GMC redesigned its complete line of full-size Sierra pickup trucks for the 2003 model year. While the automaker positions its trucks as “professional grade,” the similar Chevrolet Silverado ranks as the high-volume member of the duo.
For 2004, the heavier-duty 1500HD series has been dropped, but a new 1500 Crew Cab model is available in SLE and SLT trim levels with a 5-foot-8-inch cargo box. GMC’s Work Truck Package is now available for all Sierras. Base trucks have a chrome grille surround, chrome steel wheels and a chrome rear bumper.
The Sierra 1500 has a half-ton rating while the 2500 and 2500HD have a three-quarter-ton rating. The 3500 provides a one-ton rating. Whereas the higher number models provide an increased level of hauling and towing capability, the lowest rated, 1500 model offers editions that are not available in the others, such as the Sierra Denali luxury truck. Continue reading for information on the Sierra 1500.
(Skip to details on the: 2500 | 2500HD | 3500)
The Sierra Denali is a luxury extended-cab pickup with a 325-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 engine, permanent all-wheel drive and a specially tuned suspension. Chevrolet does not offer an equivalent to the Sierra Denali, and GMC offers no equivalent to the high-performance Silverado SS pickup.General Motors’ Quadrasteer four-wheel-steering system is standard on the Sierra Denali and optional on other extended-cab Sierras. Introduced in 2002, Quadrasteer is an electromechanical system that turns the rear wheels up to 12 degrees in relation to the front wheels, which greatly improves low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.
The styling of light-duty Sierras is similar to the heavy-duty models. The Sierra 1500’s front end was inspired by the Terra4 concept truck. Sierras differ from Silverados mainly in the front, which is dominated by a bolder grille and a prominent red GMC badge.
Regular-cab and extended-cab models come with either a 6.5- or 8-foot cargo bed. Short-bed models may have flared rear fenders (Sportside), whereas Wideside models have a slab-sided cargo bed. Four wheelbases range from 119 to 157.5 inches.Crew Cab trucks have four, conventional, front-hinged doors. Extended-cab trucks have two front doors and a pair of narrow back doors that open toward the rear and can’t be opened unless the front doors are open. New 17-inch aluminum wheels are available for four-wheel-drive Sierras.
Regular-cab models seat either three occupants on a bench or two people in twin buckets, while extended-cab pickups have a rear bench seat and can carry five or six passengers. Models with bucket seats have a standard center console that flows up into the instrument panel. Optional uplevel mirrors have a power-folding feature for parking in narrow spaces.
Stereos may have Radio Data System (RDS) capability and can work with XM Satellite Radio. Denali and SLT models have a six-CD changer. Crew Cab trucks may be equipped with a DVD entertainment system.
Under the Hood
Other than the Denali’s 325-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 engine, the powertrain choices for the Sierra 1500 match those of the Silverado. Regular-cab models have a standard 195-hp, 4.3-liter V-6. The two optional V-8s are a 4.8-liter that makes 285 hp and a 5.3-liter rated at 295 hp. A version of the 5.3-liter V-8 can run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional.
Three four-wheel-drive systems are available for the Sierra 1500. Insta-Trac is an on-demand system with a floor-mounted transfer case that is available for base models. Autotrac is an automatically engaging system that transfers power to the front wheels, as needed, on slippery surfaces. This system can be installed on the SLE and SLT trim levels. The Sierra Denali is equipped with all-wheel drive.
Dual-level front airbags with a passenger-sensing system are standard. The enhanced antilock braking system requires less pedal force during rapid stops.
Like the light-duty Sierra 1500 pickups, GMC’s three-quarter-ton 2500 series was redesigned for the 2003 model year. The front end was freshened, which GMC said enhances the trucks’ “professional grade” appearance. The Sierra 2500 comes in Work Truck, base, SLE and upscale SLT trim levels. A new 2500 Crew Cab model has a 6.5-foot cargo box.
