We Hit the Trail in a 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4

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Although we've driven the new 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali and SLT models, we recently had a chance to get behind the wheel of the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 with the new Off-Road Performance Package. This 4x4 package is well-mannered on the road yet able to be raucous off-road. But be warned: This GMC half ton can get pricey.

Related: 2019 GMC Sierra AT4 Video

For a quick recap, the AT4 is the GMC Sierra 1500's four-wheeling-friendly trim. It has a special 2-inch suspension lift (compared to other Sierra 1500 trims) to accommodate larger, more aggressive tires; it adds a set of special-purpose Rancho monotube shocks; includes an automatic G80 locking rear differential; sports vertical bright red tow hooks; and offers a more athletic color scheme with body-colored bumpers, grille surround, mirrors and door handles along with some black accents strewn around the truck. It's similar in size and construction to the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss, but it looks quite different.

Sounds and Surfaces

Our test truck benefited from GMC's new Off-Road Performance Package that includes the biggest V-8 engine (the 6.2-liter EcoTec V-8 with Dynamic Fuel Management that puts out 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, which is not available on the Silverado Trail Boss), a 10-speed transmission, 18-inch black aluminum wheels, 31.5-inch Goodyear DuraTrac all-terrain tires, a dual cat-back performance exhaust and a see-through high-flow performance air intake. The cat-back performance exhaust system provides the most noticeable improvement with a stronger, more resonant tailpipe note that constantly reminds you you're driving something special (a selectable exhaust system like the Ford Mustang's would be nice to have here). Get into the throttle on the freeway and the rumble is pronounced or blip it off the line and the throaty echo is quite nice. The performance exhaust pairs nicely with a bigger air intake that allows for cooler, freer-flowing air into the engine, which we're told provides a healthy bump of extra power and torque; better breathing in and out will do that.

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We should note that even though this is GMC's premiere off-pavement pickup, it will impress people with its highway manners and handling. As odd as it might sound when talking about a vehicle with 2-inch-taller front coils and re-arched rear leaf springs, there is no wander from the steering or a "tippy" feeling when carving corners or making sharp turns. GM engineers have provided a balanced and smooth ride for a taller, higher pickup. During high-speed freeway cruises and canyon carving, we never felt the Sierra 1500 AT4 get uncomfortable or out of sorts. Our only complaint was with the noise the Goodyear DuraTrac all-terrain tires made on harder surfaces. The drone was not loud, but it was noticeable and something to consider. As soon as we got to the slower-speed trailhead during a mountain climb, those issues disappeared and we navigated the washed-out ruts and off-camber potholes of the dirt trail with ease and less tire noise.

Off-Roading

The four-wheel-drive system on the AT4 is traditional, running through a dedicated transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear that splits available engine torque 50/50 between the front and rear driveshafts when in low range. But there is a twist. All AT4s have a new Traction Select System feature that allows the 4WD system to adjust specific parameters like traction control, throttle response and more depending on the obstacles and terrain you expect to encounter. We ran our GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 in Off-Road mode in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive and really appreciated the difference between the settings and how well the system controls the truck when moving back and forth between throttle and brake. With the tires at full pressure and an unadjustable suspension, there was plenty of roll and head toss when we didn't tamp down our speed appropriately for the terrain. However, the tire grip and Traction Select System did a good job of getting us through some deep sand and slippery mud patches that could have had us getting close to a nasty ledge drop off.

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Another special feature of this well-equipped off-road package is how comfortable the pickup drives when in low range and turning. Normally, a left- or right-hand turn leads to a "crow hop" that creates an unnerving understeer situation, especially on dangerous and remote trails. We felt none of that here; the steering wheel had a light feel while climbing and descending a steep 50-foot rock face. The surround-view cameras displayed images on the 8-inch multimedia screen, allowing us to see exactly where each of our tires were and how to steer away from any danger.

We expect this new GMC off-road model to fare well against most other off-roader half tons: the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss, Ram 1500 Rebel, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro and Nissan Titan Pro-4X. The exception is the Ford F-150 Raptor, which is in a league by itself. The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 could be the new standard the others will have to meet.

Tailgate Tunes

A lunch stop along the off-road trail led to our discovery one of the coolest available bed features we've seen in a long time. All GMC AT4s come with the MultiPro Tailgate as standard, which provided us with a platform from which we could eat lunch standing up. Our test truck had the dealer-installed Kicker Audio system built into the tailgate; it operates completely independent of the factory sound system. It slots two protected high-output speakers into the step-covered part of the tailgate. The system is controlled with a few weatherproof switches and can play music via Bluetooth, USB or an auxiliary jack — so we had tunes with our meal at the top of a mountain. We're told the price for the Kicker system is $699 for the system itself, while dealers will charge separately for the install.

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So, What Does It Cost?

The base price for a crew-cab AT4 is $54,695 including destination, but our truck included the 6.2-liter V-8 upgrade with the 10-speed transmission ($2,495); the Technology Package with surround-view camera, rear camera mirror, color head-up display and 8-inch multimedia screen ($1,875); the cat-back performance exhaust ($1,595); upgraded air intake ($675); and power sunroof ($995). Our truck also had the optional Driver Alert Package II ($745), which includes forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist, low-speed auto braking, safety alert seats and adaptive headlights. Our upgraded Satin Steel Metallic paint ($395) and more aggressive Goodyear DuraTrac mud tires ($295) rounded out the options, bring the total price to $66,365 with a $500 AT4 discount. The price gets buyers a truck with lots of personality and capability.

The bottom line is that the GMC Sierra 1500 is not just a more expensive Chevrolet Silverado 1500, as some people believe. The Chevy does not get the big V-8 or 10-speed automatic transmission or the new tailgate sound system, to name a few features it lacks. The exclusivity of the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 is likely to appeal to lots of new truck buyers. At least GMC hopes so.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams, Aaron Bragman

 

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Comments

GM's "2 inch lift and larger and more aggressive tires" amounts to "still lower, and with smaller tires" than what every other manufacturer gives you as standard equipment.

I'd rather buy the real thing, "RAPTOR" in lieu of a copy-cat glorified station wagon.
I'll pass. GM Fails.

Posted by: Frank | Jan 31, 2019 10:25:52


Nice try there Frankie! If you want the "real thing" as you call it, by all means go out and buy it! Everyone knows you are all talk and drive a rusted out F-250. More than likely you tr@ll the forums from you old man's basement! LOL



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