As one of the best-selling vehicles in North America, the GMC Sierra 1500 has an extensive price range, with more than $50,000 separating the base trim from the cream of the crop.
And while the decked-out Denali Ultimate trim makes sense for shoppers looking for luxury, the 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X brings with it added aggression and off-road prowess while delivering an astoundingly comfortable ride.
The AT4X gets a wicked cool stamped steel front bumper, while the fascia overall has a little more aggression than the ordinary Sierra. Compared to its Chevrolet Silverado sibling, the GMC gets less polarizing styling, giving it a broader, more upscale appeal. It’s a truck dressed in business casual attire, but it isn’t afraid to roll up its sleeves and get its hands dirty.
For buyers who plan on additional capability, the $7,995 AEV Edition package adds touches from overlanding outfitter American Expedition Vehicles. Extras include a stamped steel rear bumper with heavy-duty tow points, four more heavy-duty boron steel skid plates, rocker panel protection, gloss black door handles, unique 18-inch AEV-branded wheels with 33-inch mud terrain tires, as well as AEV branding on the headrests and all-weather floor liners, and AEV exterior badging.
With unique springs accompanying Multimatic’s magnetorheological shocks, the Sierra AT4X has excellent suspension damping for both street and off-road situations. By comparison, the Denali Ultimate’s adaptive dampers can’t match the body control of this Canadian-made suspension over bumps and bruises on the road.
The AT4X rides relatively firmer in most situations; when driving on pothole-ridden roads, loose gravel, or washboard dirt surfaces, occupants can count on rock-solid stability and minimal commotion filtering through to the passenger cabin. In fairer weather, it loves eating up the miles – er, kilometres – as competently as any luxury car.
The interior is finished similarly to the Denali Ultimate, minus a few garnishing touches. Seating surfaces are full-grain leather with ventilation up front and with heating for outboard passengers in the rear. Long driving stints without fatigue are straightforward thanks to front seat massagers and the great ride quality. Kudos to General Motors (GM) for buttons that enable the front-seat heat to be isolated to the seatbacks, relieving soreness without toasted buns to go with it.
There’s only one powertrain available with the Sierra AT4X package – a 6.2L V8 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. (Other trims get the option of a diesel, but that’s not the case here, unfortunately). With 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, the AT4X merges and passes quickly and lets out a satisfying burble as it sweeps through the rev range. The transmission makes the most of the power on tap with a small amount of gear hunting and a bit of unrefined jerkiness at low speeds. For torque lovers who insist on diesel, the regular AT4 can be so equipped.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Steering and brakes are well-weighted and precise, and even with the increased ride height, the Multimatic suspension keeps body roll to a minimum. Combined with the awesome 6.2L V8 and decent 10-speed transmission, the solid inputs and ride make for more fun than would be expected in a pickup truck.
While the AT4X is geared towards off-roading, its dimensions aren’t conducive to crawling over rocks or along tight muddy trails. Even with the 33-inch wheel and tire package, a 51-mm (two-in) body lift, and 282 mm (11.1 in) of ground clearance, general overlanding would be a better fit. With some extra camping (glamping?) accessories, it becomes a more turnkey operation than beefing up a lower-spec truck.
While it does have rugged Goodyear Wrangler mud-terrain tires, they’re not winter-rated, and thus braking and overall traction weren’t very good during this test. As with any other vehicle, dedicated winter tires will reign supreme in snowy and icy conditions. On the other hand, the AT4X tackled mud pits with aplomb.
Aside from its rugged good looks, the Sierra AT4X has a few more party tricks that make it more than just a pretty face. Proper electronic locking front and rear differentials are class-exclusive; not even the Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX get them. There’s also a selectable terrain mode, which can modulate throttle and brake controls for precise one-pedal operation when crawling off-road.
Other standard features include tubular rocker panel guards, a spray-in bedliner with AT4X logo, 12-speaker stereo, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, microsuede headliner, wireless phone charging, a heated steering wheel, LED headlights, a head-up display, and GMC’s contorting MultiPro tailgate. For those who like to party, the MultiPro tailgate features its own sound system that can pair with your phone for Bluetooth audio streaming.
On the safety front, several driver-assist features help to keep the Sierra AT4X between the lines. There’s adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, front and rear pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring including accommodation for trailers and rear cross-traffic alert, camera-based hitch guidance, a 360-degree camera system, a vibrating safety alert seat, and parking sensors on the front and rear bumpers. GM’s semi-autonomous Super Cruise system is not available on the AT4X and is reserved only for the Denali and Denali Ultimate.
