2017 GMC Sierra 3500 Proves to Be a Serious Hauler

Front Quarter-Driver II

By Matthew Barnes

It's been six months since we first wrote about the 2017 GMC Sierra 3500 SLT 4x4 crew-cab long-bed work truck that we're driving. As promised, we have our first update now that we've driven it 7,000 miles. As a reminder, the four-wheel-drive GMC is equipped with the 445-horsepower, 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V-8 Duramax engine mated to the six-speed automatic Allison transmission.

The full-size crew-cab pickup truck has plenty of amenities and doesn't lack any creature comforts. The cab is spacious with plenty of room to fit six average-sized adults comfortably. The infotainment system is easy to use and didn't take long to get adjusted to. Being the lowest-rated heavy hauler of the big-three one-ton pickups, we were surprised at how competent the heavy-duty GMC Sierra 3500 was when towing heavy loads. Although the GMC's driver information display does not show what gear the truck is using, it does provide all the other information needed to monitor the status of the truck's systems.

Driving Experience

We've spent a lot of seat time in this truck and it's comfortable on the long haul. It's easy to adjust the seats and the steering wheel controls put everything within reach. Voice-activated commands make navigating the system simple.

Towing a heavy trailer for eight hours straight is not nearly as stressful as one would expect. The massive size and heavy weight of the truck help keep it composed while towing at its rated limit: 17,000 pounds for this single-rear-wheel model. There is always plenty of power to get the truck and trailer up any grade, and the exhaust brake does an excellent job of keeping the speed where it should be on steep downgrades. Now that the transmission has learned our driving habits, the hard shifts we initially reported have smoothed out significantly.

The only time the truck had issues was on extremely steep slopes with low speeds and hairpin turns. Basically, when the truck is in 1st gear, the torque converter doesn't seem to lock up. This limits engine braking on downgrades, which puts more stress on the brakes. Not locking up the torque converter also causes the transmission temperature to climb on steep uphill grades. When pulling a 17,000-pound trailer up a mountain with grades reaching 20 percent, the dash displayed a notice that the transmission was overheating and we needed to pull over to let it cool down.

Trans Temp II

We found the truck had enough power to get into a higher gear, which would lock the torque converter, but the lower speed limit and hairpin turns didn't allow it. Going down the other side of the hill, the mountain had similar grades and low speed limits, which caused the brakes to heat up and fade just a little.

As for fuel economy, when driving without a trailer in tow, we average more than 20 mpg combined, but overall, the Sierra is in the 15-mpg range according to its computer. As we rarely drive it without a trailer attached to it, low fuel economy is expected.

Average MPG II

In our first story about the GMC Sierra 3500, we mentioned that there was a little glare coming off the hood scoop. This problem isn't common, and while it doesn't show up well on camera it can be distracting when light hits the hood scoop just right.

First Maintenance Visit

With less than 3,000 miles, we noticed the rear tires were wearing away. The fronts looked nearly new, but the rears were almost down to 50 percent tread. The incredible power this truck puts down can wear out tires quickly, especially when towing heavy loads.

We also thought we noticed some lean: When standing behind the truck, it is clear the driver's side is lower than the passenger's side. We took measurements and found there was a difference of more than an inch. We followed that up by weighing the truck with a scale under each wheel. The driver-side front wheel had 55 pounds less weight on it than the passenger-side front. The opposite was true for the rear of the truck, with the passenger-side rear weighing in 110 pounds less than the driver-side rear. The lean isn't noticeable when driving the truck, but it had us concerned.

The other issue we encountered started within the first month of driving the truck: The low coolant light would come on periodically and then go away. Once we had broken in the engine a bit and started towing heavy loads, we noticed the smell of antifreeze when we parked the truck in the garage. Upon further inspection we found that one of the coolant hoses had separated from a connection. The hose was reconnected and there have been no problems since.

Hose II

So, we took the GMC Sierra 3500 in for an oil change and checkup at 3,200 miles. The truck's computer readout claimed an oil life of just less than 50 percent at that point. Since we had worked the GMC Sierra hard and this was its first oil change, we played it safe and took it to the dealer. We asked the dealer to also rotate the tires front to rear, check for coolant problems and any chassis problems that might cause the truck to lean. No issues were detected and the truck was given a clean bill of health. GMC gave us two free service visits when we purchased the truck, so this first one was on them.

Diesel Quibble

One of the few issues with this truck is filling the diesel exhaust fluid tank. When filling at truck stops, the truck needs to be positioned precisely to allow the DEF hose, located on the driver-side pump, to reach the DEF tank fill point, which is located on the passenger side of the truck.