Regular-cab models come with an 8-foot cargo bed, and extended-cab trucks have a 6.5-foot bed. All Sierra 2500 versions have a slab-sided cargo bed and are known as Wideside models. The black grille contains three horizontal bars and a prominent red GMC badge.Sierra 2500 pickups have a standard 6.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 300 hp and 360 pounds-feet of torque. Either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission may be installed. Back to top
Like the light-duty Sierra 1500 and 2500 pickups, GMC’s heavier-duty 2500HD series was redesigned for 2003. Sierra 2500HD trucks come in Work Truck, base, SLE and upscale SLT trim levels. A Panasonic rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 7-inch screen and wireless headphones is available for Crew Cab models.
Regular-cab models come only with an 8-foot cargo bed, and extended-cab trucks can have either a 6.5- or 8-foot bed. Light-duty short-bed Sierra 1500s can have Sportside flared rear fenders, but all Sierra 2500HD versions have a slab-sided cargo bed and are known as Wideside models. Five wheelbases that range from 133 to 167 inches in length are available.
Extended cabs have two front doors and a pair of narrow back doors that open toward the rear and can’t be opened unless the front doors are open. Crew Cab models have four conventional doors that open toward the front and can seat up to six occupants when properly equipped.
The standard 6.0-liter V-8 engine produces 300 hp and 360 pounds-feet of torque. For greater hauling capacity, a 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 generates 300 hp and 520 pounds-feet of torque with a manual transmission (310 hp and 590 pounds-feet of torque when connected to an automatic transmission), while the big-block 8.1-liter gasoline V-8 churns out 330 hp and 450 pounds-feet of torque. A four-speed-automatic transmission is standard, and a five-speed manual is optional. A six-speed manual and an Allison five-speed-automatic transmission are also offered as options. Insta-Trac part-time four-wheel drive features electric shifting with a floor-mounted transfer case.The Sierra 2500HD’s payloads range from 3,144 to 4,047 pounds. A Sierra 2500HD equipped with the 8.1-liter V-8 or 6.6-liter diesel engine and a weight-distributing hitch can tow as much as 12,000 pounds. Back to top
GMC’s heavy-duty, one-ton, 3500 series also was redesigned for 2003. A new four-wheel-drive series has single rear wheels and either a long box or chassis-cab configuration. These Sierras come in Work Truck, base, SLE and upscale SLT trim levels and with a choice of three cab styles.
Regular-cab, extended-cab and Crew Cab models all come with an 8-foot slab-sided cargo bed, called Wideside. Regular-cab versions have a 133-inch wheelbase, while extended-cab trucks ride a 157.5-inch span and the Crew Cab’s is 167 inches. Chassis-cab models, which forgo a cargo bed, are offered in longer sizes. Some Sierra 3500 trucks have two pairs of rear wheels.
Sierra 3500 pickups have a standard 6.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 300 hp and 360 pounds-feet of torque. An available 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 generates 300 hp and 520 pounds-feet of torque with a manual transmission (310 hp and 590 pounds-feet of torque when connected to an automatic transmission), while the big-block 8.1-liter gasoline V-8 makes 330 hp and 450 pounds-feet of torque. A four-speed-automatic transmission is standard, and a five-speed manual is optional. A six-speed manual and an Allison five-speed-automatic transmission also are offered as options.Payloads for regular Sierra 3500 trucks range from 3,660 to 5,559 pounds. A Sierra 3500 equipped with the 8.1-liter V-8 or the 6.6-liter diesel engine and a weight-distributing hitch can tow as much as 12,000 pounds. Back to top
Like the Silverado, GMC’s Sierra 1500 can be equipped with simple features for basic work duty or it can be fully decked out with extras to make it resemble a luxury automobile. High-end models are quite appealing for regular driving. Though the Sierra is certainly not carlike, drivers may occasionally forget that they’re inside a truck.
Quietness in the Sierra 1500 is above average. Even though the ride isn’t cushiony, a luxury edition is about as smooth on pavement as you’re likely to find in a pickup. The 5.3-liter V-8 engine delivers plenty of zip, and it’s matched up with a well-behaved and quick-responding automatic transmission.Quadrasteer is expensive, but it provides great maneuverability benefits; this system makes the Sierra even easier to steer. Because of their manageable size, these pickups are relatively easy to judge while parking, and climbing aboard a four-wheel-drive model isn’t an arduous task.