OAKLEY, Wyo. -- On the 2-lane U.S. 30 highway threading over mile-high Wasatch foothills of southwestern Wyoming, we're bound in the leather-clad driver's bucket while steering a fresh-face rendition of the Sierra 1500 half-ton truck in super-luxe Denali Ultimate trim from the GMC Truck Division of General Motors.
For the 2016 issues GMC's best-selling truck scores a front-end facelift flashing a massive chrome-accented grille and flanking lamp clusters housing signature C-shaped LED light tubes. The base Sierra edition along with SLE and SLT models carry projector beam headlights as top-tier Denali earns high-performance LED headlights. In addition, thin-profile LED foglights and taillights apply to Sierra SLT, All-Terrain and Denali trims.
The full-size Sierra 1500 for 2016 slices off multiple trim grades: Sierra Base, Sierra SLE, Sierra SLT, Sierra Denali and over-the-top Denali Ultimate.
There are three different cab styles: Regular Cab (two doors and a bench or buckets), Double Cab (bench or buckets in front of a back bench with two front-hinged rear doors tucked behind the front-hinged front doors), and Crew Cab (a generous 4-door cab with front buckets or bench and a back bench broad enough to host three large-body adults.
There are three different lengths for the rear truck bed: Short Box (69.3 inches), Standard Box (78.9 inches) and Long Box (97.8 inches).
There are multiple suspension setups and a choice of rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive (2WD) traction or 4-wheel-drive (4WD) with the 4WD transfer case adding a floor-mounted shifter or the electronic Autotrac rotary dial control.
Sierra 2016 serves up three Ecotec3 powertrains with lightweight aluminum blocks and heads: 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8. The 4.3-liter V6 and 5.3-liter V8 include FlexFuel versions which burn regular unleaded 87-octane gasoline or E85-ethanol.
All Ecotec3 powertrains feature GM's Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology which cuts by half the number of cylinders engaged in the combustion process when boosted power is not needed in order to conserve fuel.
The 4.3-liter V6 generates 285 hp at 5300 rpm and torque of 305 lb-ft at 3900 rpm.
The 5.3-liter V8 makes 355 hp at 5600 rpm with 383 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm.
The 6.2-liter V8 produces 420 hp at 5600 rpm with 460 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm.
Each Ecotec3 engine ties to one of GM's electronically controlled Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions. The 4.3-liter and 5.3-liter engines use the 6L80 6-speed automatic while the 6.2-liter packs GM's new 8-speed 8L90.
Architecture for the 2016 Sierra 1500 begins with fully boxed frame rails stretching the length of the vehicle for a rock-solid and rigid foundation using high-strength steel and hydroforming to provide more strength and rigidity with less weight. Cab structures integrate high-strength steel in both A and B pillars as well as roof rails and rocker panels, while ultra-high-strength steel segments show up in rocker panels to add more protection for offset collisions.
Sierra uses lightweight aluminum for some suspension components to boost rigidity and pare pounds, while lightweight alloy wheels wear low-rolling-resistance tires to suppress cabin noise and vibration.
New features for 2016 Sierra trucks include:
* Available remote locking tailgate;
* Power assist steps optional on Sierra Denali;
* Sierra Base Double Cab Elevation Edition with automatic locking differential, remote locking tailgate, LED cargo box lighting and 20-inch machined aluminum wheels painted black;
* Sierra All-Terrain kit on 4WD Double Cab and Crew Cab SLE and SLT trims with the Z71 Off-Road suspension package including Rancho monotube shocks, underbody transfer case shield, 18-inch aluminum wheels and all-terrain tires, spray-on bedliner, Rear Park Assist, Hill Descent Control, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror plus a unique front grille and body-color front and rear bumpers.
The 2016 Sierra 1500 truck is available in a wide MSRP spectrum that runs from $27,515 to $54,340.