ARCTIC TORTURE TEST
Four Wheeler|October 2020
Driving the 2020 Alcan 5000 Winter Rally in a ’20 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4
Jeff Zurschmeide

Winter driving is a popular topic, especially among truck enthusiasts. Truck manufacturers like to talk about capability and toughness whenever they can. But it’s one thing to successfully manage a trip to the grocery store in a snowstorm. It’s quite a different challenge to take a road trip over 6,000 miles to the shores of the Arctic Ocean and back again in the dead of winter.

Yeah, We Really Did That

The 2020 Alcan 5000 Winter Rally left Seattle on February 26, bound for the village of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. Tuk, as it’s called, lies about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, on the shores of the Beaufort Sea. At 69 degrees, 26 minutes north latitude, Tuk is as far north as you can drive in Canada. Past the beach, it’s all ice to the North Pole.

The Alcan 5000 is among the most extreme motorsports events in the world. Each day requires teams to complete a short Time-Speed- Distance rally segment and then cover 400-600 miles to that night’s lodging. Scores are based on how accurately the teams cover the rally route. This year, 39 teams took part in the adventure.

Among this year’s teams was our effort, the Professional Grade Rally Team, driving a ’20 GMC Sierra AT4 Crew Cab pickup equipped with the 3.0L Duramax turbodiesel engine. Full disclosure: GMC loaned us the truck to make the trip and paid the entry fee to the rally. Nokian Tyres gave us a set of six Hakkapeliitta LT3 studded winter tires for the trip.

Tip: Travelers to the Arctic carry two spare tires. You don’t want to wait a week to get a tire shipped up there.

The Right Tool for the Job

The Arctic is among the least forgiving climates in the world. Daytime temperatures ranged from -20 to -40 F, with wind chill to -53 F. Road surfaces ranged from loose and packed snow to hard ice and bare gravel. Dangerous snowdrifts frequently narrow the passage, and oncoming 18-wheelers tend to run down the middle of the road.

The Sierra AT4 comes with a 2-inch lift compared to a standard Sierra 4WD, off-road suspension, locking rear differential, and underbody skid plates and recovery points at the front. The AT4 also incorporates GMC’s 4WD system that includes an Automatic AWD mode.

As mentioned, this particular Sierra came with the 3.0L inline-six Duramax turbodiesel engine paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission. The Duramax delivers 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough grunt for the Arctic.

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