First Look: 2011 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

First Look: 2011 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

It was only a month ago that we had our first look at the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty pickups. Now, it’s GMC’s turn in the spotlight. The “professional grade” brand is unveiling the 2011 GMC Sierra HD lineup at the NTEA Work Truck Show. While most of the technical specifications of GM’s HD pickups are identical, GMC is adding a new high-end Sierra Denali HD model to its work truck lineup.

The luxurious Sierra Denali will only be available as a crew cab four-wheel drive 2500 model with a choice of either the standard 360 horsepower / 380 pounds-feet of torque 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine or the class-leading 397 hp and 765 pounds-feet 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 turbodiesel.

To separate it visually from the rest of the Sierra HD trucks, the exterior of the Denali HD will feature a four-bar chrome grille along with body-color bumpers, chrome door handles, chrome accents and 18- and 20-inch polished forged aluminum wheels. As with other Denali models, the cabin will be unique with standard premium touches. It will include Denali-specific brushed aluminum trim, power-adjustable pedals, a Bose premium surround audio system and 12-way power seats. Along with an optional heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather-appointed seating is available. The exterior will be offered in three colors: Black, Stealth Gray and White.

The rest of the new 2011 Sierra HD lineup receives new three-bar grilles and prominent louvered hoods, along with a revised chrome steel front bumper and new 17-, 18- and 20-inch wheels. The interior, though, is mostly unchanged.

GM made the biggest changes to the Sierra’s frame, powertrain and running gear to increase towing and hauling capacity.

Maximum trailering is rated up to 20,000 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a dual rear wheel Duramax diesel and up to 14,500 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a single rear wheel 6.0-liter gas V-8.

Maximum payload is rated up to 6,335 pounds with the DRW 6.0-liter gas V-8 and up to 5,724 pounds with the DRW 6.6-liter Duramax V-8. Five of 12 Sierra 3500 models offer a payload capability greater than 6,000 pounds.

2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD

Jeff Luke, GM's chief engineer for full-size pickups, said the new frame has five times the torsional strength, 92 percent better bending stiffness and 20 percent better beaming stiffness. The front frame bay cradling the engine is 125 percent stiffer than the old frame.

Torsional strength is how much the frame will twist side to side under load. Bending stiffness is how much the frame will bend under load. Beaming stiffness is how much the frame will flex as it's loaded in the center and supported at both ends. The stronger frame is also said to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness, particularly up front. The engine mount brackets have been strengthened, and their positions supporting the engine are optimized so that the bracket attachment points are now set relative to the center of the frame rail instead of offset at an angle, which had caused unwanted engine vibration.

There are a total of 11 different frame assemblies, depending on cab configuration, wheelbase, weight class and whether it's a pickup or a commercial chassis cab.

In the front suspension, the upper control arm is now made from forged instead of cast steel, for increased strength and weight savings, while the cast-iron lower control arm has been bolstered to handle greater loads. To help improve ride quality, two urethane jounce bumpers instead of one are mounted to the frame to cushion each side of the lower control arm, and there's also a new upper shock mount attachment design as well as all-new shocks.

There's also a new steering box with a 16-1 turn ratio and larger front linkage to manage increased front-end loads resulting from the improved front gross axle weight rating, which has jumped from 4,800 pounds to 6,000 pounds.

It's not just the stronger frame and suspension that support the increased towing and hauling numbers in the 2011 GMC Sierra HD. There's also a revised 6.6-liter Duramax clean diesel. Sixty percent of its parts are new, and Duramax chief engineer Gary Arvan said it will be 11 percent more fuel efficient than the previous LMM Duramax.


A new 36-gallon fuel tank extends the driving range of the Sierra. It’s standard on long and short box versions. GM promises up to a country-crossing 680-mile range, or about 18.8 mpg.

Other notable changes include replacing the old solenoid fuel-injection system with high-pressure 30,000-psi common rail piezo electric injectors, a higher capacity oil pump, revised crank for improved balance, and head gasket improvements have been made for greater quality, reliability and durability. Cylinder pressure ratio remains unchanged at 16-1. The variable geometry one-piece solid-shaft turbo has been marginally tweaked to work optimally with the engine's new performance characteristics.