DEF 2 II

Filling the tank with the 2.5-gallon jugs is also an issue. It's hard to get the jug in the proper location because of the limited amount of space between the engine and the hood. The truck is also quite high, which can make it difficult for some people to hold the 20-pound DEF jug high enough to fill the tank.

Final Thoughts

After six months, the 2017 GMC Sierra 3500 has really grown on us. It's comfortable for a one-ton truck, it tows exceptionally well and has an incredible amount of power. The GMC Sierra 3500 is always chosen over the medium-duty work trucks in our fleet for towing heavy loads. The crew-cab long bed makes it difficult to park the pickup in smaller parking stalls, but all that space for hauling people, gear or materials makes the inconvenience worth dealing with. Overall, this GMC Sierra 3500 has given us an excellent experience so far. More updates to come.

Cars.com photos by Matthew Barnes

 

Snow II

Glare II

DEF 1 II

Side-Passenger II

Snow 1 II

 

Comments

WOW, transmission overheating? Thats crazy. The def placement is about as dumb as I ever heard. My construction fleets are Ford, we used to have Chevy, only 2 left. I am really wondering why this truck has tranny issues already?

MARK- was your FE hand calculated for both towing and empty?

-CT

@CT

Dude, the truck was running at max rated load. When was the last time you hauled a max load in a 1-ton truck?

Exactly what people need to see. Long term testing in work conditions is the only way you can convey the opinion with experience. Good job Guys!

@ Papajim

Its CT..what do you expect!! POT STIRRER!!

The truck did everything they ask it to do, plus a quote from PUT:

"The GMC Sierra 3500 is always chosen over the medium-duty work trucks in our fleet for towing heavy loads."

Great article!! I agree with Bhd, long term testing like this in real world is what we need to see more of!

The DEF port on my '11 is in the same spot. Its fortunate you don't have to do it very often. Based on the pic of your fill, parking about two feet closer would make it less dramatic.

Hey Mark did y'all check the lean after the service? Was it fixed ? And what kinda of tires are stock on these trucks? I hope it's a nice 10 ply. Also kinda weird that a coolant hose was not attached properly, I wonder if it worked loose or came from the factory like that?

The Chevy lean is to be measured with a full tank of fuel on completely level ground.
There is a TSB out on the Colorado's for the lean issue. I measured my ZR2 in the garage where I park at an angle, so no wheel is on the same exact plane, almost an inch difference. I then measured it in a flat parking lots, less then 1/4 inch

Nice right up, hard to believe the rear tires wore that much more then the front while pulling a load...

The Ford and RAM need to be driven the exact same route with the same weight to see how those tranny’s behave.
That DEF location is unacceptable, easy fix. C’mon GM you can do better.

Brother in law has a similar 1 ton Ford. Same issue...rear tires wear 50% faster than fronts...two different tire stores and manufactures tell the same story...torque at the rear is the problem...enhanced when towing...he does with a 5th wheel.

Papa. all the time, actually almost every day. My guys have been fined for being over weight as well. Even my old silverados didnt have this issue.

TNT- dont mak eme call you out again, your !!!! keeps getting longer like Pinocchio's nose.

-CT

Papa, I just caught what you were actually saying. So GM should lower there max load if they cannot even handle it for a simple test.

-CT

@ CT

The problem with you is your supposed "call outs" are that they never backed up.

Proceed away: Announcer Sir!!

@ Mark Williams:
I find it interesting how you and many of the commentors have brought so much attention to the off center steering wheel, yet no mention of it in the article. As for me I never notice it and it certainly does not make the driving experience uncomfortable or distracting. Now that your team has spent so much time with the Silverado, did you or others find it distracting while operating this truck ?

WOW, transmission overheating? Thats crazy.

-CT

Posted by: crunchtime | May 17, 2018 8:27:56 AM


Wow, you know so little about trucks, physics and engineering.

Excerpt from article:

"When pulling a 17,000-pound trailer up a mountain with grades reaching 20 percent, the dash displayed a notice that the transmission was overheating and we needed to pull over to let it cool down."

Let me just add, this is an extreme situation that this vehicle is operating under. Having to pull over and allow things to cool down is far from a breakdown. Also, the vehicles gauges and warning systems are operating correctly. I'm sure a FORD or RAM would react the same under those conditions, or maybe a tow truck would be in order.

GMS, once you guys actually use trucks and pull loads you will realize what they can and cant do, instead you and TNT just read articles. Man guys, get out and there and actually use your trucks instead of sitting inside all day answering PUTC threads while playing fortnite with your buddies.

MIC DROP!!!!!

