Under the Hood: 2017 GMC Sierra

The differences between the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado are skin deep. The two share the same platform, engine options, and capabilities. Despite this, GMC’s truck is still a hit with buyers. As recently as August, it has been listed as the fifth best-selling truck in America.

Whether you’re in the market for a new truck or just curious about the differences between GMC’s two pickups, here’s everything you need to know about the 2017 GMC Sierra.

Solid but Unexciting Engine Options

The GMC Sierra comes with three engine options. The base 4.3-liter V6 makes 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. There are also two V8s to choose from. The 5.3-liter V8 makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the totem pole is GMC’s 6.2-liter V8, which is good for 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. There are no diesel or turbocharged engines offered.

The Sierra features two transmissions, a six-speed automatic and an eight-speed automatic. On the V6, the six-speed is the only option. The 5.3-liter V8 gets the six-speed auto standard, but buyers can upgrade to the eight-speed. The 6.3-liter V8 gets the eight-speed automatic standard. Four-wheel drive is available on all models.

Fuel economy on the Sierra varies depending on your engine and transmission combo, with the eight-speeds getting better mileage. The V6 Sierra is rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The 5.3-liter V8 gets 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. As you probably expected, buying the biggest V8 means getting the worst mileage. The 6.3-liter engine returns just 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.

When compared to Ford and Ram, the GMC Sierra’s engine and transmission options look a bit tame. First off, there’s no diesel. The Ram 1500 is currently the only American truck to offer one, although Ford has confirmed that the 2018 F-150 will go on sale with a turbodiesel. Spy shots have shown that GMC looks to be prepping a diesel Sierra, but no official confirmation has been given yet.

Then there’s the issue of turbocharging. Ford has gone all-in on twin-turbo V6s, whereas GMC and other automakers have taken a wait-and-see approach. For GMC, it’s less about matching Ford and more about offering variety. With that being said, the Sierra does offer one more V8 option than both Ford and Ram, which gives GMC the edge among old-school truckers. It’s almost the most powerful V8 you can get in an American pickup.

Finally, there’s the issue of the Sierra’s transmission choices. The Ford F-150 offers a 10-speed automatic — which was actually co-developed with GMC. While the next-generation of Silverados and Sierras (the 2019 models) will feature this 10-speed auto, the best option currently is the eight-speed, which is archaic compared to what Ford is offering.

Max Payload And (Literally) Max Towing

The 2017 GMC Sierra has a max towing capacity of 12,500 pounds. This is good enough to be best-in-class, out-towing the F-150 by 300 pounds. The Ram 1500 is a distant third with a max tow rating of 11,000 pounds. Note that in order to hit this figure, you’ll need to opt for a Sierra packing a 6.3-liter V8 and the optional Max Trailering package, which is an extra $1,145.

On the payload front, the Sierra is absolutely crushed by Ford. Its max payload capacity is just 2,250 pounds whereas the F-150 can haul an impressive 3,270 pounds. The Ram 1500 is a close second with a max payload capacity of 2,000 pounds. Since most people tow more than they haul, the Sierra narrowly takes the edge over the F-150 in the capabilities department. If you plan to buy a truck strictly for work you may want to consider the F-150 and its beefier bed.

Image via GMC

What Makes the Sierra Different Than the Silverado?

Like we said before, the differences between GMC’s two trucks are merely skin deep. Since GMC is more of a luxury line, the Sierra is priced a bit higher than the Silverado. You can get a base model Silverado for $28,085 whereas a base Sierra goes for $30,000. This is reflected throughout all trim levels, with the GMC costing just a bit more than a comparably equipped Chevy.

Another thing that separates the Sierra from the Silverado is cabin quality. Many reviewers have called the Sierra’s cabin the quietest in its class. Generally, GMC trucks have a better equipped interior than their Chevrolet counterparts. However, the gap has been narrowed recently with the introduction of the Silverado High Country. That truck has Sierra Denali levels of luxury and a price tag to match as both models start in the mid-$50,000s.

Aside from pricing and cabin quality, the biggest thing that separates the Sierra from the Silverado is its exterior design. Do you prefer c-shaped headlights or a more stacked design? Do you like grilles that are basic or a bit busier? If we had to choose, based on looks that is, our vote would go to the Sierra. It’s more modern and upscale than the everyman Silverado, which is what GMC is going for.

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