Trucks have evolved more than any other civilian passenger vehicle, and I’m going to tell you why.
Sports cars (like the 2014 Corvette) have always been proportionately fast, just incrementally better over time. Sedans have always come in many flavors, like the large and luxurious like the Cadillac XTS, down to the fun and compact Chevy Sonic four-door. But trucks were first created as literally only a utilitarian, rugged hauling tool, with the purpose of getting work done, and all else was secondary. In this day and age however, trucks are built for every situation. They can be used as a workplace commuter, mobile office, family car, baby changing station, grocery getter, log hauler, tailgating monster, mall crawler, mud bogger, race vehicle, etc. To sum it up, they’re the jack-of-all trades. Sure, the prices have skyrocketed, but you get a lot more truck for the money at the same time. At a built price of $49,855, our 2014 GMC Sierra SLT 4×4 was quite loaded, even having an Cadillac Escalade EXT owner giving me a thumbs up.
For whatever reason, I always felt that I never needed a pickup truck. A GMC Yukon XL? Sure, I’d love to carry 7 other noisy people around, and all of their unnecessary belongings. But in reality, I would never put up with that. This is where the Sierra comes into play. The SLT crew cab with the bucket seats up front could seat up to five occupants in the configuration that we were given, and that’s just fine. Anything after 4 people plus the driver just increases the likelihood that someone will smear the hell out of your windows with fingerprints and breathing; let’s face it – no one wants that.
I told the occupants of the Sierra to try and find a material or device in the cabin that felt cheap, chintzy, or difficult to operate. For every piece that they found, I would buy them a pint of bubbly. Thanks to the long nights that GMC interior designers put into the truck, I kept my wallet full, only to empty in the gas tank, or so I thought.
Upon receiving the 2014 Sierra SLT, I had this number of 16mpg in my head. The Sierra is rated at 16/23mpg respectively, and I always assume that I won’t do any better than the city rating, because sometimes you can’t trust the EPA sticker. If you pay attention in class, you’ll note that the 2wd variant is estimated at an average of 19mpg, and the 4wd – 18. However, after 500 miles in change with this 4wd model, I averaged a more ideal 19.5 mpg, including some hauling of solid oak pallets in rush hour traffic, 70mph highway speeds, and other things that haunt Al Gore at night.
We could go on all day about all of the bells, whistles, and toys that the 2014 Sierra offers its owners, but ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. Instead, as Manoli described the 2014 Sierra Denali,
“There’s the Corner Step bumper, EZ Lift and Lower tailgate, an LED spotlight that will shine on the truck bed, trailer sway control, rear park assist, the Safety Alert Seat, lane departure warning and forward collision alert, hill start assist to quell rollback, more USB ports than a Macbook, power outlets to even power said Macbook, and even the storage bin space to place one. And so on, and so forth.”
Although there’s some seriously useful options here (Corner Step bumper, LED spotlight), the standout features are the front and rear park assist, partnered with the Safety Alert Seat. I was always afraid of electronic nannies until now. I’m the type of human that nearly cried when I heard Google was developing an autonomous car. But after parallel parking the Sierra just because, I realize that the electronic nannies serve a purpose in life, and now I’m a believer. The Safety Alert seat was discovered on accident. Only after toggling the shifter in and out of reverse did I come to the conclusion that the owner’s manual is a book of solutions. All of the other electronically-controlled gizmos on the car worked equally well, and a hat tip to the Bose Audio System, because, well, we like our country music loud in trucks.
Although we like our country loud (and our exhaust notes), the Sierra is much quieter than I was expecting. All of the NVH-fighting parts to the truck really come to live after living with them for a week. Is it living with them, or cherishing them? That being said, everything is highly refined, from the interior, to the fit and finish, and most importantly, so was the powertrain. The 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 was a pleasant surprise to experience. I’ve driven several trucks/SUVs that featured the old 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 motor, and let it be known that the EcoTec3 is nothing like them. It’s leaps and bounds ahead in every aspect. The power band is broad and powerful like Ndamukong Suh, yet smooth as a pint of Bell’s Expedition Stout. Transmission shifts were near-instant and equally smooth — much better than the late model — along with the seamless transition from V4 to V8 fuel-saving mode. I can only imagine what the 6.2-liter is like, but while I was out and about in this GMC Sierra, Manoli was occupying a Denali model with that very engine.
The ride quality, handling, and braking also felt sharp. While, yes, the Sierra wasn’t going to beat a Z06 Carbon Edition in a braking contest, it was still impressive for a pickup, even when loaded down. There wasn’t a single occasion where I felt as if the braking wasn’t enough. Confidence is the name of the game, here. The handling wasn’t the least bit mushy, and after awhile, I forgot I was driving a half-ton truck. If anything, I was driving my mother’s GMC Acadia. Nothing to complain about here. In fact, like other vehicles designed to bear some serious weight, the ride improved a bit when the bed was weighed down with several hundred pounds (of solid oak four-by-fours, as previously mentioned.)
Alas, no truck (or person) is perfect. Do I have any real complaints about the 2014 Sierra? Sure, but it may be out of preference. For instance, I would like to see fake wood trim go away, and be replaced with gloss black trim, or something of that nature. On top of the wood trim, I felt that the plastic/chrome door handles could be a bit more sturdy. Also, with work gloves on, a hand might get a bit crammed in there. A final critique: the steering, It’s a little bit looser than I would have liked, but there’s probably an engineering/practical reason for this that I haven’t thought of.
Overall, GM deserves a hug for the final results of their product. The Sierra is great in every way, and in some aspects, feels head and shoulders above the competition. If I had one word to describe the truck, it would be kickass. Finally, when duty calls, you’ll need the right tool for the right job, and the 2014 Sierra 1500 SLT is that very tool.
Second Opinion: Manoli Katakis
After testing the 2014 GMC Sierra Denali, the best way to describe the Sierra SLT is that it’s the Denali Lite, and in many ways, seems like the better deal. It’s a fantastically refined truck, and is nearly as well furnished as the Denali model, save for a few features like active noise cancellation and the dark wood. Thankfully the truck market is so voluminous and broad, that there seems to be space for just about every taste and preference. Those in the market for a premium truck would be a fool not to put this on top of their list.