Trucks and Texas go together like BBQ and beer. In fact, I bet there’s no one in the state who doesn’t know someone with a truck – or own one themselves. The new luxury cargo haulers have grown in popularity every year … and for many practical and thoughtful reasons.
Our latest Drive Time feature showcases the excellent 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Duramax AT4. So much power, amenities, cool tech and some amazing cargo options to ease loading. My truck-loving friends were immediately impressed, as was this self-professed car-lover. Thank you to Ewing GMC in Plano for the tester.
Last year we featured the opulent Denali top-of-the-line truck in the GM family, and its rugged AT4 Duramax sibling is easy to like as well. It’s powerful, practical, full of thoughtful goodies and drives admirably, either on or off-road. New engine and transmission choices ramp up the allure. After a week, I can easily see why Texans indeed love their trucks.
Our tester is the off-road short cab AT4 Duramax. It looks mighty handsome in Summit White paint and terrific chrome and black trim. A large bold face is nearly as formidable as a semi, but nicely fits the overall scheme.
Exceptionally bright LED headlights, C-shaped running lights, thoughtful skid-proof step-up rails, chrome exhaust tip and robust Goodyear Wrangler tires finish off the look.
Yet let’s face it; looks are nice but trucks are all about power and utility. The AT4 offers a robust Duramax diesel 3.0 liter inline six with 277 hp/460 lb.ft torque. A new 10-speed transmission deftly runs through the gears, sometimes skipping a couple to maximize gas mileage – along with the unobtrusive Auto/stop. Gas mileage is a terrific 22/26 and I squeezed 27.5 on the highway. That’s darn good and a 30 percent increase over the petrol version. Oh, and there’s no gas cap to fiddle with. Genius!
The capable switch-on-the-fly 4×4 switchable, protective skid plates and a higher 2’ lift clearance allows the AT4 to deftly handle off-road situations. Braking and handling are excellent for a big rig and even the turning radius is good. However, even with the helpful 360-degree camera, you are limited to generous parking spaces (forget navigating in parking structures), so plan accordingly. In addition, highway driving is surprisingly smooth and quiet even with the big knobby rubber tires.
The suspension allows for limo-divine driving. My passengers approved of the comfortable ride.
The dual cab is like the ultimate mobile man cave. I mean it’s immense without swallowing you up. The black leather and contrasting saddle inserts look and feel luxurious. Large, comfy and supportive front seats cool and heat! Tasteful contrast stitching, chrome and real wood accents will impress anyone. Fit and finish are outstanding. Leg and headroom are generous, and visibility is maybe the best I’ve seen in any vehicle tested, as you ride high in the saddle.
The heated leather-wrapped steering wheel (awesome in frigid weather) is responsive, light and feels just right in your mitts. Several scrollable info menus in the large LCD instrumentation dash deliver just about any piece of intel you wish, and the Head Up display is incredibly handy to show speed limits, navigation instructions and if you’re in two- or all-wheel drive. As opposed to many cars these days, there are useful large knobs and buttons (a radio station tuner!) to easily make choices while wearing work gloves.
Heated rear seating will comfortably house anyone, and the seats fold up against the cab’s back to allow additional floor storage. Genius. There’s plenty of knickknack stowage, there are two secret compartments in the backseats, and you can even install a safe in the cavernous middle console. Copious cupholders and two glove boxes allow for all the knickknacks you need to store. I could seriously live in this mobile suite if it had a shower and fridge.
Of course, there’s ample cargo room even in the short bed model. The included CarbonPro box is lighter and stronger than your typical steel (the package interestingly includes wireless charging and power-sliding rear window). In fact, due to the increased rigidity and less weight, the bed is enlarged for even more cargo – payload is 1,890 lbs. and the truck can haul up to 9,100 lbs.
Yet the big hero is the incredible MultiPro tailgate that incorporates various hinges to assist ease of loading, prevents cargo from falling out and easy access to the bed. Even the foot sills on the sides of the rear bumper and included grab bar makes perfect sense. You can option some great Kicker speakers in the tailgate for, you know tailgaiting. It’s a wow moment whenever I demonstrated the capabilities.
Finally, there is the optional Sierra rear camera affixed to the back of whatever you’re towing that magically turns the load invisible so you can see what’s behind the trailer. In addition, the HD camera offers up to 15 different views around the truck and in the bed (in case your dog is getting rambunctious back there).
This certainly isn’t the barebones truck of yesteryear, as there’s plenty of technology to woo you. Safety features are abundant and top-notch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard. A Bose surround system is powerful and clear.
In addition, safety ratings are excellent and there are enough nanny features to keep you out of harms way.
The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Duramax certainly ramps up nearly every aspect its discerning (and plentiful) buying audience wants and expects. The quintessential American cargo hauler sails in some very competitive waters, while continuing to give its competition fits. In fact, GMC beat the formidable Ford truck in 2020 sales. My truck luvin’ friends gushed over it, and obviously, many already agree.
Golf Bags: A truck load
Curb Appeal: Stylish, bold and incredibly practical American ride
0-60: 6.2 seconds
Gas Mileage: 22/26. Observed 27.5 mpg on the highway
Must-Haves: MultiPro tailgate, CarbonPro bed, 360-degree camera
Warranty & Free Maintenance: 3yr/36.000 miles, 5Y/60K powertrain
Base Price: $54,300
Price as Tested: $63,350
Who Buys It? Anyone desiring excellent driving, towing and luxury appointments
Finish Line: An All-American package of brawn and luxury