For the last decade or so, the heavy-duty truck market has been full of competitive spirit, with each automaker churning out a new technology or powertrain that oneups the others in some way. However, with a few exceptions, General Motors has been content to watch Ford and Ram return volley for volley—sitting out on the max-towing measuring contest specifically.
That changes with the all-new 2020 GMC Sierra HD, available as always in ¾-ton 2500HD and 1-ton 3500HD variants. Thanks to a completely redesigned platform, suspension, and drivetrain, the new Sierra HD can haul a trailer weighing up to 35,500 pounds, pole-vaulting over the 2020 Ram Heavy Duty and 2019 Ford F-Series Super Duty. What’s more, all dual-rear-wheel/ Duramax diesel configurations can tow at least 30,000 pounds, even in heavier, more optionladen trim levels and body styles.
To find out how well it works in regular use, GMC hosted us in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we got to sample the 2020 Sierra HD in some surprisingly rugged and taxing situations.
The 2020 GMC Sierra HD is available with two powertrains: an all-new 6.6L gasoline V-8 paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and the carryover Duramax L5P 6.6L turbodiesel V-8 mated to an all-new Allison-branded 10-speed auto. We spent the vast majority of our drive time behind the wheel of diesel-powered pickups, and while the GMC brings up the rear in terms of maximum available torque among big trucks, we found very little to complain about.
Yes, that’s true. At 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, the once-champion L5P Duramax V-8 comes up short on the 2019 Super Duty’s Power Stroke diesel by 20 lb-ft and the 2020 Ram Heavy Duty’s Cummins diesel by 90 lb-ft, but neither driveability nor capability suffer for it. GM gave the 2020 GMC Sierra HD substantially more robust drivetrain components and that aforementioned Allison 10-speed gearbox, which allows engineers to avoid the temptation to torque-manage the Duramax in First and Second gears. That means the driver gets the full brunt of torque right off the line—the same can’t be said of Ram and Ford. The net effect? Faster acceleration and passing while towing, says GMC.
We’re inclined to agree. The Duramax V-8 simply shrugs off complex driving maneuvers, even when towing a 14,000-pound car hauler over the twisty, steep U.S. Route 89/26 between Jackson Hole and Alpine. In these situations, the bumper-pull trailer made its presence known, but it never felt close to taxing that specific truck’s abilities (it was a Sierra 2500HD AT4).
We were able to execute relatively swift passing maneuvers in some of the highway’s four-lane sections, and our speed never dropped below the route’s 55-mph limit if traffic ahead allowed. On grades, the Allison transmission downshifted multiple gears smoothly, keeping the Duramax on boil and ready to act. The whole powertrain package faded into the background while towing, simply doing its job well and without calling any attention to itself.
That particular single-rear-wheel Sierra towing experience represents one of GMC’s other bragging rights—the towing capacity of its available AT4 off-road trim level. The Sierra 2500HD AT4 can lug up to 18,500 pounds, with a maximum payload of 3,615 pounds. That’s not bad for an off-road pickup, although let’s just get one thing straight right now: GMC kept comparing its capability ratings to those of the Power Wagon.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
A Civil Union
THE SIERRA 1500 GETS GM’S 3.0L DURAMAX I-6 MIDDLE CHILD, AND IT’S WONDERFUL
Tow (Like A) Pro
RIDING HEAVY IN GMC’S NEW SIERRA HD
GETTING REACQUAINTED WITH THE TOYOTA TACOMA AND 4RUNNER TRD PRO ON THE ROAD TO OURAY
CHIEF DESIGNER, LINCOLN MOTOR CAR COMPANY
Bold, Beautiful & Ready For Battle
HYUNDAI’S 2020 PALISADE
The Saleen Sportruck
To power-hungry auto enthusiasts, the name Saleen should immediately conjure up images of slick race cars and smoking tires.
A Truck in Jeep’s Clothing
2013-2017 Nissan Pathfinder
The Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize crossover with three rows of seating.
2020 Range Rover Evoque - Evolution Or Revolution?
Evolution Or Revolution?
The All-New Silverado HD
Chevy’s Playing To Win With Best-in-class Towing And An Exclusive 10-speed Allison… But Is It Enough?
Saving Youngstown. Again
One U.S. president after another has promised to turn this Rust Belt city around. Now Joe Biden is planning to steer millions of dollars in federal funding to revive manufacturing. So where are the jobs?
BIG POWER, BIG LUXURY, JUST PLAIN BIG
2024 GMC HUMMER EV SUV
Clearaudio Concept Active Wood
WALMART INVESTS IN GM'S CRUISE AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE SUBSIDIARY
Walmart and some institutional investors have joined the latest investment in Cruise, bumping the capital influx into the General Motors autonomous vehicle subsidiary from over $2 billion to $2.75 billion.
AS CHIP SHORTAGE GOES ON, CARS ARE SCARCE AND PRICES ARE UP
For the next few months, Charlie Gilchrist figures his 11 car dealerships in the DallasFort Worth area will sell just about every new vehicle they can get from the factories — and at increased prices.
MINORS- SURVEY SAYS
Our annual survey of minor league operators highlights the ways in which things will never be the same
GM: SOFTWARE, NEW BATTERY PARTS WILL SOLVE BOLT FIRE ISSUES
Engineers at General Motors have figured out how to fix a battery problem with the Chevrolet Bolt electric hatchback that caused five of them to catch fire.
UNION, AUTOMAKERS HEADED FOR FIGHT OVER BATTERY PLANT WAGES
The United Auto Workers union is calling on General Motors to pay full union wages at electric vehicle battery factories, thrusting what had been a festering conflict into the spotlight.
GOOGLE EARTH ADDS TIME LAPSE VIDEO TO DEPICT CLIMATE CHANGE
The Google Earth app is adding a new video feature that draws upon nearly four decades of satellite imagery to vividly illustrate how climate change has affected glaciers, beaches, forests and other places around the world.
ELECTRIC CHEVY PICKUP TO GET ESTIMATED 400 MILES PER CHARGE
An electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range per charge, General Motors says.