Sierra received a complete makeover in 2019. Consequently, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 returns this year with few changes. One of the big ones, though, is that the 15-view camera suite featuring transparent trailer recently introduced on the Sierra HD is now included in the optional Technology Package offered on SLT, AT4 and Denali grades.
Although Sierra and its cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado, share a lot of DNA, GMC elevates Sierra with upgraded interiors and a few extra standard features. It’s a work-capable truck with a higher-end pedigree.
What’s New for 2020?
Because GMC completely redesigned Sierra for 2019, there aren’t a bushel of changes for 2020, but there are some interesting enhancements and additions. Available on the top trims is the updated Technology Package with its transparent-trailer view launched on the 2020 Sierra HD. Camera-based adaptive cruise control is available on grades from SLT on up. Availability of 10-speed automatic transmission expands to the 5.3L V8 models of 4-wheel drive SLT, AT4 and Denali. New trailer-tow mirrors are offered across the board as a free option. See the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Classy styling
- Industry-exclusive MultiPro tailgate
- Upgraded ProGrade trailering system
- User-friendly infotainment system
- Available carbon fiber bed
- Smooth ride, especially with optional Adaptive Ride Control
- Luxurious Denali model
- Strong V8 and turbo-diesel engines
What We Don’t
- Interior is still too similar to the Silverado
- Arguably overpriced in the higher trims when compared to competitors
- Outclassed in interior luxury by some rivals
- AT4 trim could use more off-road capability
The most efficient version of the gasoline-fueled Sierras is the 2-wheel drive 2.7-liter turbo 4-cylinder truck with its 8-speed automatic transmission. It achieves a government-estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Opting for 4WD scrubs one mpg from both numbers. It delivers 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque.
The base 4.3-liter V6 with its 6-speed automatic transmission makes 285 hp and 305 lb-ft. It delivers 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy.
The 355 hp 5.3-liter V8 generates 383 lb-ft of torque and gets 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy when equipped with the 8-speed automatic transmission. When mated to the 10-speed automatic transmission and 4WD, it delivers 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway.
The 420 hp 6.2-liter V8 creates 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s only offered with 4WD and provides up to 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy.
Delivering 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy is the 3.0-liter I-6-cylinder engine paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission. It makes 277 hp and a whopping 460 lb-ft of torque. Opting for 4WD drops the mileage numbers to 22 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Despite being marketed so heavily as a luxury vehicle, there aren’t an overwhelming number of bells and whistles standard on the base model of the Sierra 1500 because it’s still, after all, a work truck at heart. You will pay extra for any exterior color other than white. Paint prices begin at $195 for red up to $595 for what GMC labels Red Quartz Tintcoat. All prices include the $1,595 factory destination charge.
Standard on the base Sierra ($31,195) are LED headlights and taillights, an illuminated cargo bed, rear corner steps, a 7-in infotainment system with Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get one USB port. Other than that, it’s a pretty bare-bones work truck, which we actually like as a simple, yet modern tool for getting the job done on a budget. This is the only version of the Sierra you can get with a single cab configuration and the base V6 engine.
Moving up to the SLE trim ($39,395) gives you a much nicer truck. The base engine becomes the 2.7-liter turbo-four. It can only be had in double cab or crew cab configurations. With it comes an upgrade to an 8-in infotainment system that is 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot-capable plus standard creature comforts like cruise control, carpeted floor covering, 6-speaker audio, a color driver information center in the dash, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control, multiple USB ports and more. It’s also nicer on the outside with alloy wheels, chrome bumpers and body-color door handles.
Next up is the Elevation trim ($41,895), which puts a sporty spin on this rugged truck. It has a monochromatic appearance package with a big, black grille, LED fog lamps and body-color painted bumpers plus 20-in black rims. In terms of standard and available features, the Elevation model is pretty similar to the SLE.
Upgrading to the Sierra SLT ($45,895) is where things really start to get fancy. The standard engine is the 5.3-liter V8 with DFM and it’s where the MultiPro tailgate becomes available. It also adds high-intensity lighting, a traction select system and the ProGrade trailering system, which includes Hitch Guidance with a Hitch View rear camera, auto electric parking brake assist and a tailgate-mounted light for easy nighttime trailer hook-ups. There’s also a handy trailering app in the Sierra’s infotainment system. On the SLT model, you also get an integrated trailer brake controller, leather seats that are heated and power-adjustable in front and a heated steering wheel. This is also where the 6.2-liter V8 becomes an available option. Truck shoppers looking for a satisfying blend of luxury, capability, technology and value should take a close look at the Sierra SLT.
The next step up the Sierra food chain is the AT4 ($52,595). AT4 is a new off-road sub-brand of GMC, with this Sierra being the first member of the AT4 family. However, don’t expect Ford F-150 Raptor levels of off-road insanity. The Sierra AT4 comes with standard 4WD, the MultiPro tailgate, a 2-in lift kit, an AutoTrac 2-speed transfer case, Rancho off-road suspension and skid plates, an automatic locking rear differential, black leather seats with Kalahari accents (an AT4 exclusive), heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear outboard seats. The appearance package includes red vertical recovery hooks and a black chrome grille and accents. The Sierra AT4 certainly looks the part of an off-roader and it has a few nice improvements over the standard Sierra, but it would be nice to see a Sierra that’s more competitive with the likes of the mighty Raptor.
