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2017 GMC Sierra 3500HD: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

At first glance, the 2017 GMC Sierra 3500HD seems unchanged after getting a nip and tuck last year. However, look closer and on most trucks you'll spot a new chrome-trimmed hood scoop. That's the telltale sign of something special added under the hood: an enhanced cooling system that feeds a new Duramax turbodiesel engine pumping out an awe-inspiring 910 lb-ft of torque. In other words, this heaviest-duty Sierra might not look different, but it sure is more capable.

Beyond the Duramax, the Sierra 3500HD continues to impress with its classy take on the heavy-duty truck segment. There's plenty of chrome to go around and interesting styling flourishes, but there's just something less gaudy about the Sierra that we like -- even in popular Denali guise. We also like its spacious cabin, which offers quality materials, abundant feature content and a no-nonsense designed anchored by the user-friendly IntelliLink touchscreen interface. Overall, the Sierra's competitors may offer unique features and a greater variety of models, but it's certainly hard to argue with this mighty GMC's capability.

 What's New for 2017?

The Sierra HD gets a new turbodiesel engine for 2017, boasting 445 horsepower and a stump-pulling 910 lb-ft of torque. That's up from 397 and 765, respectively. There's also a new cooling system to maintain that power under extreme loads and temperatures.

 What We Like

Massive towing and hauling capabilities; strong Duramax diesel engine; user-friendly technology; multiple parking and towing cameras; classy Denali model

What We Don't

Rivals technically have greater towing capacity; no self-leveling suspension such as with the RAM HD

 How Much?

$35,800-$54,600

 Fuel Economy

The 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD offers two engines. The truck's standard power plant is a 6.0-liter V8 making 360 hp and a muscular 380 lb-ft of torque. Although capable, that engine is hugely outdone by the optional 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 that produces 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is standard with both.

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. When unloaded, most drivers will see around 14 miles per gallon in combined driving.

 Standard Features & Options

The 2017 GMC Sierra 3500HD comes in a wide variety of trim levels, body styles and configurations. There are Regular, Extended and Crew 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.

As for trim levels, the Sierra starts with a base model simply called the Sierra ($35,300) that actually comes pretty well-equipped. Standard features include 17-inch steel wheels, an automatic locking rear differential, xenon headlights, LED running/accent lights, power locks, manual windows, cruise control, a front beach seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and either a 4- or 6-speaker sound system, depending on whether you get a Regular Cab or a 4-door model. You also have a choice of cloth or vinyl upholstery. To the base model you can specify the 7-in IntelliLink touchscreen that brings with it Bluetooth, satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, OnStar and 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

Next up is the Sierra SLE ($40,000), which adds the above tech items along with alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, keyless entry and a remote-locking tailgate, a backup camera, power windows, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player, HD Radio and an 8-in touchscreen.

Above the SLE is the upscale SLT ($48,500), which adds 18-in wheels, power-folding mirrors, heated 8-way power front seats, driver memory settings, power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and remote ignition.

To the SLT (4WD/Crew Cab/single rear wheel), you can add the All-Terrain HD package. Available only as a Crew Cab, it adds all-terrain tires, the "Z71" off-road suspension, underbody protection, side steps, a spray-in bedliner, body-color bumper trim, parking sensors and a heated steering wheel. The Z71 suspension can be ordered separately on the SLE and SLT, though again, not with dual rear wheels.

There's also the popular range-topping Sierra Denali trim ($55,600). Available only as a Crew Cab, it adds unique styling elements plus 20-in wheels, side steps, a power-sliding rear window, parking sensors, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, wireless smartphone charging and a Bose sound system.

In terms of options, the Sierra 2500HD offers quite a few, including upper trim level features being available on lower trims. In addition to the Duramax turbodiesel engine, Sierra buyers can also opt for a heavy-duty trailer package, a snow plow prep package and high-tech safety features, including a forward-collision alert system and a lane-departure warning system that vibrates the driver's seat should you drift from your lane.

Safety

The 2017 Sierra 3500HD boasts standard side airbags, side-curtain airbags, traction control, stability control and trailer sway control. Optional safety features include a backup camera, front and rear park assist, forward-collision alert and a lane-departure warning system.

The 3500HD has not 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 it still drives like one. Expect light steering, huge dimensions that are unfriendly in 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.

As for engine choice, the new 6.6-liter turbodiesel is your best choice if you have serious towing and hauling needs -- and isn't that a given for a 3500 truck? Its mammoth 910 lb-ft of torque will pull, pull and keep on pulling no matter what you throw at it. It also benefits from a smart 6-speed transmission, extra cooling for extreme situations and a standard exhaust brake that takes stress off the brakes. When towing, we also appreciate the multiple cameras that help you hitch up a trailer as well as help keep an eye on its sides once under way.

Inside, the Sierra's cabin design is a little more functional in its design than its competitors', especially when you compare the popular, range-topping Denali trim to other high-dollar heavy-duty trucks. It has less of an overt luxury feel, but we think that's okay given its strong quality. We certainly appreciate its no-nonsense functionality, especially its user-friendly IntelliLink touchscreen controls. Climbing into the back, you'll find abundant room for the family, and there are plenty of creature comforts available to keep everyone comfortable and entertained.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 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.

2017 Ford F-350 Super Duty -- The F-350 Super Duty is all-new for 2017. It gets a stronger frame, more powerful engines, an upgraded cabin and more available features. It's also available in a wider variety of models and trim levels.

2017 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 a self-leveling suspension and extra-large Mega Cab configuration.

 Autotrader's Advice

It may seem odd, but the most expensive 3500HD is actually its best-selling version. Indeed, the Denali equipped with the Duramax diesel is the people's favorite, and who are we to argue? It has all the capability you could want for the job at hand, along with plenty of style and creature comforts to make sure that you and the family are well-pampered on the journey.

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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.
2017 GMC Sierra 3500HD: New Car Review - Autotrader