Pickups are no longer primarily work vehicles. Like sports cars or SUVs, they are personal choice vehicles whose style, function and flair appeal to those who want a vehicle that blends practicality with everyday comfort.
The redesigned 2007 GMC Sierra comes in regular, extended and crew-cab models with three box lengths: 5 feet 8 inches; 6 feet 6 inches; and 8 feet. There are three trim levels: work truck, SLE and SLT.
I drove a two-wheel-drive extended cab equipped with the top SLT trim package from GMC's press fleet. Its base price was $31,150 and the sticker was $38,385.
The Sierra looks beefy on the outside, but the upscale SLT has an interior that is as well appointed as an SUV or passenger car. The test truck had heated leather seats, Bose speakers, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer fluid, power locks, power windows and radio controls on the steering wheel.
The test truck also had the optional easy-lift tailgate that can be opened and closed with one hand.
Engine choices range from a 4.3-liter V-6 to a 6.0-liter V-8. The Sierra Denali has its own 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 400 horsepower.
The 5.3-liter engine has 315 horsepower, and it comes in four versions. Two have cast-iron engine blocks and two have aluminum. Two engines are flex-fuel models capable of burning E85 ethanol.
The 5.3-liter V-8 in the test truck shut down four cylinders under moderate loads to save fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency rated the mileage at 16 city and 21 highway. This engine has very little vibration, and acceleration is strong because the engine produces good power at relatively small throttle openings.
Power and performance alone aren't as important as the overall package. The Sierra's cabin is spacious and comfortable. The instrument panel has been moved down and away from the driver for better visibility. The SLT interior is very similar to that of the Yukon, which is to say it has woodgrain trim, brushed aluminum accents and a leatherlike texture. Seams are few and gaps are small.
The 60/40 back seat folds flat for extra load space, and the side doors open 170 degrees for easier loading. The extended cab's small doors can be opened only after the front doors are opened. The lack of a center post makes it easy to load bulky items behind the front seat.
The Sierra has four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock standard. The test vehicle was equipped with GM's StabiliTrak vehicle stability system, a $425 option that is well worth the cost.
Roof-mounted side curtain airbags are optional on the SLE and SLT models.
The Sierra is offered with five suspension packages that range from one designed for comfort to one designed for off-road use. The test truck was equipped with the Z85 suspension designed to deliver good handling and towing capability. A special Z60 package with 20-inch wheels was created for those who want maximum street performance.
The Z85 suspension provided a reasonably smooth ride and competent handling. The truck's stability is due in part to a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension and a track that is 3 inches wider in front and 1 inch wider in back.
Shock absorbers on the rear axle are splayed outward and upright for better handling.
For daily use, the Sierra SLT is as comfortable and well equipped as an SUV. That's proof that pickups are no longer crude workhorses.
Price The test truck's base price was $31,150. Options included heated leather seats, Bose audio system, heated windshield washer fluid, rain-sensing wipers, remote vehicle start, trailer towing package and locking rear differential. Other options included the easy-lift tailgate, navigation system, power sunroof and a 3.73 rear axle ratio. The sticker price was $38,385.
Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.