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Original MSRP: $28,415 - $47,685
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2011 GMC Sierra HD Performance

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

The GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD come standard with a 6.0-liter gas-powered V8 that reviewers like. But reviewers drool over the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8, which gets good fuel economy for a heavy-duty pickup and helps the Sierra HD trucks reach their full towing and hauling potential. While the Ford Super Duty trucks can out-tow and out-haul the Sierra HD series, reviewers say both Sierras are surprisingly comfortable to drive, and are more maneuverable than what Ford or Dodge trucks have to offer.

  • "What amazed me most is how quiet, smooth riding, and generally enjoyable this dual-rear-tired pickup has become. The Duramax turbo diesel is quiet, smoke free, and impressively strong especially from rest. It is supremely well matched to the Allison automatic transmission.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Specs, shmecs…what are these beasts like on the road? For one, they're surprisingly civilized, especially for anyone with experience in similar rough-and-ready trucks as recent as two generations ago.” -- Popular Mechanics
  • "By the end of our time in the Denali gasser, we were impressed with its performance pulling 10,000 pounds. If you’re not going to tow cross-country or through mountainous terrain and you’re looking for a high-end pickup, the Denali 2500 6.0 is a solid choice.” -- PickupTruck.com
  • "The new Duramax is an impressive piece. Acceleration is gutsy, the torque is right there when you need it and hauling or towing substantial loads behind the truck is a snap.” -- AutoGuide.com

Acceleration and Power:

Both the Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD can be had with either a gas-powered or turbodiesel V8 engine. The Vortec 6.0-liter gas-powered engine comes standard on both models, and makes 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Upgrading to the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 in either model will cost you $7,195, but it will add 397 horsepower and an impressive 765 pound-feet of torque into the mix. Keep in mind though that reviewers found the gas-powered V8 to be adequate in nearly every task except the most hard-core towing situations.

The EPA doesn’t rate heavy-duty work vehicles for fuel economy, but reviewers expect the turbodiesel engine to get better fuel economy than the gas-powered engine. With a 36-gallon tank, these trucks are always going to be expensive to fill up no matter which engine you choose. GMC says the Sierra HD’s diesel engine can drive 680 miles on a full tank, which averages out to about 18.9 miles per gallon, which is a fantastic average for a heavy-duty truck. Still, if diesel costs $4 per gallon, you’ll pay $144 every time you fill up from empty.

Chances are, if you’re looking to conserve fuel, you won’t be considering a pickup. But if you need the utility of a truck and want to add more miles between visits to the pump, you should consider the Sierra 1500 Hybrid or its corporate twin, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid. Both hybrids get an EPA-rated 20/23 mpg city/highway in two-wheel drive models, and sport a 5-foot-9-inch bed, which is less than a foot shorter than the Sierra HD’s standard box. Neither of these hybrid pickups comes close to the towing capacity of the Sierra HD trucks, however.

  • "The small-block V8 engine has the roar that we've come to know and love since time immemorial. Considering how quiet the rest of the truck is, the engine sound actually seems almost of out place, but we're not going to complain.” -- Autoblog
  • “Either engine provides confident acceleration in both around-town and highway driving. Both engines haul light loads with ease, but the diesel gets our nod for towing and heavy hauling thanks to its massive 765 pound-feet of torque.” -- Consumer Guide
  • “[The diesel engine’s] massive (segment-best) 765 pound-feet of torque got that hefty rig rolling with ease, and its (segment-best) 397 hard-muscled horses kept it moving surprisingly smoothly and quietly.” – Kelley Blue Book
  • “A revised diesel engine makes a stupendous 765 pound-feet of torque, can burn 20-percent biodiesel, and muscles this big truck around with authority.” -- Car and Driver
  • "The pushrod 6.0-liter V-8 performs well in the HD pickup. While we couldn’t merge onto the freeway as quickly as with the Duramax, we still had plenty of power to get the truck up to highway speed.” -- PickupTruck.com

Handling and Braking

Although the GMC Sierra HD trucks will never be able to carve through corners like low-slung sports cars, reviewers say they ride and handle pretty well for such big trucks.

  • "Later, in back-to-back comparisons with the latest Ford and Dodge competitors, both the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado HD trucks provided the best sense of full control of steering and also brake modulation on winding roads through the mountains.” -- Popular Mechanics
  • "By heavy-duty pickup standards, the Sierra delivers a great blend of ride comfort, agility and braking.” -- AutoGuide.com
  • "Our only complaint was that the effort felt a bit light at low speeds, but it firmed up nicely at higher velocities.” -- Autoblog
  • "The dual rear wheels make navigating urban areas a challenge, but people who buy a truck like this will likely rarely worry about that issue.” -- Automobile Magazine

Towing and Hauling

GMC’s Sierra HD trucks are built to tow and haul like the rest of the workhorses in the class. The 2500HD, when properly configured, can tow up to 17,500 pounds and haul a payload of up to 3,704 pounds. The 3500HD can carry even more, with a maximum tow rating of up to 21,700 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 6,635 pounds. Although most buyers will likely never need to tow the equivalent of nine Fiat 500s, the Ford F-450 can tow 24,400 pounds. That’s about 2,700 pounds, or one Fiat 500, more than the GMC Sierra 3500HD can tow. If you need to be able to tow as much as possible, your best bet is to go with the Ford Super Duty. Still, reviewers say that most people will do just fine with the Sierra HD.

  • "I employed the GMC Sierra to tow my 19-foot Glastron boat, a burden of only 4,000 pounds. That was a rather piddling load for this well muscled machine and it barely knew a load was in tow.” -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "Our tow truck was again powered by the diesel, and even with all that mass to drag around, the engine never felt strained, even though our drive route contained several extended grades of seven to eight percent.” -- Autoblog
Review Last Updated: 3/21/12

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