2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2011

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2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Buying Advice

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 is the best pickup for you if you’ve got a GM itch Chevy can’t scratch. 

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 shares its basic design and engineering with the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 but dresses in more image-conscious trim. General Motors pitches the GMC brand as “professional grade,” though the real appeal is not necessarily to trades people or ranchers but to domestic-brand buyers who perceive GMC as upscale from Chevy. The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500, like the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 on which it’s based, isn’t expected to change significantly from 2010.

Should you wait for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 or buy the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500? Buy the 2010 Sierra. The 2011 model won’t change notably in appearance or features, and it may not benefit from the incentive-heavy market that’s generating attractive deals on 2010 models.

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Changes back to top

Styling: No styling changes of note are expected for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500. Its bold, GMC-badged grille will again be the main visual distinction from the Chevy Silverado 1500. Additional GMC insignia inside and out, cabin trim details, and GMC-specific model designations round out the differences. Though non-functional, such distinctions are part of a GMC marketing philosophy that pays off with a buyer base that’s more affluent, more educated, and more likely to be professional or managerial than Silverado’s. The 2011 Sierra’s overall look is handsome and confident, despite being around since model-year 2007. Offering newer styling and fresher features is the rival Ford F-150, which was re-engineered for model-year 2009, and the Dodge Ram 1500, which was fully redesigned for 2009. The 2011 Sierra will again share with Silverado a three-cab roster consisting of a two-door regular-cab, an extended cab with small, rear-hinged back doors, and a crew cab with four conventional doors. Regular cabs seat up to three; extended and crews up to six. Regular cabs are available with cargo-bed lengths of 5-feet-8-inches or 8-feet, extended cabs add a third, 6-foot-6-inch choice. Crew cabs use the 5-8 bed. Expect the 2011 GMC Sierra to repeat a model lineup ascending from basic Work Truck (WT), through SL and SLE models to the posh SLT. Along with the mileage-tweaked XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) model, these Sierra trim levels mirror the Silverado model march. However, GMC’s pickup line does have an exclusive in the Sierra Denali, a crew cab done up in a sport-luxury motif and identified by its mesh grille insert, body-colored fascia, and upscale interior appointments.

Mechanical: No significant mechanical changes are on tap for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500. Luckily, GM’s done a good job managing the technology gap between its big-pickups and their rivals. In fact, only Sierra and Silverado offer a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. And their conventional engines are very competitive in power and fuel economy. The GMC Sierra engine lineup expects to repeat for 2011 with a base V-6 and four V-8s. The V-6 will likely retain a 195-horsepower rating, while the entry-level 4.8-liter V-8 returns with 302; both these engines use a four-speed automatic transmission. Also expected to return is the 315-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 and the top-of-the-line 403-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8, both of which use a six-speed automatic. The 5.3 V-8 has GM’s Active Fuel Management system that conserves fuel by automatically switching between eight and four cylinders, depending on power demands. The 2011 Sierra 1500’s maximum trailer capacity won’t differ much from 2010’s mark of 10,600 pounds (obtained on the crew cab with the 6.2-liter V-8 and optional towing package). Like every other big pickup, Sierra’s built on a rear-wheel drive platform, but it alone offers three alternatives: part-time four-wheel drive (4WD) not designed for use on dry pavement, GM’s Autotrac 4WD that can remain engaged on all surfaces, and exclusive all-wheel drive available in the Sierra Denali. The 4WD systems include low-range gearing. The Sierra Hybrid combines a 6.0-liter V-8 with electric motors imbedded in the transmission casing. Total system horsepower is 332 and it self-charges the nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The Sierra Hybrid can reach 30 mph on electricity alone. Its V-8 employs Active Fuel Management and the electric motors extended its time in gas-saving four-cylinder mode and also provide a power boost during acceleration. The Sierra Hybrid has a continuously variable transmission and is available with two- or four-wheel drive; its towing capacity is 6,100 pounds.

Features: Don’t expect major changes in features for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500. Interior appointments will continue from coverall-worthy Work Truck to leather-lined SLT to dandy-Dan Denali. Navigation, rear DVD entertainment, heated seats, leather upholstery, and remote engine start are available. So is Bluetooth cell-phone linking. And all audio systems except the entry-level setup have a USB iPod interface. Most models can be equipped with a review camera that displays in the inside mirror or on the navigation screen. Several levels of suspension tuning also are offered, from off-road ready to the Denali’s sport-handling setup. Standard safety equipment includes GM’s StabiliTrack antiskid system, OnStar assistance, and head-protecting curtain side airbags on every model. Factory-designed cargo-bed storage bins and dividers are accessories though they’re not as integrated as Dodge’s RamBox system. GMC could trump Ford’s deployable bed-side steps without much Sierra re-engineering. More significant would be to match the F-150 and Ram 1500 with towing sway-control that automatically activates the antiskid system to counteract wayward truck and trailer motions. An integrated trailer-brake controller is already available on all Sierra models.