-CT

@CT get over it bro, those guys are such idiots, I see they are still on here pushing the GM turd rhetoric over and over......

In my last and only chebby so far I noticed the steering wheel and didn't like it.

@crunch and Nitro: you guys obviously don't understand what 17,000 lbs and 20 percent grade means. Get off your Playstation and go look for a job.


WOW, transmission overheating? Thats crazy. My construction fleets are Ford, we used to have Chevy, only 2 left. I am really wondering why this truck has tranny issues already?

-CT
Posted by: crunchtime | May 17, 2018 8:27:56 AM

It occurred while pulling 17,000 lbs up a mountain with a 20% grade, why are you so surprised? There are plenty of 6.7 Powerstrokes that have had transmissions overheat in those sorts of conditions. Overheating does not mean there is an issue with the transmission. He never mentioned having a transmisssion issue or repair.

Also, what does your fleet have to do with this article? My local concrete company dumped all their 6.4 Powerstrokes after just a couple years. They got tired of all the engine problems. Doesn't mean I bring it up in the comment section about something totally unrelated.

Lol...fortnite? Idk what that is, and that fact that u do, explains a lot!

Snappy comeback!

BTW. I use my truck all the time. Handles my boat with ease with all those ponies under the hood raging to be unleashed.

And when I need to handle anything else, I take out the good old tried and true 98 Silverado.... Just so i don't put scratches in my new 2018.

@ nitro

I just got called out 2 days ago for name calling by all your fanboys...I admit I took it to far...let's work on it OK!


No brakes, overheated transmission, leaking coolant...

Better lower that already weak tow rating

I bet if it was a Ford overheating the Tranny all you trvlls would come out of under your rock.

Pluuuuuuuhhhleasssseeee.

No brakes, overheated transmission, leaking coolant...

Better lower that already weak tow rating

Posted by: Harvey | May 17, 2018 12:08:33 PM

Only the leaking coolant can be considered a problem. The rest are a direct result of the operating conditions. The was no transmission or brake failure. Go back to watching FOX news.

@TNT, I am good with that. Havent been coming on because the stupidity is out of control. People don't want to debate actually trucks, they want to bash everyone personally....

You know what would solve all those transmission issues? A manual transmission.

and GMSRBAD, you seriously have proven over and over you know nothing, its kinda sad, making GM owners look that bad.....

@ Harvey

The weak tow rating?

GM has stated that 90% of its clientele will never tow over its ratings. GM does not care that it has the "highest tow ratings"

BTW...Didn't GM beat the Super Duty in its highest payload ratings, while the supposedly wasn't even at its highest? Thought so!! Ford is the greatest at falsifying numbers just so they can use propaganda to get "suckers" to buy into them.

As article also states: GM is the truck they always choose to tow!!! Says a lot doesn't it

Class is over, go home children.

@ Nitro

I agree...
I was wrong to say those things, got into heated argument.
Very childish of me. I'm man enough to admit I was wrong.

and GMSRBAD, you seriously have proven over and over you know nothing, its kinda sad, making GM owners look that bad.....

Posted by: Nitro | May 17, 2018 12:19:51 PM

Ouch! Interesting how you are not calling out the intellectuals such as 2.7 ecoboostroost, ecoboost rules, Frank, crunchtime, cliff and the rest of the FORD gang.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | May 14, 2018 4:27:40 PM

Nitro, I'm sorry I didn't address you directly with my "intellectuals" comment a couple days ago.

i been running hot shot rigs for the past 20 years and to be in 2018 and your transmission is over heating from pulling 17k LBS is ridiculous Fords are rated for 19200LBS bumper pull i have not had a transmission over heating i made it thru 6.0's 6.4's, pulled well over 17k LBS with my rigs up and down the east coast delivering storage sheds, this not a transmission issue this is a GM issue they have one of the better power plant out there with the Duramax and Allison combo put on the proper cooling systems like Ford and Ram do that way you can start give them a run for there money in the small diesel towing world, and there 5th wheel rating is only 23k man they are frustrating been wanting to get one for a while but it's stuff like this that keeps me a way from them

Junk, like always that’s all I have to say.

I would suggest 17,000lbs is way past it’s acceptable tow limits.climbing a 20% grade
A 1ton gets down rated here for good reason. On a 70mm ball hitch it is 9,900lb.
SAE standard would be rejected here. Subjective factors should not be part of a standard.
Australian ADR is now doing all the Pickup testing for the EU, as regards towing. European authorities had more than one testing region, that caused conflicting results

@DLE
U-d-aman, man. Hot shot drivers are the source to go to for rig info and advice for sure. The problems will mean something when you have them reoccur on the job with no where to go but forward.
Same thing on the construction site. Problems mean lost time. And near or max towing happens more than most people think.
Maybe this truck had some problems that the dealer should iron out. New truck with gremlins should be top priority with this kind of investment.