For drivers with young children, the child seat anchors are reasonably easy to access. With the extra ride height and only a tubular steel rocker guard instead of a proper running board, loading rear-facing babies and toddlers can be awkward. A proper running board would solve this issue at the expense of some off-road ground clearance.
The GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X isn’t the smallest rig on the road, but the camera and sensor gadgetry can help make daily life easier. The rear camera mirror takes some getting used to, but once your eyes become accustomed to focusing on a screen it affords greater rearward visibility in both day and night. When parking and reversing, there are infinite camera angles to help you out – but remember: there’s no useful backup camera when the tailgate is down.
Ergonomics in the Sierra are a strong suit, and plenty of hard buttons and knobs handle most everyday functions. The dual-zone heating and air conditioning controls are somewhat busy but will always be preferable to full-touch interfaces. Under the volume knob there’s a home button to get to the main menu for the infotainment, which is a plus. A move to a console-mounted shifter is easy to get used to but may draw some ire from die-hard column shift lovers.
With a mid-cycle refresh introduced last year, the Sierra’s interior has been fully revised to keep up with the competition. It addresses one of its main weak points: the old setup looked and felt antiquated, especially in higher trim levels. Ease of use with the 12.3-inch infotainment screen is in line with industry norms regarding touchscreens; there’s a bit of a learning curve, but it works well once acclimated. Google integration is helpful for mapping and navigation, although wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the better options for smart connectivity.
Capability-wise, the AT4X matches other crew cab Sierras with a short bed bolted to the back and the 6.2L under the hood. It can tow up to 4,082 kg (9,000 lb) and accepts up to 1,031 kg (2,272 lb) of payload. While the 5-foot-10 bed won’t accommodate a typical sheet of plywood laid flat, there’s at least enough width between the wheel housings to get the job done. Other trims with the 3.0L diesel have the same tow rating and only a marginal increase in payload.
Inside the crew cab configuration, anybody over six feet shouldn’t have any problems sitting in front or rear seats. A space-eating rear-facing child seat should only impact the exceptionally tall. In short, the Sierra AT4X does half-ton truck stuff very well.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
While half-ton trucks aren’t noted for their fuel economy, those riding on mud-terrain tires will are notably worse due to increased rolling resistance. With Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) ratings of 16.7 L/100 km in the city and 14.0 on the highway, this test saw an observed 14.8 in mostly highway driving, including plenty of winter-time remote-start idling. To twist the knife a little more, premium fuel (91 octane or better) is recommended.
Thanks to cylinder deactivation, cruising at 80 to 90 km/h does net impressive highway mileage that can beat the rated figures. Still, much of this is negated once you hit triple-digit speeds. Other trims with the diesel are good for 10.7 L/100 km in the city and 8.7 on the highway, but these figures are undoubtedly helped along with a less aggressive wheel and tire package and better aerodynamics with a lower ride height.
Against its peers, fuel economy is marginally worse than the turbocharged V6 of the Ford F-150 Raptor and is handily worse than the hybrid Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. However, it isn’t the worst in its class; that title goes to the much more powerful Ram 1500 TRX that gets 22.4 L/100 km in the city and 16.5 on the highway (yikes).
The AT4X starts at $98,703, and with the AEV Edition package mixed in with a few other incidental options, the as-tested price balloons to $109,038 with destination fees and A/C tax. In addition to competing with the Denali Ultimate, the GMC finds itself right in the crosshairs of the renowned Ford F-150 Raptor, which gets more output (450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque) and arguably more brand recognition. A comparably equipped Ram 1500 TRX is about $15,000 more, but 702 hp and 650 lb-ft greets you in return. Meanwhile, the Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited TRD Pro is nearly $20,000 cheaper but isn’t as nice as a truck.
Between the AT4X and Denali/Denali Ultimate trim levels, both flagship Sierras are lovely cruisers with distinctly different flavours. The 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X’s off-road leanings should do best in overlanding and rough road operation, and the Multimatic shocks allow it to ride impeccably well in any circumstance. Conversely, the Denalis have Super Cruise capability.
The AT4X’s price holds it back against the F-150 Raptor, but delivers a bit less aggression compared to that in-your-face Ford. And while the optional diesel was what we missed most, it’s generally a fantastic truck in a niche corner of the market.
|Peak Horsepower||420 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||16.7 / 14.0 / 15.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||5'10" bed|
|Model Tested||2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X|
|Price as Tested||$109,038|
$8,140 – Steering Column Lock delete, -$50; Engine Block Heater, $195; AT4X AEV Edition, $7,995