For improved cold weather breathability, the Duramax uses a new flat-panel cartridge air filter instead of the old round filter. It helps prevent snow ingestion. There's also an improved mass airflow sensor to monitor the intake.

The engine block continues to be gray iron construction, instead of lighter, stronger compacted graphite iron used in the new Ford PSD and planned for GM's indefinitely postponed 4.5-liter V-8 Duramax. The block has been slightly revised with new ribbing structures to reduce noise, vibration and harshness and handling of increased torque levels.

New fast-acting glow plugs are said to promise instant cold starts after just 3 seconds in winter temperatures down to 20 degrees below zero.

Like Ford's Power Stroke, the Duramax will use selective catalytic reduction, or SCR, and a new high-capacity two-stage exhaust gas recirculation system to scrub nitrogen oxide emissions down to no more than 0.2 grams per horsepower/hour. It's a new EPA requirement as of Jan. 1.

The SCR system uses diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF. The urea-based solution (32.5 percent industrial urea and 67.5 percent deionized water) is held in a 5.3-gallon storage tank and injected as a fine mist into the Duramax’s hot exhaust gases. The heat turns the urea into ammonia that, when combined with a special catalytic converter, breaks down the nitrogen oxide emissions into harmless nitrogen gas and water vapor.

The DEF refill point for the Sierra HD is mounted under the hood of the engine instead of next to the diesel refueling cap on the side of the cargo box, as it is on the 2011 Super Duty.


To ensure that the driver refills the DEF tank, Duramax-equipped trucks will warn the driver when the fluid is down to a 1,000-mile range. A series of start-up warnings — including lights, chimes and messages — will become more frequent until the tank is empty. When the DEF fluid is down to a 100-mile range, the truck will be limited to only 55 mph. As the range declines, so will the vehicle's top speed. If the driver continues to operate the truck with a dry DEF tank, after a final warning and restart, the truck will operate in a “limp home” mode that limits speed to just 5 mph until the tank is refilled.

The 2011 Sierra adds the first application of trailer sway control to GM's full-size pickups. It works using the truck's antilock braking system and integrated trailer brake controller to brake individual wheels on the pickup automatically when it senses dangerous yaw in the rear of the truck from the trailer, which could happen if weight unexpectedly shifts inside the trailer. If the trailer has electric brakes and is connected to the Sierra's 7-pin trailer connector, the truck can also automatically apply the trailer's brakes to stop dangerous sway. TRW is the supplier for the system.

The Sierra also has bigger wheel brakes that have increased from 12.8 inches to 14 inches in diameter and widened from 1.5 inches to 1.57 inches. They feature a larger swept area for better stopping power, and the operating pressures have been changed to provide a firmer feel during application with less pedal travel required. The bigger brakes are a necessary improvement to reach higher gross combined weight ratings across the line.

Another new safety feature can help with hill starts. Hill-hold assist will automatically apply the vehicle's brakes for 1.5 seconds once you lift your foot off the brake when you're on an incline. It's part of the Sierra's integrated trailer brake controller, so it will apply the trailer's brakes, too, if it has electric brakes.

Finally, all single rear-wheel Sierra HD pickups will come standard with GM's StabiliTrak stability and traction control system. Though it's not required on trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, on the GM pickups it will run up to the heaviest 11,600-pound GVWR.

We can't wait to drive the heck out of these trucks this summer when they go on sale.


The interior is mostly unchanged as is the exterior mostly unchanged. Guys, compare this photo of the 2010 to the 2011 above:

Awesome looking truck!! Good job GM!

Meh, it's okay.

not much changed, Still the best looking truck on the road though IMO, love the Sierra Denali idea !

2nd best looking HD truck.

Never been a GM guy, but this thing blows the doors off those goofy looking Fords, IMO. To me, GM always made the ugliest trucks. Looks like it's Ford's turn now!!

I'm a Ram fan, but I'd rather see Ford come out over top of GM instead of the opposite. And by the way, I don't think GM has the 2nd best looking exterior. maybe 5th or so....

