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2011 GMC Sierra HD Review

This review was written when the 2011 GMC Sierra HD was new.

While competitors offer more luxurious interiors and can tow and haul more, the GMC Sierra HD offers a good combination of power, comfort and daily driveability.

Although the Ford Super Duty trucks can tow and haul more than the GMC Sierra HD, and Ram Heavy Duty trucks offer more luxurious interiors, the automotive press loves how the GMC Sierra HD trucks straddle the line between down-and-dirty utility and everyday comfort. Its corporate sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado HD, offers the same capabilities and the same pricing as the Sierra HD, but doesn’t offer a top-of-the-line trim to compete with Ford’s King Ranch, Ram’s Laramie Longhorn or the Sierra’s Denali. “These big rigs boast car-like driving characteristics with impressive hauling and towing capabilities, along with class-exclusive features such as all-surface 4WD,” writes Consumer Guide. “They're a must-see for heavy-duty pickup shoppers.”

Reviewers are impressed with the Sierra HD’s performance, saying it’s more comfortable to drive than they expected. While this heavy-duty truck will never drive like a super luxury car, test drivers say it has a comfortable ride and plenty of get-up-and-go for daily driving, in addition to wicked amounts of towing and hauling power from its new 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine. Some say the exterior and lower interior trims could use some updating, but reviewers are enjoying this year’s addition of the upscale Denali trim to the Sierra HD stable.

Though the Sierra HD and Chevrolet Silverado HD are nearly identical, the Sierra distinguishes itself with a few more upscale cues, but not much else. The two trucks even cost the same both at the 2500HD and 3500HD trim levels. Either way, test drivers agree that both trucks are a good choice for nearly any heavy- or light-duty task. "In terms of raw capabilities, these new GM trucks edge the Fords in most categories, but not by any amount big enough to be truly meaningful,” writes Autoblog. “What may tilt the scales toward GM, however, is its superior ride quality, engine refinement and features like smart exhaust braking.”

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Other Heavy-Duty Trucks to Consider

If you need to tow and haul as much as possible, Ford Super Duty trucks reign supreme. The Ford F-250 can tow a 16,500-pound fifth-wheel trailer, compared with the Sierra 2500HD’s 14,300-pound capacity. The F-350’s 24,400-pound fifth-wheel capability out-tows the Sierra 3500HD’s 21,700-pound capacity by one and a half tons. Plus, the F-250 offers Ford’s Work Solutions in-dash computer system, which can track your tools, your crew members, provide a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and even print invoices on the go.

If you’re looking for a pickup with an opulent interior and don’t mind sacrificing some towing capability, you should check out the Ram Heavy Duty trucks. Reviewers say Ram’s new Laramie Longhorn trim is the most luxurious one available in the heavy-duty pickup truck class. It’s only available with a 6-foot-4-inch bed, but comes with power heated mirrors with driver memory, rearview camera, heated and cooled leather bucket front seats and even heated back seats. The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn starts at about $45,650, while the upscale GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali starts at $43,650.

Keep in mind that no matter which heavy-duty truck you buy, reviewers say you can’t really make a bad choice. All four are good at what they do.

Details: GMC Sierra HD

This year, GMC has added the Denali trim to its heavy-duty trucks. This top-of-the-line trim competes with other ultra-luxurious truck trims like Ford’s King Ranch and Ram’s Laramie Longhorn. GMC also added a new exhaust brake feature to the Sierra HD’s Duramax turbodiesel engine, which helps to slow the truck without using the brakes. This preserves the brake pads and prevents brake fade, especially when towing heavy trailers on miles of downhill grades.

GMC offers the Sierra HD as either a 2500 or a 3500, and most shoppers should be able to find the right Sierra HD to fit their needs. Both trucks offer the option of regular, extended and crew cabs; standard and long beds; two- or four-wheel drive; and a choice between a 6.0-liter gas-powered V8 and a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8. Dual rear wheels are only available on 3500HD models. Trim levels start at the base Work Truck (WT), which includes manual single-zone air conditioning, hill start assist and a four-speaker audio system. SLE and SLT trims include more creature comforts, and both the 2500HD and 3500HD Denalis include bells and whistles worthy of an upscale sedan. Denali trims come standard with a Bose audio system, 12-way power-adjustable heated leather seats and rear parking sensors. Denali trims are only available when the Sierra is configured with a crew cab. Opting for a Denali trim over the crew cab, standard box Sierra 2500HD in base trim will add about an extra $13,200 to its price tag, bringing the MSRP up to $43,650. A Sierra 3500HD Denali adds about $12,700, with an MSRP of $44,650.

  • "This truck is more capable than what 99.9% of private owners need, but for those select target customers, this $56K one-ton truck is surely fantastic, with its heated seats, satellite radio, very spacious cabin, huge bed, and, of course, near limitless towing capability.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • “Notably improved with added capability, the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD is an excellent choice for a heavy-duty truck.” -- Edmunds
Review Last Updated: 3/21/12

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