof rollover test, depending on body style and cab configuration.
Behind the Wheel
The 2014 GMC Sierra 3500HD is a big truck, so its ride and handling are predictable. But what we didn't expect was the extent to which the Sierra's cabin shuts out road and engine noise (especially with the Duramax diesel chugging away) and how good the feedback response is from the steering and brakes. With the diesel engine on board, the Sierra 3500's ability to tow and haul is impressive. The pickup can haul 7,222 pounds of payload, and it can tow an almost absurd 23,100 pounds with an in-bed fifth-wheel connection. If you don't have that, even the standard hitch is good for 18,000 pounds.
Two of the most helpful features for drivers are the powertrain grade braking system on the Allison 6-speed and the smart exhaust braking system on the diesel engine. Grade braking uses the engine's torque to help slow the vehicle when descending long grades, thus saving on brake wear. Similarly, the exhaust braking system works by restricting exhaust flow, thus producing a situation in which the compression in the engine is held steady and resulting in the engine holding or slowing power output. Both systems are invaluable when trailering heavy loads through mountainous or hilly passes.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD -- Although the Sierra and Silverado are largely the same, you should definitely check out the Chevy, if only to see whether you can get a better deal.
RAM 3500HD -- The RAM HD outmuscles and out-tows the Sierra, and its HEMI V8 offers more horsepower and torque than the Sierra's base-level engine. But the RAM's ride can be rough, and its long-term resale figures are not as strong.
Ford F-350 -- Ford's heavy-duty F-350 offers more horsepower and torque, more trim and cab options (such as the King Ranch and Platinum trims), and more sophisticated audio and infotainment systems (SYNC).
With so many trims and configurations, it is impossible to say which model is the favorite. Much depends on your needs. If you're not a site manager or oil rig crew, and if you need a big truck just for towing a vacation or horse trailer, the Sierra HD Denali will most likely please you. Those looking for a workhorse should consider the Work Truck, while those needing both a work station and a family hauler will likely find the SLE strikes a nice balance between features and price.