Memorial Weekend in Michigan. Hungover drivers, towing with overladen vehicles down I-75, rushing to get home, and eventually making an egregious mistake. The next thing they know, their belongings are spilled and scattered all over the freeway, bottlenecking traffic, and ruining everybody’s commute back home. It happens every year.
Don’t be that guy.
Thankfully, for quite some time now, full-sized pickup trucks have been filling in the notable lack of skills and good judgement with various trailering assist systems of their own. Which also helps justify their ever-increasing girth, towing capacities, and price tags. This includes the proven and well-seasoned capabilities of GMC’s current-generation half-ton truck, the 2018 GMC Sierra 1500, and Sierra 1500 Denali.
For instance. The 2018 Sierra 1500 Denali can tow over 9,000 lbs, while a Sierra 1500 with a trailering package is SAE-rated to pull over 12,500 lbs. That’s two 3,000 lb race cars and a trailer, easy. Realistically, however, nobody is towing that much heft with a half-ton truck. There’s a point where it’s wise to upgrade to the three-quarter ton Sierra 2500 HD or full-ton Sierra 3500 HD to uncork significant gains in capabilities, and the 6.6L L5P Duramax V8 with 910 lb-ft of torque.
So, what can one comfortably tow with a half-ton truck? How about two Polaris RZR side-by-side ATVs on a 26-foot trailer? As pictured above, that’s what 5,500 pounds looks like, well in the realm of possibilities for the 70 percent of Sierra 1500 owners tow with their truck. And as I’m writing this, a GMC Sierra just motored by my window with a pair of Sea-Doo jet skis comfortably in tow. And speaking of comfort, it’s not just about the leather and brushed metals, and infotainment tech like wifi that the Sierra 1500 Denali is known for. It’s also the suite of trailering aides that make thousands of pounds of weight feel as light as possible.
Trailer Sway Control is standard, and is activated via a toggle that is perfectly located on the dashboard. Pinching the toggle towards its tab sends a signal to activate the trailer brakes without the truck brakes having to clamp down. This normally extinguishes just about any amount of recoverable trailer sway, but keep in mind that the trailer needs electronically controlled brakes for it to activate. Also found in the 2018 Sierra 1500 Denali is an expected tow/haul mode. Activating this via a button at the tip of the column shifter adjusts transmission shift points and throttle input for optimized trailering. There’s also auto-grade braking, the transmission temperature gauge, and an available trailer brake controller. All these half-ton topped-out trucks were missing, ironically, were tow mirrors. However, trailering mirrors are offered as official GMC accessories, from $625 for black, to $725 for chromed housing.
Before setting off in the twisting, elevating roads of Utah, a sort of pre-flight check needed to happen. Sierra Lead Development Engineer Chris Carino was on hand to walk us through it, most of which was rather basic, but nevertheless important. These procedures included heck the trailer lights, crossing the tow chains, checking the stability of the hitch and all tire pressures, and adjusting mirrors. Other highly important checks were making sure all of the cargo on the trailer is evenly distributed, with slight emphasis on tongue weight, and making sure the load is securely in place. Lastly, account for the weight of cargo and passengers before embarking. After that, it’s time for take-off.
Our journey took us 60 miles east from St. George, Utah towards Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, in Kanab. From there, we would utilize our toys on the trailer. With the help of the towing aides, constant attention to the mirrors to make sure the trailer never crossed the imperative double-yellow lines on the road, and the power well of the 6.2L L86 V8 engine, The towing task transpired tactfully. The 2018 Sierra 1500 Denali offers the 5.3L V8 as its base engine, but the 6.2L is far more qualified for this job.
All in all, this generation of GMC Sierra, which launched in 2014, seems to have aged fantastically against its newer rivals. Its ride, handling, technology and capabilities have all withstood the tests of time in what is a fiercely competitive and vital segment for the American automotive industry as we know it. And with the news that this truck isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s definitely worth a revisit. Especially if you don’t want to wait for the all-new 2019 Sierra 1500.