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August 31, 2013

New GMC Sierra a tougher, more sophisticated truck

It should come as no surprise that when redesigning the GMC Sierra for 2014, General Motors made it a tougher, stronger truck than before.

Cue the gravel-voiced announcers and pictures of the Sierra climbing mountains and pulling oceanliners.

What's weird about it, though, is just how refined GMC managed to make it at the same time.

This is a truck that's now capable of towing up to 12,000 pounds — while still technically being classified as a "light duty" pickup, if you can believe it — yet it rides with the quiet serenity of a family car when you're cruising down the highway.

To be clear, the fresh Sierra is designed first and foremost to do more work. I love the rugged simplicity of steps that are carved into the rear bumper and the cargo tie-down system that's standard equipment. I also love the fact that you can get it with a 420-horsepower, 450-foot-pound V8 engine.

But what strikes me the most about this new truck is how it can be so hard-edged and tough in some ways while being so soft and supple in others.

It's like wearing silk work gloves.

Consider the rear tailgate, for example. For decades, anyone who has dropped the tailgate has heard a loud, clunky "thud" as it slams down under its own weight.

But the Sierra's mechanism has a soft, slow closing motion that sets the tailgate down gently if you drop it. I've only seen that kind of tailgate on one other truck — an extremely expensive Lexus luxury SUV — so it puts the new GM trucks in rarefied air.

It's a little thing, yes. But a long list of those little things makes the Sierra stand out.

The doors are set lower in the frame, like a car, and triple-sealed to keep out wind noise. The side mirrors and tailgate are designed to reduce turbulence. And the suspension is designed to be more smooth and comfortable than ever, something noticeable even on my test truck that was equipped with the Z71 off-road package.

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