If you did that with a Ford for 6 months it be trashed and need a total rebuild from the ground up!

No brakes, overheated transmission, leaking coolant...

Better lower that already weak tow rating
Posted by: Harvey | May 17, 2018 12:08:33 PM

"Going down the other side of the hill, the mountain had similar grades and low speed limits, which caused the brakes to heat up and fade just a little."

Brakes fading "just a little" = Harvey:"No brakes"

Better work on your reading comprehension little buddy.


---

"Upon further inspection we found that one of the coolant hoses had separated from a connection. The hose was reconnected and there have been no problems since."

Harvey sees coolant leak and acts as if it's blowing coolant out like 6.0 Powerstroke.

----

I have seen plenty of Ford 6R140's overheat behind the 6.7. Steep slope, 17k lbs behind you, traffic moving a little slow, and suddenly that transmission fluid isn't getting cooled enough to keep up. Maybe GM just needs to do some "calibrations" like Ford claims the new diesel F-150 needed when it went into limp mode on TFLT.

You would eat a turd sandwich if it had a GM labeled cellophane wrapper wouldn't you? I feel sorry for you.

johnny doe is too ignorant to feel sorry for.

and there 5th wheel rating is only 23k man they are frustrating been wanting to get one for a while but it's stuff like this that keeps me a way from them
Posted by: DLE | May 17, 2018 12:47:58 PM

I guess you didn't see any of the 2017 shootout between the 2017 Silverado 3500HD and 2017 F-350 Superduty. The LOWER rated GM 1-ton pulled the 22,800 lbs BigTex 3XGN gooseneck trailer up the Eisenhower Pass faster than the 2017 F-350 by nearly 15 seconds. The F-350 was pulling 76% of it max tow rating, the GM 3500HD was pulling 99% of its max tow rating. What does that tell you about Ford's overinflated tow ratings?

@DLE

I bet that stings!

I would trust a Duramax/Allison over the 6.7PS/Torqshift. But I have a bad history with Ford Powerstrokes.

If all PUT had to deal with during 7,000 miles with a totally new Duramax engine design was a coolant line that wasn't securely connected, a trans temp warning during a steep mountain run, and a little bit of brake fade during a slow mountain descent, that's not bad. I don't care for the DEF filler location but I never use the boxed stuff. Hopefully the Duramax guys can get their L5P's cracked so they don't have to worry about DEF.

@rambro
Not sure if there is a correlation between speed - capacity - durability? Like I said earlier, run the Ford and RAM on the same course as the Chevy. Further the TFL runs are one time. Run the IKE 3 or 4 times back to back. Then we’ll see who has the more durable truck. I’ve got no skin in the HD diesel game but these are laughable tests made for clickbait. I’d rather hear an objective opinion from someone who’s paycheck depends on their truck - like the hotshotter who posted above.

and there 5th wheel rating is only 23k man they are frustrating been wanting to get one for a while but it's stuff like this that keeps me a way from them
Posted by: DLE | May 17, 2018 12:47:58 PM

I guess you didn't see any of the 2017 shootout between the 2017 Silverado 3500HD and 2017 F-350 Superduty. The LOWER rated GM 1-ton pulled the 22,800 lbs BigTex 3XGN gooseneck trailer up the Eisenhower Pass faster than the 2017 F-350 by nearly 15 seconds. The F-350 was pulling 76% of it max tow rating, the GM 3500HD was pulling 99% of its max tow rating. What does that tell you about Ford's overinflated tow ratings?


Posted by: Rambro | May 17, 2018 7:04:28 PM

ok so pulling up a hill 15 sec. faster is the most important point about buying a truck? i have a friend who delivers building materials with a gooseneck set up he had a 3500 Chevy with duramax set up to pull 23k and was over weight 97% of the time he bought a F-350 rated at 36k with a new trailer so now he can haul more and make less trips tell me what makes more business sense get up a hill 15 sec. faster or making less trips and getting more materials on 1 load, i not here to bash 1 brand over the other like the fanboys on this site do, to me it's about survival and if GM would have a product that could hall more then i would look into, semi's don't work for us we need 4WD to get in and out of job sites and for me i need to be able to back around people's back yards that why i do a bumper pull set up



Post a Comment

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
  • Your email will not be shown.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Home | Buy or Sell a Truck | News | Special Reports

Powered by Cars.com. By using this site, you agree to our terms of service | © 2017 Cars.com | Privacy Statement | Contact Us