A sport/luxury pickup truck may sound like an oxymoron, but since pickups are rapidly become more like cars with beds instead of work vehicles, and since automakers are intent on building something to fit every conceivable market segment, it seems less perplexing.Take GMC's Sierra C3, for example. It is loaded with enough luxury goodies to humble your basic sedan, yet performance has not been ignored either. It hits 60 mph in 8 seconds and has leather seats that are as sumptuous as the GMC Denali or Cadillac Escalade. In fact, the Sierra C3 and Denali are twins separated only by a 6.5-foot pickup bed. The fact that the bed is covered with a soft tonneau cover gives a good indication of how often buyers will actually carry cargo. This truck sports a grille similar to the Denali and sits atop 17-inch wheels that wrap around heavy-duty disc brakes, borrowed from the three-quarter-ton Sierra, on all four wheels. Its heart is the 325-horsepower, 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 and an all-wheel-drive system that sends 38 percent of its drive to the front wheels. Instant throttle response and hill-flattening torque are the hallmarks of the Vortec V-8, and the Sierra C3 has both in spades. A 3.73 rear axle ratio and the automatic transmission's low first gear enables it to scamper away from stoplights like a first-grader headed out to recess. A downside to all this urge is the EPA mileage rating of 11 mpg city and 14 mpg on the highway. I suppose the kind of folks who plunk down $39,000 for a pickup aren't likely to worry too much about the cost of fuel. GMC retuned the C3's suspension so it rides smoothly, takes turns without feeling tippy and If towing is your gig, the retuned suspension is more than able to handle it. The main benefit of the suspension change is good cornering response and over-the-road handling. Bumpy highways roll under the wheels with hardly a hiccup, and at times the ride is almost too soft. While the C3 is not a sports car, it flits through turns with excellent stability and grip, thanks in large measure to the balance created by the all-wheel drive system. Not all of the C3's handling is golden, however. The power steering is too light at slow speeds and I would prefer a more linear feel. The C3's cabin is like a Sierra dressed for a fancy outing. Wood trim abounds, and the quality of the two-tone leather that adorns seats, console and door panels is on par with the best of any luxury sedans. The widely adjustable seats cradle their occupants with ample side and lumbar padding and are so comfortable I often wished I could take them into my family room. The interior color scheme is bright without being gaudy. The large center console is big enough to store sizable objects and has a power outlet inside. The underside of the lid has a handy place for carrying a cell phone or note pad. The leather-covered steering wheel has redundant controls for the audio system, which is handy, but their feel is n ot on par with the price of the vehicle. Back seats are increasingly commonplace in trucks, and the one in the C3, while not as roomy as a four-door cab, is certainly adequate for adult habitation on short drives. Access is through rear-opening side doors that can only be used once the main door is open. The back seat folds up to create a weather-tight cargo space. Rear-seat audio controls and cupholders are built into the back of the center console. OnStar, GM's GPS-based wireless communication system, is standard. OnStar advisors communicate with the driver to provide a wide range of information, from checking routes to arranging accommodations. The system notifies an advisor in case of an airbag activation, and emergency help can be automatically dispatched. If you want the amenities of a luxury SUV, the function of a pickup truck and a dose of strong performance, the Sierra C3 might just be for you. Price
The base price of the test truck was $ ,370. Add freight and the sticker price was $39,090. Warranty
Three years or 36,000 miles. Point:
The Sierra C3 is a mixture of luxury and performance, with a hint of practicality thrown in. The 6.0-liter V-8 has startling power and the leather interior is first-rate. Counterpoint:
This truck is very expensive and uses a lot of gas. The ride is a tad soft and the power steering needs a more linear feel. Finger-tip audio controls attached to the steering hub look and feel like an afterthought. SPECIFICATIONS:
Engine: 6.0-liter, 325-hp V-8
Transmission: automatic All-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,013 lbs.
Base price: $38,370
As driven: $39,090
Mpg rating: 11 city, 14 hwy.
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