Full-size truck sales are smokin’ hot these days. That’s great news for General Motors, because it has not one but two truck brands in its lineup, the only automaker in this position. But for decades, its dedicated truck brand, GMC Truck, has been on a quest to differentiate itself from the volume truck brand at General Motors, Chevrolet. Those efforts reach fruition with the all-new 2019 GMC Sierra.
Until now, the efforts to cast a wider buyer net for GMC have been mostly centered around minor styling tweaks to grilles and wheels, upping the standard equipment tally ever so slightly, adding an exclusive option here and there, and building an advertising and marketing message around being "Professional Grade." To a certain extent, the strategy has worked, as the Sierra pickup is the best-selling GMC product, its sales easily outdistancing the midsize Acadia SUV’s in 2017 by a two-to-one ratio.
Not to be trifled with, GMC was the first truck brand to launch a luxury subbrand in 1999. As proof of its efficacy, the upscale Denali concept has since been embraced at other full-size truck brands — the Platinum at Ford, the Limited at Ram and the LTZ and High Country at Chevrolet.
Nevertheless, the rap has persisted — at least, in some full-size pickup buyers’ eyes, the Sierra still looked, drove and functioned pretty much like a fancy Chevy Silverado.
Sierra — the 2019 Reboot
The 2019 model year brings us new-from-the-ground-up General Motors full-size pickups. And this time, the GMC Sierra receives more of the differentiation the brand has been seeking.
While both the Silverado and Sierra still roll off the same assembly lines with largely the same powertrains, chassis componentry and inner body structures, the GMC version gets a completely unique design with an outsize shield-shaped grille, C-shaped LED front lighting and trapezoidal wheel openings. In fact, for the first time, the Sierra shares no exterior sheet metal with the Silverado except the roof panel. It’s got a look all its own.
New From Back to Front
But the greatest Sierra distinction is saved for the business end of the truck. Standard on Sierra SLT and Denali is a Swiss Army Knife-like tailgate with six different opening configurations. Dubbed the "MultiPro Tailgate," it features a deployable inner tailgate within the traditional drop-down primary, or "outer," tailgate. Users can lower and raise the whole tailgate assembly — now featuring an electric lock and power assist via cab switch or keyfob — in the traditional manner. They can lower just the inner tailgate for access to bed contents without dropping the main outer tailgate, use the opened inner tailgate as a raised work surface, or pivot up the top surface of the opened inner tailgate as a load stop. And with the primary gate lowered, they can pivot up the inner tailgate as a load stop or pivot down the inner tailgate to use as a cutout to gain access to the bed or as a convenient step to climb up into the bed (a step that can handle truckers weighing up to 375 pounds, by the way) .
Knowing full-size truck owners, there are probably a few more configurations for this multifaceted tailgate that we’ll see in use out there. But for the time being, at least, it looks like the GMC Sierra has this feature exclusively.
What separates a pickup truck from other vehicles is its cargo bed. As with the 2019 Silverado, the new Sierra gets a roomier pickup box (available in two sizes) with flatter inner bed sides that add another 7 inches of width inside. The base 2019 Sierra will start production with pickup boxes featuring floors with higher-tensile-strength roll-formed steel, but later in the model year the GMC will be available with a new (extra-cost) CarbonPro carbon-fiber bed. Last year’s pickup-bed wars, which played out between the Ford F-150’s lightweight mil-spec aluminum and the Chevy Silverado’s dent-resistant roll-formed steel boxes in television ads, are bound to get more interesting with the advent of GMC’s CarbonPro. More than just a bed liner, CarbonPro is a structural pickup box that’s virtually scratch-, dent- and corrosion-proof. That, and it will no doubt provide plenty of bragging rights at lumber yards and hardware and feed stores. As with the trick tailgate, CarbonPro is a Sierra exclusive for 2019.
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The 2019 GMC Sierra will differentiate itself from the Silverado and some other full-size trucks with new technology, such as an optional color 3-by-7-inch head-up display for projecting select vehicle info just below the driver’s line of sight on the windshield. The Sierra will also be available with a rearview camera mirror, similar to those used in the Chevy Bolt and some Cadillacs, with tilt-and-zoom features that display a hi-res video image of what’s behind the truck, unobstructed by people or cargo. A ProGrade trailering system, standard on the Sierra SLT and Denali, will make for a more confident trailer-towing experience.
Roomier both inside the cabin and in the cargo box; lighter; and with a lineup of powerful V8s, a new 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel and a fresh 10-speed automatic transmission, the 2019 GMC Sierra has a lot going for it that’s also shared with the new Chevrolet Silverado. But the Sierra also has its own mini-locomotive design vibe, as well as an exclusive carbon-fiber bed and multifunctional tailgate to help set it apart from the full-size pickup-truck crowd. And it looks pretty darn dapper in range-topping Denali trim.