I don't get the odd 397 HP. They must be at an uncomfortable HP/Tq limit otherwise why not be the first to break 400 HP?

Way better looking than the Silverado. It has that mean squint-cat-eyed look and not too drenched in chrome. Very sexy indeed.

Best looking HD truck out thier, put a little meatier tires on it and it would be perfect.

Not sure I like the bling Denali grille. I think bling is pretty outdated now. All I can think they could have done to top it off is add some chrome spinners.

Can't wait to see one of these in person, the Denali 1500 is awesome, so im guessing the 2500 Denali will be too..

I guess GMC doesn't want the business of anyone who may actually need to remove or adjust the front bumper for a plow, winch, or other such accessory. The front bumpers of Chevy,. Ford, and Dodge HD trucks are all fully separate from the fenders and front fascia - compare the front bumpers of the Ram 1500 vs the Ram 2500/3500 as an example.

i drive an '01 f150, so i would love an opportunity to drive a new f150, silverado, or ram. the only gripe i have with chevy/gmc is that its so hard to distinguish between one and another. its like they do just enough to claim it visually different. i can easily distinguish a ford from mercury/lincoln/mazda and a dodge from/chrysler/jeep. people are brainwashed. look at the number. gm has/used to have gmc, chevy,pontiac,saab,saturn, hummer, buick and cadillac.... yes there are so many options, but they are watered down.... you have to combine silverado and sierra sales for them to beat f series sales..... theres only two ways to look at this. either the sierra and silverado are both better than the f150 or it took the sierra and silverado both to beat the f150. and that is why i will side with ford.

and another note: theres a huge difference in taking a government loan to improve and upgrade your products, and taking a government loan to save your butts because your too lazy to do it yourself, or you too dumb to be doing it in the first place.

Yes, Ford beats GM in brand sales and GM beats Ford in corp. sales, but think of it this way, if either GMC or Chevy were to go away, then the remaining GM brand would get all the customers and there's no way Ford would beat GM then.

Just downright ugly!!!!!!!

For all the heat the Super Duty gets for not being "all new" from front to back, heat should be brought on the GM. Really not much has changed throughout the years.







Quagmire, you can't say that. Some people get a GMC because they don't like the Chevys, and vise versa. Yes they would get most of those buyers, but not all. Gm would sell less trucks if they went with one brand.

Mark, thanks for the pics, They look GREAT....

"theres only two ways to look at this. either the sierra and silverado are both better than the f150 or it took the sierra and silverado both to beat the f150. and that is why i will side with ford."

Yes I like when GM outsells Ford, but that's not the most important for me, to me your post doesn't make sense. I side with a truck that have great capabilities, best MPG, great handling, very durable and reliable. That Truck name is Silverado, after all "most dependable longest lasting trucks on the road"

All of those trucks look the same to me since 2001 and very little different from 1999. Good point.

@ Ryan,

Not everyone will agree with you. It's get's old.

@ Joe,

I have the same sentiment.

Why doesn´t GM put the 6.2l 405hp engine into the 2500HD Denali? Why must it be the outdated 6.0l with no FlexFuel capability? Or am I wrong and the 6.0l is capabel of E85?

@Mark, I don't really see how you are able to compare the 1999 Sierra with that of a 2001 as they are the same body style. I know that the 1999 you showed is just an ordinary 1500 while the 2001 is a Denali. And the '99 bodystyle had just come out in late 1998 to replace the old Chevy/GMC C/K series trucks.

Matthias, I'm just guessing here. You have to use premium gas to get those power numbers. If you don't, the output is less than Ford and Dodge. Plus, I think the engine has to be detuned in the HD trucks compared to the half tons. They are in the other two. Like I said, just guessing here, don't know this as fact.

Nice looking truck. How about a 7.0L gas option and a 4500 cab and chassis model?

