First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD

GMC has just pulled the wraps off their new Heavy Duty truck line.

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING – The professional-grade Sierra HDs are available in three-quarter ton and one ton configurations, along with a dually option on the 3500 line. This line adapts a variety of the new technology and capability offered in the redesigned 2019 Sierra 1500 (reviewed here), and takes it to another level for those who need the added strength and rigidity of a heavier-duty pickup. General Motors invited us to the mountainside in Wyoming to sample the 2020 GMC Sierra HD equipped with the Duramax diesel engine.

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD review

The standard engine for the Sierra 2500HD is a 6.6-liter gasoline V8, good for 401 horsepower and 464 lb-ft. of torque. The model we sampled featured the 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V8, which outputs 445 horsepower at 2,800RPM, and a staggering 910 lb-ft. of torque at a low 1,600RPM. This isn’t by any means a straight-line bandit, but the diesel 2500HD drove around the foothills of Yellowstone National Park effortlessly, and blended in perfectly with the other heavy-duty trucks in the area.

An Allison-built 10-speed automatic is standard on the diesel model, and shifts imperceptibly and smoothly. It always knows which gear to be in, and actually makes for surprisingly good fuel economy. We averaged 14L/100km in combined driving, but saw numbers as low as 12L/100km when driving conservatively at consistent highway speeds. There is a little bit of hesitation off the line thanks to some turbo lag, but once it gets going, the 910 lb-ft. comes into play and the Sierra pulls ahead with confidence.

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra Duramax review

My driving partner and I observed that the Duramax diesel is remarkably smooth and quiet, with only a discrete grumble at cruising speeds that’s typical of most diesel powertrains. Noise isolation in the cabin is quite good, and especially in the premium Denali trim, the Sierra HD is remarkably luxurious out on the open road. Ride quality is good, though a little bit choppy with an empty bed. We also got a chance to sample models with about 2,000-pounds worth of lumber loaded into the bed, and this sorted out the ride nicely.

The 2500HD in Crew Cab configuration with the diesel engine as equipped here is capable of towing up to 18,500 pounds, an incredible amount. If equipping your truck with the gasoline V8, this number drops to 14,500. Payload for the diesel is 3,597 pounds, while the gasser is the leader here with the ability to haul 3,862 pounds. Those opting to tow in a fifth-wheel/Gooseneck configuration can pull the same 18,500 pounds with the diesel, and 16,900 pounds with the gasoline model.

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD review

For 2020, the updated components on the HD models include bigger and stiffer axles front and rear, as well as an 11.5-inch ring gear standard on the 2500HD model. The new ProGrade Trailering System offers customizable trailer profiles, a trailer light test, and connectivity through the myGMC smartphone app. Lastly, when towing, a new camera system with up to 15 different views makes for exceptional visibility outside of your own sightlines. In the real world, we took advantage of this camera system and found that it increases confidence a substantial amount when towing, regardless of the driver’s experience.

HD models are also available with an X31 off-road package, which adds Rancho shocks, specially calibrated off-road suspension, and skid plates. Other noteworthy features include the two-speed Autotrac transfer case that can adjust between two and four-wheel drive settings on the fly. For the first time ever, the HD is also available with the AT4 package, which adds body-colored exterior bits, a unique grille, and all of the features of the X31 package.

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD review

The interior of the new Sierra is fairly bland to look at, but likely the most functional of the current crop of pickup trucks. There’s a plethora of plastics throughout, including in the top-trim Denali, however the materials look like they will age fairly well and remain durable. A large digital display in the center of the instrument cluster provides all pertinent information including an advanced trip computer, trailer info, and more. It’s easy to navigate and crystal clear to read.

Just like in GM’s other offerings, a 4G-LTE WiFi hotspot is standard fare here, along with connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Our test took place in areas where cell service was spotty at best, so we had a chance to try out GMC’s native navigation system. It’s surprisingly user-friendly and responsive, as is the rest of the infotainment system. The touchscreen is quick to respond, and all controls are clearly marked. When compared to Ford’s SYNC3 system, this one wins hands-down for display quality as well as ease of use.

First Drive: 2020 GMC Sierra HD review

Pricing for the 2020 Sierra HD’s diesel powertrain is a premium of $11,195 over the 6.6L gasoline V8 on all trim levels. If you’re after a heavy-duty truck, the 2020 GMC Sierra HD really does appear to be the one to have. It offers rugged capability, features not seen anywhere else in the truck segment, and an incredibly smooth powertrain that makes living with the truck a legitimate piece of cake. Lastly, the top-notch build quality and materials will go a long way in keeping the Sierra relevant for years to come.

See Also:

2019 GMC Sierra Denali

First Drive: 2019 GMC Sierra

2019 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

Adi Desai
Adi Desai

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