Critics’ Notebook: 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT Crew Cab

Have truck, will donut.

byJonathan Schultz|
GMC Reviews photo

Picture, if you will, snow. Now picture a 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD SLT Short Box Crew Cab with the Premium Plus package. Even if you can’t conjure the particulars of the truck—its automatic locking hubs and rear differential, 5.3-liter EcoTec V8 engine, glossy black paint and Calvin-pissing-on-a-Ford bearing—you’d know that a snowflake wouldn’t bother it much. Know what does? The Law.

As the second biggest blizzard in New York City history rendered streets into sluices, the governor and mayor barred non-essential vehicles from the metropolis’s roads. Get caught out on a Cheetos run and you’d also be docked a couple points on your licence. Consequently, a truck named after one of America’s snowiest mountain ranges was grounded. It surely had violent dreams; awaking from its forced hibernation the following morning—which had dawned a providential blue—the Sierra bounded like a show pony over the three-foot snowbank blocking its entrance to the street. Was it in 4-Lo? Cowboy, please. As it passed hapless New Yorkers exhuming what looked like Sierras but were in fact Corollas, the truck remained in bog-standard rear-wheel drive.

For party tricks’ sake, I toggled to 4-Lo during a parallel parking maneuver in Manhattan’s snowbound West Village—which was buried so thoroughly it might’ve been Vladivostok. All four wheels bit down on the packed-powder bedding, the truck lurched backward and, in three movements with no wheelspin, the Sierra had claimed the plushest spot on the block.

All this capability can feed a driver’s delusions of grandeur, an impression further nourished by the Sierra’s interior. Thick black leather, an eight-inch multimedia touch screen, a smattering of camera views and maybe the best damn seat heaters on the market make the driver feel like king of the ranch. On a Harley. In 1794. Scaling Denali. Translated: Even if there’s no gaudy badge on the liftgate, this feels like a special-edition truck.

Don’t think it won’t make the donuts, though. With West Coast editor Chris Cantle riding shotgun, the Sierra crossed to the exotic Isle of Staten, whose windward shore had received 31 inches in the blizzard. Unplowed lots were thin on the ground (New York is not Detroit, after all). When we did find an untouched patch, the donuts were served up with little fanfare and utter nonchalance. They were perfect, if a bit bloodless. And in the aftermath of a historic blizzard, where superlatives whizzed by like snowflakes, the Sierra was simply, if nonchalantly, the best shovel in the shed.


2016 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT Crew Cab

PRICE (as tested): $54,495

POWERTRAIN: 5.3-liter EcoTec V8, 355 hp, 383 lb-ft; six-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive

MPG: 16 city / 22 highway