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Prices back to top

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 pricing won’t be announced until shortly before the 2011 models go on sale. But no significant increases over 2010 Sierra pricing is likely. (Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; GMC’s fee for 2010-model Sierra 1500s was $995.)

Expect 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 regular-cab base prices to start around $23,700 with 2WD, $26,900 with 4WD. Estimated starting prices for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 extended-cab are $27,900 with 2WD, $32,000 with 4WD.

Estimated starting price for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab is $31,900 with 2WD, $34,000 with 4WD. GMC says the top-selling Sierra 1500 is a 4WD SLE crew cab; such a model starts around $37,000 and comes standard with such features as keyless entry and heated mirrors; replacing the standard 4.8-liter V-8 with the 5.3 adds about $1,800. Expect the 2011 GMC Sierra Denali to be priced from around $46,800 with 2WD, $48,900 with all-wheel drive.

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 XFE model should repeat as a 2WD Crew Cab with the 5.3 V-8 and start around $36,500. Base price for the 2011 GMC Sierra Hybrid is an estimated $44,000 with 2WD, $47,000 with 4WD.

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage ratings for 2011 models were not available in time for this review, but fuel economy should remain a positive for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500.

Expect 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 EPA ratings that match or exceed those of the 2010 Sierra 1500. Those ratings for V-6 models were 15/20 mpg (city/highway) with 2WD and 14/18 with 4WD. With the 4.8-liter V-8, Sierra 1500 ratings were 14/19 with 2WD and 14/18 with 4WD.

Fuel economy ratings for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 with the 5.3-liter V-8 were the same with both 2WD and 4WD and should remain at least 15/21. Top fuel economy in the lineup went to the XFE model and the 2011 Sierra XFE should meet or exceed 15/22 mpg.

With the 6.2-liter V-8, the 2010 Sierra 1500 was rated 13/19 with 2WD, 12/19 with 4WD; expect the same for 2011. The 2010 GMC Sierra Denali rated 13/19 with 2WD, 12/19 with AWD.

Sierra’s V-8s can burn any combination of gasoline and E85 gas-ethanol blend. Power ratings using E85 don’t changed, but fuel economy ratings drop by about 20 percent. For example, a 2WD 5.3-liter Sierra rates 15/21 on gas, but just 11/16 using E85.

The 2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid rated the same 21/22 mpg with either 2WD or 4WD and the 2011 model should equal or exceed those numbers.

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Release Date back to top

The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 should be on sale by autumn 2010.

Note that “1500” is GM’s designation for a half-ton pickup, a class loosely defined by payload capacity. The Sierra 1500 payload capacity tops out at about 1,800 pounds. GMC, Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge offer heavier-duty three-quarter and one-ton pickups with diesel engines, beefier frames, and higher payload and towing. GM and Dodge label their three-quarter and one-ton models 2500 and 3500, respectively. Ford uses F-250 and F-350 designations.  

What's next for the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 back to top

GM’s next major pickup event will be introduction of all-new 2011 versions of its heavy duty Sierra and Silverado 2500 and 3500 models. Pencil-in model-year 2014 for launch of the next-generation Sierra 1500 and Silverado 1500. That redesign will bring fresh styling, revamped interiors, and quite likely more versatile cargo-bed arrangements. Gas V-6 and V-8 engines should return with advances in both power and fuel efficiency thanks to improvements in transmissions and perhaps the introduction of direct-fuel-injection.

2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Competition back to top

Ford F-150: Leads the big-pickup field in sales and hopes to strengthen its powertrain offerings for 2011 with introduction of Ford’s twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 as its new premium engine and an efficient new V-8 as its base engine. That would cap a model-year 2009 re-engineering that brought a stouter frame, larger cabs, and useful new features. Ford claims class-leading trailer ratings (11,300 pounds for model-year 2010) and payload capacity (3,030 pounds); the new engines may also make the F-150 as fun to drive as the Ram 1500. Next redesign: not until model-year 2014.

Dodge Ram 1500: Already boasting the fine Hemi V-8 – with cylinder deactivation – the Ram 1500 is also expected to add an important new engine for 2011: Chrysler’s dual-overhead-cam Pentastar V-6 with some 280 horsepower. This pickup was redesigned for model-year 2009 with aggressive new styling, roomier cabs, and the innovative RamBox storage system. A first-in-class coil-spring rear suspension gives it class-leading ride comfort. Ram should also continue with two V-8 choices -- one a Hemi with cylinder deactivation -- and again be available with full-time 4WD on top-line versions. Trailer rating was 10,450 pounds, payload 1,900 for model-year 2010. No major alterations are expected until model-year 2014 or thereabouts.     

Toyota Tundra: Like the GM half-tons, its basic design dates to model-year 2007, but it’s made less news on the constant-development front. Still, this U.S.-built Toyota matches the domestics for size and power if not for sales volume; commercial and fleet customers haven’t appeared in great numbers. Two strong, smooth V-8s supplement an adequate V-6. Trailering capacity was 10,800 pounds, payload 1,990 for model-year 2010. No major Tundra changes are on tap before model year 2014.