Finally, we’ve reached the summit of GMC pickup excellence: the Denali ($56,295). This luxurious pickup comes standard with perforated Forge leather seating and open-pore ash wood trim, making for premium materials you might be surprised to find in a pickup truck. Of course, the seats are heated and ventilated in front and heated in back, plus you get an 8-in digital driver information center in the dash, Bose premium audio, lane-change assist with side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat and even more safety tech. Available tech in the Denali includes a head-up display, a surround-vision camera, a rear camera mirror, MultiPro power steps and more. On the outside, you get a signature Denali grille with high-gloss black mesh and chrome inserts, plus plenty of Denali badging inside and out. The Sierra Denali has a gorgeous interior, but it has a tough competitor in the likes of the high-end Ram 1500 models, which are available with similar premium materials and a massive 12-in infotainment system.
There are all manner of options and option packages in numbers too many to itemize here.
The 2020 Sierra 1500 gets pretty good marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, getting a Good rating in most categories but only a Marginal rating for passenger-side small-overlap front crash test. It gets a Poor rating for headlights but a Superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation with optional equipment.
That optional equipment in question includes two different Driver Alert packages. Driver Alert Package I has front and rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change alert with side blind zone alert. Driver Alert Package II throws in safety alert seat, automatic high beams, a following distance indicator and forward-collision warning.
Behind the Wheel
One of the first things we noticed when we spent some time behind the wheel of the 2020 Sierra is just how smooth and comfortable it is. It’s not hard to see why trucks are so popular, even for folks who might not necessarily need their muscular capabilities that often. Regardless of the payload you’re carrying or the load that you’re towing, if any at all, the Sierra is just a nice highway cruiser, especially the Denali model equipped with Adaptive Ride Control, which makes it even smoother on the highway but doesn’t make all that much of a difference in city driving.
The MultiPro tailgate might seem gimmicky, but we love it. We think its many functions can actually save you a lot of time for specific hauling purposes like long items that require load stops. It also makes it a breeze to climb in and out of the bed and easier to reach your cargo. We even found the desk feature to be useful for setting a laptop on and getting some work done. The MultiPro tailgate isn’t an absolute necessity, but it’s a worthwhile upgrade if you’re planning on doing a lot of hauling. Mechanically speaking, we have few complaints about the tried and true V8 engines available under the hood of the Sierra. We like the fuel economy of the 5.3-liter and we like the muscle of the 6.2-liter. The turbo-four is a good option if saving fuel is your top priority, especially if you do a lot of city driving. The V6 is good enough for the base model, but we’re not too upset about it not being available in most trims. Then there is the turbodiesel with its monster torque and 30 mpg on the highway.
The age-old problem of hooking up a trailer being a pain in the neck, especially by yourself, has been largely remedied by GMC, which is saying a lot. The upgraded optional ProGrade trailering system is a must for anyone who does a lot of trailering and doesn’t always have the luxury of someone to wave their arms around behind you, indicating how close you are to your target while hooking up the trailer. Having that camera showing exactly where you need to put the truck plus the safety benefit of auto braking assist make for a much-improved trailer hook-up experience that we think is worth the cost.
Moreover, the platoon of cameras that work in harmony to provide up to 16 views, including the remarkable “transparent trailer” view, nearly makes child’s play of towing a big load. It really allows the driver to keep track of what is going behind the trailer as well as along its flanks.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Chevrolet Silverado — An obvious choice for a truck you should be cross-shopping with the Sierra is its mechanical twin: the Chevy Silverado. The Silverado lacks available features exclusive to the Sierra like a carbon fiber bed and the MultiPro tailgate, but if neither of those matter to you, the Chevy has the same strong engines and a similarly roomy interior at a slightly lower price. Which one is right for you largely comes down to your personal taste.
2020 Ford F-150 — There’s a ton of brand loyalty in pickup trucks, but if you don’t mind which badge is on your truck, the bestselling Ford F-150 is a great choice. Like the Sierra, the Ford had a wide model range from a stripped-down work truck to an opulent luxury pickup to an off-roader.
2020 Ram 1500 — The Ram 1500 was also all-new for 2019 and like the Sierra, it has seriously stepped up its game in terms of styling, technology and capability. The Ram gets great fuel economy with the mild hybrid system that comes standard on the base V6 and optional on the Hemi V8. Its higher trims, especially the Limited model, give the Sierra Denali a serious run for its money.
Used GMC Sierra — Mechanically, a used Sierra 1500 from its previous generation isn’t all that different from the all-new model. The outgoing model doesn’t have the option of a 4-cylinder or a diesel, but it does have the same V6 and similar versions of the two V8s in the 2020 model. A used Sierra is a good way to get a nice, modern truck at a discounted price.
One of the great things about the current Sierra is its amazingly diverse model range. We think the sweet spot is in the SLT model, which gives you the cool MultiPro tailgate, a leather-trimmed interior, the ProGrade trailering tech and a great V8 engine in the mid-$40k range. That makes it a strong value for most truck shoppers. Obviously, if you want more luxury, the Sierra Denali is a great choice and the Sierra AT4 looks cool and has some nice off-road kit for the occasional off-road adventure. No matter which one you go with, you’re getting a classy, modern, high-tech truck in the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500. Find a GMC Sierra 1500 for sale