By Aaron BragmanOctober 6, 2022
When it comes to trucks for people who genuinely need them, it’s hard to beat heavy-duty pickups. They’re massive, super-powerful, usually horrifically inefficient, and nothing out there can do what they do better than they do. Need to tow a huge boat? A horse trailer? Haul a massive camper across the country? An electric pickup isn’t gonna cut it, but a new 2024 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 certainly would.
The Small Tweaks
Looking at the new 2024 truck shows that this is a significant refresh, but it’s not an all-new model by any means. The new front end brings the truck’s looks much more in line with the half-ton Sierra 1500, just scaled up to look about 10% bigger than the smaller pickup. With the premium Denali and AT4 trims making up the majority of the Sierra HD’s sales, the brand is focused heavily on making sure that these are where most buyers focus their attention. As such, the new Denali Ultimate and AT4X trims will bring even higher levels of luxury appointments (and commensurately greater sticker prices) to the HD lineup.
From a styling standpoint, it wasn’t easy to discern just how much more special the Denali Ultimate would be from the regular Denali, despite both being on hand for my up-close look at them, due to the dark metallic paint and indoor lighting. The brightwork chrome trim on the regular Sierra 3500 Denali that was present showed off the new, deeper grille better, but that grille and trim disappeared when done up in “Vader” dark chrome and set against a dark metallic gray truck. I’ll have to see it on a brighter-colored truck first, but my preference for style might actually be the normal Denali, as its badging and details popped more when rendered in bright chrome.
The powertrains’ minor tweaks also aren’t much to write home about aside from the fact that they should add up to some functional improvements in how the Sierra HD works. The base gas V-8 engine is a carryover, but getting matched up to the excellent Allison 10-speed automatic transmission should make some noticeable performance improvements. The small bump in power for the Duramax diesel V-8 also is not likely to be very noticeable, but the engine comes with some pretty significant updates right down to the turbochargers.
There are no updates to payload ratings, at least none that GMC pointed out, no new bed technology and an increased towing capacity of 4,000 pounds for the 2500 model is welcome but not extraordinary. In terms of overall capability, styling or engineering improvements, the changes to the Sierra HD have been modest for 2024 — but frankly, the old truck was not lacking in any of these departments, so none of this really needed any change.
Where They Spent the Money
Where the company focused its attention was in two areas: towing tech and an all-new interior. The Sierra HD’s towing tech was already pretty slick, but adding features like Transparent Trailer for the gooseneck and fifth-wheel set just expands the availability of a very, very good thing. Transparent Trailer might just be one of the most remarkable trailering technologies to come along ever: Using an accessory camera on the back of the trailer that ties into the truck’s own system and providing a rear camera view on the big central touchscreen as if the trailer wasn’t even there is practically movie magic.
GMC says that the new Sierra HD has a lot of best-in-class technology for towing, and we’d agree … if Ford hadn’t just shown us a new 2023 Super Duty that has a trailering feature easily as buzzworthy. The new Ford has a system in which you identify your trailer’s hitch ball on a backup camera screen, then take your hands off the wheel and operate only the pedals as the truck aligns and backs itself up directly on the ball. That’s as cool as Transparent Trailer tech, but I think it’s going to take a head-to-head towing test to really sort out who has the best systems now.
The most noticeable place where GMC spent the money is on an all-new interior — well, all-new to the HD, but if it looks familiar, that’s because it’s the exact same interior featured in the half-ton Sierra. In Denali Ultimate trim, it’s pretty spectacular.
Good-quality leather is practically everywhere: the lower dash, doors, front and rear seats, center console, steering wheel, even the front and backseat grab handles. The headliner, visor and pillars are faux suede. The wood is real wood despite it being somewhat cheapened by a tacky laser-etched topographic map of Mount Denali (this doesn’t add anything to the luxuriousness of the interior). And there’s tons of space throughout the cabin, as you’d expect in a truck this massive. The big difference: The shifter is no longer located on the center console and has been relocated to the steering column right where God intended HD pickup shift levers to be.
The screen game in the Sierra HD is strong, as well, with an available 15-inch heads-up display combined with a 12.3-inch digital cluster and an optional 13.4-inch center console touchscreen to make for the most futuristic-looking HD pickup interior I’ve yet come across. Thankfully, GMC hasn’t gone full touch-sensitive on its controls yet, and we’re dreading the day it eventually does (as everyone seems to be heading in that direction). My only concern about the flashy new tech is that it uses Google Built-In technology to run everything from the voice commands to the multimedia system; this tech hasn’t worked 100% properly in any vehicle I’ve yet tested it in. Here’s hoping the new 2024 Sierra HD will be different in that regard.
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