By KEVIN WEAKS
“Pour me another cup of coffee, for it is the best in the land. I’ll put a nickel in the jukebox, and play the truck-drivin’ man.”
– Buck Owens
If you’re a truck-drivin’ man, you’ll be happy to learn that General Motors is introducing for 2020 beefier new renditions of the GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 heavy duty trucks. Every configuration of GM’s one-ton dually (no matter what cab, what engine, what drivetrain) can tow more than 30,000 pounds. Neither Ford nor Ram can say the same, says Motor Trend in its review of the big haulers.
The models are founded on an entirely new, stronger, longer and taller ladder frame, specifically designed to deliver bigger maximum towing and payload numbers. The HD models of the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra (both are built by UAW members in the same plant in Flint, Michigan) are available with a new 6.6-liter V8 that makes 401 horsepower with 464 pound-feet of torque, or a 6.6-liter V8 turbodiesel with a stump-pulling 445 hp and 910 lb-ft. The diesel hooks up to a 10-speed automatic, and the gasoline-fueled powerplant uses a six-speed automatic.
Put that in your cup of coffee.
Of course, the two nameplates have different styling details, but the major difference is the Sierra HD’s Multipro tailgate that has six different settings, including functioning as a staircase and workbench. Yes, a workbench.
Motor Trend calculates that General Motors’s pickup strategy is pretty simple: “Attack the market with two brands where competitors only offer a single choice.” This all-new platform, as well as controversial styling and state-of-the-art towing technology is already available in the 2020 Silverado 2500 and 3500, and now it’s time for the GMC side of the family to roll out their HDs and unique features, the magazine says.
ALL THAT AND GOOD LOOKS, TOO
GMC has kept it multi-block grille, front bumper and headlight designs more in keeping with the half-ton models, rather than following the Silverado’s facelifts.
The most dramatic changes to the Sierra HD front ends are driven in large part by the added airflow requirements needed for both the diesel and gas engine choices. There is also a substantial under-bumper mini-grille to direct air either to the intercooler (for the diesel) or transmission cooler (for the gas engine). Window beltlines have been lowered for better driver and passenger visibility and the actual bed sill height is lower as well.
General Motors is investing $150 million into its Flint Truck Assembly Plant to increase the production of these new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups. The money will also go toward improving the factory’s conveyors and other tooling, and this work will be done in the first half of 2020.
“We have tremendous opportunities to grow our heavy-duty pickup business because we’ve invested in capability, performance, innovation, and capacity,” said Mark Reuss, GM president, said when announcing the new investment.
“Our all-new Chevrolet and GMC HD pickups are the toughest, strongest, most capable heavy-duty pickups we’ve ever brought to market, and our Flint team is up to the challenge to build world-class quality products to drive the growth.”
Since 2013, GM has put $1.6 billion into the Flint Assembly plant for increasing production capacity of heavy-duty trucks. The money has allowed the factory to build around 40,000 more pickups per year than previously. The General also added 1,000 new jobs there earlier this year.
HEAVY TOWING HORSEPOWER
Although the 6.6-liter, 445-horsepower Duramax turbodiesel is a 2019 carryover engine choice, it is now mated with an all-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission, which sports a larger, faster computer controller. Additionally, there’s an all-new gas engine choice in the form of a 6.6-liter, 401 hp direct-injection V-8. This new engine replaces the 6.0-liter with updated technology and competes with the new Ford and Ram gas V-8s.
That new 10-speed automatic is said to muster a tow rating in excess of 30,000 pounds. That’s a major improvement over the current truck, which manages a maximum towing capacity of 23,100 pounds for rear-drive 3500HD dually models using a fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch.
Speaking of which, the 2020 GMC Sierra HD also comes with a completely different bed structure than the 1500. The HD’s bed is actually shallower and offers less total cubic feet of space, a conscious decision on GM’s part because it results in lower bodysides that aid bedside access and prevent damage when hitching a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer.
Even with the lower bodysides there’s still plenty of room back there and a total of 16 tie-down points make securing whatever you’re hauling much easier, and also easier to get to it. GMC offers its well-advertised, HD-specific MultiPro tailgate on the Sierra HD, along with standard enlarged bumper corner steps and HD-specific bedside steps.
LIGHTS, ACTION, CAMERA
If you’re into some serious towing, Sierra Denali and AT4 vehicles are available with GM’s comprehensive suite of cameras that offer 15 different views. What’s more, some of these views can be permanently displayed on the dash’s center stack, including a lane-minder that shows how the rear wheels and trailer are tracking on either side of the truck. That helps keep the cart behind the horse, to mangle a metaphor.
A useful “transparent trailer” mode makes use of an accessory camera mounted to the rear of a bumper-pulled box trailer, stitching together different camera views to provide a panoramic view of traffic or obstacles behind the trailer. And, if you’ve got the nerve to do it, this “transparent” mode would helpful while reversing.
Other tech features included in the 2020 GMC Sierra HD are bundled into its “ProGrade Trailering System” suite. An infotainment system trailering app provides a trailer light test feature and trailer electrical system diagnostics, and an available automatic electric parking brake automatically applies the brake when hitching to prevent that annoying inch or two of rollback that can foul up an approach.
One of the best features is a hill-hold system that prevents the truck from rolling back when starting from a stop on a grade. People in the Fiat behind you will appreciate that. And GM’s trailering label, placed on the driver’s door jamb, provides VIN-linked towing and payload information that takes each specific truck’s options and curb weights into account—no more guesswork using the vehicle’s general towing guide, notes Motor Trend.
OFF-ROADING HD STYLE
Accompanying the likes of the well-equipped Sierra HD SLT and luxury-lined Sierra HD Denali trims is a new off-road-oriented AT4 model.
Offered on both light-duty and heavy-duty platforms, the AT4 package for the HD offers bigger wheels and tires, specially tuned Rancho monotube shocks, extra skid-plating underneath, a Traction Select system with a unique Off-Road mode, Hill Descent and hill hold features, a 15-inch color head-up display with an off-road inclinometer, and a high-def surround-view camera. The 2500 or 3500 AT4 is exclusive to the GMC brand (meaning there is no Chevy Silverado HD Trail Boss at this time), says Motor Trend.
The AT4 package includes dark-chrome exterior accents, black-chrome grille, body-color bumpers, and red tow hooks further distinguish the AT4 from other Sierra HD models. The off-road trim also boasts standard leather seating surfaces.
The Sierra 2500HD AT4 can haul up to 18,500 pounds, with a maximum payload of 3,615 pounds. Not bad for an off-road pickup.
GM promises that the 2020 GMC HDs will offer three cab configurations, two bed lengths, two engine choices, and five trims—the value-oriented Sierra trim, the more mainstream SLE and SLT, then offer the more well-appointed AT4 and country-clubish Denali.
Entry-level Sierra HD regular cab will start at $38,790. The more popular 2500 SLE crew cab 4×4 will have a starting price $1,900 cheaper than the outgoing model and will include these upgrades: a stronger, more efficient 6.6-liter gas V-8, LED headlights, traction select, more payload and towing capacity, more sidesteps, and more cargo tiedowns in the bed. Pricing for this specific model starts at $46,990.
The top-of-the-line 3500 dually Denali 4×4 crew cab will have a starting price of $69,490 and include the 6.6-liter Duramax and 10-speed transmission, surround-view cameras, Multi-Pro Tailgate, and much more.
Contact Kevin Weaks at email@example.com