2013 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab 4WD W/T Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Want a great deal for a pickup truck? It's almost always best to buy a model that's at the end of its lifecycle, like the 2013 versions of Chevy's Silverado and GMC's Sierra 1500 half-ton pickups. The new 2014 model road test reviews are already showing up and it looks to be an impressive truck, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the 2013 version and it'll save you loads of green if you can live without the styling enhancements and other upgrades. After all, some GM dealers are hawking them off for as little as $19,995!

Yes, that's the price of a common compact car, but instead you get a completely capable full-size pickup truck; although I should probably mention the pre-discount regular MSRP is $27,205 plus $1,600 for freight and pre-delivery prep. My tester wasn't as basic as that truck would be. It came in no frills W/T (work truck) trim, sans carpeting or powered windows inside while the grille, fascia trim (excepting some bright metal on the bumpers), mirror caps and door handles are matte black plastic instead of chrome, albeit with a four-door Crew Cab body style, a 4.8-litre Vortec V8, and four-wheel drive off-road capability including a locking rear differential for a total price including freight of $38,760.

Like all GM pickups, even this work truck is a joy to drive. Its smooth ride might shock you actually, but don't let its refinement fool you as the Sierra 1500 can haul and tow as well as any in this class, give or take a few pounds. It all comes down to four- or two-wheel drive (rear-drive trucks can haul and tow more) and the cab/bed configuration. In its most capable combination the Sierra is good for an 865-kilo (1,908-lb) max payload (extended cab, standard box, rear-drive) whereas towing is 4,536 kilos (10,000 lbs) when the 5.3-litre V8 is added.

My tester came with the just-above base 4.8-litre V8 boasting 302-horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, a smooth, powerful engine that's oddly mated to a four-speed automatic. True, on paper at least the Hydra-Matic 4L60 is an anachronism, but the well-proven transmission, complete with Tow Haul mode, delivered near imperceptible shifts, never bringing unwanted attention to itself but rather just simply going about its job like that quiet, capable, hardworking older guy on the crew that everybody respects. No doubt the newer, younger standard six-speed unit in the upcoming 2014 Sierra will prompt quicker acceleration and more critical improvements in fuel economy, but considering the price savings available for the 2013 Sierra W/T it's hard to knock the 4.8's 15.2 L/100km city, 10.6 highway and 13.1 combined claimed rating in 2WD, or its 15.9, 11.2 and 13.8 L/100km 4x4 rating. GM hasn't released official Canadian fuel economy numbers for this engine in the new truck yet, but no doubt it will improve.

As a side-note, the Sierra is available with GM's 5.3-litre V8 featuring state-of-the-art Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation, an engine that delivers stronger performance with 315-horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque yet slightly better fuel economy all-round at 14.3 city, 9.4 highway, and 12.1 combined. If your wallet allows, opt for this upgrade. Those who need to haul more weight may want to move up to the 6.2-litre V8 with its very motivating 403-horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque. A 4.3-litre V6 comes standard on the base truck incidentally, with 195-horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and a 14.1, 10.0 and 12.2 claimed rating in 2WD guise and 15.0, 11.4 and 13.4 in four-wheel drive. I recently drove and reviewed a Chevy Silverado with this engine and despite what seems like very little power for a vehicle of this size and weight, the torquey V6 goes about its business quite well.

I mentioned that my W/T tester was fairly spartan, and truly it won't be vying for luxury truck status. GMC has a Denali for higher-paid job supers and building contractors to enjoy, this version designed strictly for contractors that are just starting out or employers that need a good reliable truck to get the job done. All the same it wasn't completely barren of features, with a tilt steering column, a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant cruise, Bluetooth hands-free phone and radio controls on the spokes, and a fairly good AM/FM/CD audio system with an aux jack, RDS, speed-compensated volume control and six speakers (upgraded from from the base four-speaker unit that comes with regular cab), plus a Driver Information Centre (DIC). The simple three-dial heating, ventilation and air condition system was easy to use and blew cold quickly. Outside, the wheels are a nice utile looking set of steel 17s wrapped in P245/70R17 rubber, my tester stock with Goodyear Wrangler STs. Both 18- and 20-inch alloys are available depending on trim.

The brakes are front disc and rear drum, par for the course in this class. I'm actually a big fan of rear drums when it comes to trucks, as they do a great job of stopping and are actually better off-road, while they're cheaper to maintain. The Sierra's come with standard ABS, plus standard traction and stability control so you don't necessarily have to upgrade to four-wheel drive if you live in a colder climate or spend a lot of time on gravel roads. You might be surprised at how capable a rear-drive truck with traction and stability control can be off the beaten path, even climbing rocky terrain or wading through mud. Just bring a hand-operated come-along or winch with you just in case.

Like the Silverado I tested previously, even this basic Sierra had a well-built cabin with zero squeaks or rattles. The Crew Cab made it spacious, and the standard black cloth upholstery was nice too look at and appeared like it would hold up to the test of time. If you don't need four rear doors and limo-like rear legroom you might want to spend less on the Extended Cab, while a two-door regular cab remains on the Sierra menu too. Regular Cab aside, I have always liked the way you can fold the 60/40-split rear seat cushions up against the back wall for stowing gear inside the cab, a handy standard feature on Extended and Crew Cab models. The front seats are the usual 40/20/40 split-bench with driver and front-passenger manual recline plus a centre fold-down armrest. My truck's cloth upholstery (vinyl can be had) meant that a manual lumbar adjuster was included on the driver's seat, a much-appreciated bonus.

Bed lengths start at five-foot-eight and stretch to eight feet, while a six-foot-eight bed spans the gap. Availability depends on body configuration and drivetrain, so you'll need to spend some time on GM's site or at your local dealer to figure out which Sierra best fits your requirements. I'm guessing they'll have what you need, but keep in mind numbers are limited when it comes to the 2013s.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, GMC, 2013, Sierra, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999, Full-size,

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