"@Mark, I don't really see how you are able to compare the 1999 Sierra with that of a 2001 as they are the same body style. I know that the 1999 you showed is just an ordinary 1500 while the 2001 is a Denali." - Steven


It makes my point that they are the same body styles. In 1999, there was no Denali to compare and since they are the same body styles we start with that year. It first arrived in 2001. In 2007 they were "all new" but as the pictures show they lack change. People love to bash Ford for lack of body style change, but they ignore the fact that not a lot has changed with GM body styles over the past 10 years since 1999.

You made no sense.
Ford body: 1999-current
GM body:(gmt800)1999-2006 +2007 classic and (gmt900)2007-current
Now Sierra Denali rolled out in 2002 and fully redesigned in 2007. Sierra Denali package was only available in half ton, and now it will also be available in HD.

I don't know what you don't get, but yes Ford does have a out dated body.

Oh Mark, one more thing, If you can't tell the difference between 2006 and 2007 Sierra Denali then you should visit your eye doctor.

That's a HD truck? Humm...looks kind of small...and with half-ton mirrors. Pretty...but no HD...IMHO.

I see the differences. There are some substantial differences, but the differences are evolutionary, not completely redesigned.

Oh, and one more thing. You are mistaken about Ford bodies being 1999 to present. The previous gen ran from 1999 to 2006 with a 2005 facelift. The second gen ran from 2007 to 2010. The current is 2011.

There have been substantial changes to both body styles, GM and Ford, but both are evolutions. Strengths of GM's redesigns have always been the powertrains, while weaknesses center on sketchy build quality and materials. Neither truck will be truly complete body style redesigns until 2013+.

1999 1st gen redesign
2005 facelift
2008 2nd gen redesign with new interior
2011 facelift and upgraded interior

GM bodies:
1999 redesign
2006 redesign with new interior
2011 minor facelift, interior unchanged

I like the looks of the Denali. THe GMC Sierra p/u is much better looking than the Chev Silverado. I can't wait for the HD shootout.
Truck buyers are a conservative bunch. Huge changes to a truck's appearance hurts sales. Cautiious evolution as opposed to revolution is the modus operandi of the Detroit 3.

@ quagmire - quote "Yes, Ford beats GM in brand sales and GM beats Ford in corp. sales, but think of it this way, if either GMC or Chevy were to go away, then the remaining GM brand would get all the customers and there's no way Ford would beat GM then."

1.Ford outsold GM in brand and corporate p/u sales in February.

2.GM corp. is wise to keep both brands because if they killed one they'd loose 48 - 66% of their customers.
There was a survey posted in this site asking who'd you go to if your truck brand was gone. The results show:
if Chev (Silverado) "died" 34 % would buy a GMC(Sierra), 25% Ford, 19% Dodge, and 18 % Toyota.
It seems GMC(Sierra) truck owners are more loyal overall - If GMC(Sierra) folded 52 % would buy a Chev(Silverado), 22% a Ford, 10% Toyota, and 7% Dodge.

I've owned a 2007 Sierra Denali 1500 and it looks like I will own a 2011 heavy duty, depending on the interior. Overall...based on the exterior, great effort GM!

Yes of coarse it's evolutionary redesign, but at the same time it's all new. All new sheet metal (cab included) all new frame, new 6.2 engine, new interior, the whole 9. And that redesign is 2007 model year.

Ford in the other hand is not all new, it still have same chassis although modified, same cab (except front structure) same bed (with couple mods for fuel door for 2011) so bottom line is that Ford has same body as it did in 1999.

Lou I'd like to know where did your get that info?

Does anyone think Ryan likes Chevys? I can't tell, he seems like a fence-sitter to me! LOL

@ryan - quote "Lou I'd like to know where did your get that info?"
My massive, omnipotent, computer like data base, also know as my brain! (Just kidding - sort of...)

A poll finds that truck buyers have strong feelings about which nameplate they’d turn to if their current truck maker went out of business.

Top 10 Pickup Truck Sales in February 2010:

nice and clean look, not like ford to much of evrything,,,,outside and inside,,,

Wow im soooooo fricken happy for "GM" (Goverment money right???) its so good that you can have sooo much hp and torque but my question what are you buying a truck for? hp and torque? or best in class payload and towing???!!!! GO FORD!!!!

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