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2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2015

The heavy-duty GMC Sierra is one of the most capable and massive pickup trucks you can buy today. Designed not for city streets but rather commercial-grade applications such as towing, hauling and driving around dusty jobsites, the Sierra is a true work truck, and the 3500 model is at the top of the heap.

As for the 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD, it was redesigned last year with modernized styling, an improved ride and nicer interior touches. Don't let the changes fool you: The truck is still the same competent, highly capable workhorse it's always been.

What's New for 2016?

After a full redesign last year, the Sierra 3500 receives only minor updates for 2016, including a newly available wireless charging system, HD Radio and a slightly revised GMC IntelliLink infotainment system.

What We Like

Impressive towing and hauling capabilities; huge power and torque from any engine; new interior is a major improvement

What We Don't

Manual transmission would be nice; pricing a little steep; no self-leveling suspension such as RAM HD

How Much?

$35,800-$54,600

Fuel Economy

The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD offers two engines. The truck's standard powerplant is a 6.0-liter V8 making 360 horsepower and a muscular 380 lb-ft of torque; shoppers who pick that engine can choose between gasoline power and a bi-fuel version that runs on gasoline or compressed natural gas. For drivers who want more power, the truck also offers a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8, which makes 397 hp and an impressive 765 lb-ft of torque.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't provide fuel economy ratings for vehicles as large as the Sierra 3500HD, official gas mileage numbers are unavailable, but these trucks aren't for buyers interested in saving fuel. Most drivers will see around 12 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, regardless of engine choice.

Standard Features & Options

The Sierra 3500HD comes in a wide variety of trim levels, body styles and configurations. There are regular cabs, crew cabs and extended cabs, along with regular beds and long beds, gasoline and diesel engines, and 2- and 4-wheel drive. Drivers can also choose between two rear wheels or four (a "dually"), depending on their desired payload capacity.

When it comes to trim levels, the Sierra 3500HD offers four, including a base-level Work Truck model, midlevel SLE and SLT trims, and an upscale luxury-oriented Sierra Denali.

Choose the Work Truck ($35,800), or WT, and you'll have only the basics, as this trim level is primarily designed for use on gritty jobsites. Standard features include an AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary port (but no CD player), air conditioning, vinyl seating and little else. In fact, Sierra 3500HD Work Truck models don't even include features such as keyless entry or power mirrors.

Next up is the SLE ($40,200), which adds many of the WT's missing creature comforts as standard equipment. There are heated mirrors, for instance, and remote keyless entry. There's GM's OnStar telematics system, which provides directions and other assistance. There's also a standard backup camera, which is helpful in a truck this large.

Slotting above the SLE is the SLT ($48,800), which is only available in extended- or crew-cab guise. There's leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, chrome door handles, LED lighting and heated front seats. SLT models also offer available front and rear park assist.

Topping the Sierra HD's range is the Denali ($54,500), which adds a long list of high-end equipment. Features include a heated steering wheel, cooled front seats, additional chrome accents, a vastly improved interior with contrasting stitching and aluminum trim, and a navigation system.

In addition to the Sierra 3500HD's standard features, the truck also offers a long list of options. Of course, there's the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine for shoppers interested in more power and torque, but the truck also offers a heavy-duty trailer package, 4-wheel drive, power adjustable pedals, newly available wireless charging, and front and rear park assist. Shoppers can also add high-end safety features such as a lane-departure warning system and forward-collision alert.

Safety

The 2016 Sierra 3500HD boasts standard side airbags, side-curtain airbags, traction control, stability control and daytime running lights. Also standard is a Trailer Sway Control feature, which helps keep trailers under control. Optional safety features include a backup camera, front and rear park assist, forward-collision alert and a lane-departure warning system.

Because of the 3500HD's recent redesign, the pickup has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

The GMC Sierra 3500HD is a full-size, heavy-duty truck, and in spite of last year's changes, it still drives like one. Expect light steering, huge dimensions that are unfriendly to tight corners and a high seating position. With that said, we're impressed with the Sierra's quiet ride, which cancels out wind noise, road noise and even diesel-engine noise better than most full-size trucks.

Step inside the Sierra 3500HD, and we suspect you'll be impressed with the truck's new modern dashboard and center stack. Both items are unusual in the world of the heavy-duty truck, where cutting-edge features and new equipment are rarely added. We're also impressed with the truck's rear-seat room, especially in crew-cab models. Still, we wouldn't suggest using any Sierra 3500HD as around-town family transportation given its massive size and inevitable parking difficulties.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD -- The Silverado 3500HD is mechanically identical to the Sierra, and it looks almost the same, too. Check out both pickups, as they're highly similar, though the upscale Denali trim is unique to the GMC.

2016 RAM 3500 HD -- The heavy-duty RAM 3500 HD is endlessly capable thanks to its huge engines, its wide variety of configurations and unique features such as self-leveling suspension and a manual transmission, but the latest Sierra is far more refined than the RAM.

2016 Ford F-350 -- The increasingly outdated F-350 isn't as refined as rivals such as the RAM, the Sierra and the Silverado, but with a new model on the way, it may be a better deal.

Autotrader's Advice

Because there are so many versions of the Sierra 3500HD, recommending the right one is a difficult task. In the end, we like the pickup, and we think you'll need to carefully consider the model lineup to decide which one is the best for you. If you're looking for a family hauler, it'll be the crew cab. Want to tow a trailer? Go for the turbodiesel. No matter your desire, truck shoppers will find something for just about everyone in the Sierra 3500HD.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD: New Car Review - Autotrader