The all-American truck continues to laugh all the way to the petrol station, but it also has a large heart
Road test: 2017 GMC Sierra
There is scarcely a segment of the auto industry that hasn’t embraced downsizing. Even the light-duty pick-up trucks so popular in the UAE – and that rarely do anything like the grunt work they’re designed for.
A couple of months ago, a colleague and I tested the Ford F-150 Raptor, an obvious competitor for this is the GMC Sierra. Yet while the Raptor has its 3.5L V6 from Ford’s EcoBoost range, the Sierra cares less for such future-facing concerns. The 6.2L V8 in my crew-cab 1500 Denali test car continues to laugh all the way to the petrol station – at which regular juncture, you may not be so mirth-filled.
It’s big and dumb-looking, albeit fairly boxy and not especially mean next to the Raptor, but you would have to be terminally inward-looking if you couldn’t see the appeal on our hectic roads – you feel unassailable; few fellow motorists dare trifle with you.
Unrefined it may be, but it does at least have some manners, with already frankly massive running boards that extend when you open the doors, aiding the clamber up into the cavernous cab. Its first admission of the sheer scale of things is that the brake and accelerator pedals have their own easily accessed height-adjustment controls, as opposed to being squirreled away in an options menu.
There is plenty of wood and leather throughout, and most of the knobs and dials are, to use a toy comparison, Duplo-sized to most cars’ comparative Lego. That said, the steering-wheel buttons are relatively fiddly and have the visual vibe of a cheap TV remote.
On the tarmac, triple-sealed doors keep out road noise, while magnetic ride control aims to neuter one past complaint – namely its bouncy suspension. It devours speed bumps without the need to barely break stride, but on rough ground, there’s still a bit of trademark up-and-down action.
If any of your life is spent parking your own car, you might curse buying the Sierra. Yes, the reversing camera is excellent and the driver’s seat vibrates as a warning of extreme proximity, but the nightmare of manoeuvring a vehicle of this size in car parks and narrower roads remains real. What would usually be a three-point turn can often require an abacus to rename.
My top bugbear, however, is the horrible steering-wheel-mounted gear lever, which feels like a relic from another age and protrudes way across the dash when slotted down into drive – to the point that there’s a real danger of accidentally knocking it into neutral while adjusting the stereo.
Yet I can’t quite bring myself to hate the Sierra, despite all of the above and the fact it half-inches its name from a cult-classic 1980s Ford. With Arctic-level air-conditioning and seat cooling, it’s a comfortable brute to command; there are more power points than your average branch of Sharaf DG; the giant double-hinging glovebox is only outdone by the massive central console storage compartment.
It’s a beast, but it has a big heart, literally, with its V8, and metaphorically. You could cross continents, move house or, probably, if it wasn’t illegal, sleep in it. Given the choice of all the vehicles in the world, buying a Sierra makes as much sense as a chocolate car in summer. But somehow, in flying in the face of common sense and trends, it is an unreconstructed maverick that will no doubt continue to attract myriad Middle Eastern buyers.