The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 seems like a regular old truck... But I love it
A common, decade old pickup from America with an American V8, what makes it special?
NOTE: This is my entry into the review your own car competition run by @Alex Laperriere . Thanks to everyone who reads it!
The 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 is a decade old now, and it isn’t exactly remembered well… cracked dashboards, failing lifters on the engine, ridiculous oil consumptions due to the DOD system, horrible GM quality, but wait. Every truck has issues, so why is it this one that Scotty Kilmer loves to hate on? GM went bankrupt in this era of pickup truck, with the recession and all. While 2011 was a year where they were still recovering, they made a great truck, with the work credentials that anyone would recognize. It was truly a great truck.
Let's start with the exterior:
The exterior of this truck is meant to be bold, scaring enemies and competitors away and I think that this does it well. The front has huge, double decker headlights, which are great in the dark by the way and big beefy turn signals in the middle. The GMC badge is held in the middle of the grill, unlike modern Chevrolets, with the badge in the bottom corner of the grill… who thought that was a good idea! While that black part above the grill may look like a plastic piece, that I did myself, with rock guard after I fixed the rust. The hood above the grill is a major part where rocks chip the paint, and the rust starts instantly, especially here up north in Canada.
The side profile gives you a further look at the bland, basic but truck- like look that GMC designed here, and it can’t be said about modern F-150’s. Starting with the fenders, they are boxy and confident, unlike on the F-150 which has fenders that came out of an economy car like an Elantra. Underneath the fenders, there is tons of space where the wheel can move, and at the back, you get to look at the rusty frame to remind you of all the salt on the road. The rear leaf and front coil suspension are also seen in these arches, not hidden in any way. After the fender and before the headlight, GMC usually puts your package sticker on it. I got the 4X4 package, that gives it 4-wheel drive high and low, along with an automatic mode, skid plates, and an automatic locking rear differential. Another package for more off-road tech was also available, called the ZR1 package, which is basically a more advanced 4X4 package.
And the back is the most boring part of the truck, but also what defines it the most, I’d say. I feel like for this generation, the F-150 went economy and progressive on the truck world. Their thin taillights at the back look shy, and out of place on a truck. Meanwhile on the Sierra in 2011, they couldn’t put bigger taillights here. It says that this truck is here to do the job and look confident and shutterless during it. One annoying thing is when you unlock the truck and it’s dark, the taillights, headlights and REVERSE LIGHTS light up for a minimum of 10 seconds, usually 30. In a parking lot, this is disastrous when spaces are in low supply and is annoying. But it does help visibility in the dark around the truck when you are camping and such.
Interior of the GMC Sierra- Shot and edited with Samsung Galaxy A71
Ah yes, we got here. Que all the GM quality haters here. But yeah, they have a point.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the quality of the interior in this generation wasn’t as good as competitors. The plastic in my dashboard right by the passenger airbag cracked, because of the sun, and the handle on the centre console broke and the plastic is ruff on the doors, but SO WHAT?
This truck is meant to be a work truck. It is third from the bottom in the way of trim levels with very little options, excluding air conditioning (yeah, it was still an option now). This is the base interior, if you go up a few trim levels, you could get the more upscale interior, with fake wood, leather, and better quality. But there are some nice points.
You don’t have to worry to get this interior dirty. You can wash it right off the plastic in the footwells, doors and door sills. It really is a worker’s interior. The knobs and handles all have a grippy rubber on it, so it is great for use in gloves and without. And the dials for the climate control, lights and 4-wheel drive system even have a chrome ring around it for extra class. Nice touch. The gauge cluster is another great part of the truck. It is big and easy to read, and from any height (with adjustment of the steering wheel), you’ll be able to see all the dials clearly. The green screen under the tachometer can be adjusted to view different things like a trip meter, oil life sensor, instant and average fuel economy, transmission temperature, and more. It also changes different things about the vehicle, such as the amount of time the exterior lights light up in the dark and when the doors automatically lock, if at all. The green screen underneath the speedometer always stays the same to show you what gear you are in. The radio is also a great touch of GM logical design, with many different controls that you can use while wearing gloves and are logical in placement as well. But the fact that it still uses a green screen is disappointing at best, while competitors have moved away from that.
I want to make a whole paragraph specifically for this, the column shifter present in this truck. While Ford and RAM have gone away from it or have made it look like a windshield wiper stalk, GM has kept it chunky and huge, the way it should be. It always gets your testosterone levels up when you shift in and out of gear. Easily my favorite part of the interior.
Key's hanging out of the ignition on GMC Sierra- Shot and edited on Samsung Galaxy A71
Now, some downsides. From a practical standpoint, the fact that it doesn’t have a standard household outlet is disappointing and stupid if I’m honest. It may be available on higher trim options but where you really need it is in a work truck, which it doesn’t offer in. Another thing is the placement of the hazard light button. You may say, oh such a tiny detail that they couldn’t have messed up. Yeah, GM managed to mess up that little thing too. The hazard light placement is placed behind the steering wheel on the column, which is horrible, and it is always an awkward position to turn it on. Also, the rear leg room is enough for a small bird but not enough for adult humans. Unless you have a 2-year-old driver and passenger, then you’re fine in the leg room department, but good luck getting anywhere.
ENGINES and DRIVING EXPERIENCE
Vortec logo on plastic engine cover on the 5.3L V8 engine- Shot and edited on Samsung Galaxy A71
This truck has a lot of variety. This truck has 5 total engine options, with 4 of them being Vortec LS engines and 2 transmissions. The engines include a gas 4.3L V6, an E85 capable 4.8L and 5.3L V8, and a 6.0L V8 and a 6.2L V8. You could pair these with either a 4 speed or 6 speed automatic transmission, with the 6- speed having a mock manual mode.
I have the 5. 3L Vortec V8, the most popular engine to this day in GM pickups. I have to say, I really love this engine. This engine has a ton of power for towing and regular driving, especially in the Alberta mountains here, which it needs. The engine is smooth on the highway, until it needs to shift which is clunky, but that’s a transmission thing which I’ll get to later. The engine can easily get up hills sometimes without going above 2,000 RPM’s, making it feel very powerful. The engine also has a great soundtrack, which is enjoyed 100% of the time by me, partly because the cabin doesn’t have a lot of noise isolation from the wind or the engine. Road noise in the cabin is okay. The engine is also reliable. I just went the entire winter, which for 2 weeks consisted of -38°C nights and -20°C day highs (without windchill), and the truck started every time, and ran great, even without an engine block heater. This engine has the power to get through snow, ice, mud, dirt or whatever you throw at it. This engine is amazing, and it has been reliable as well. The only thing to go in 185,000 km is a small power steering leak and an oil pressure sensor. Nothing else.
Full engine bay featuring the 5.3L V8 on GMC Sierra- Shot and edited on Samsung Galaxy A71
Now, there is one huge downside to this engine, but it can be fixed. This engine comes with a system called Displacement on Demand, also known as DOD. This turns off 4 cylinders when the engine doesn’t need them on the highway to save fuel. This damages the engine in the long term with lifter collapses on the cylinders turning off and excessive oil consumption. This can be fixed for $350 CAD for an OBD2 port plug in which will disable the system while doing nothing else to your car. I would highly recommend doing that to avoid the shudders and unreliability that this system brings into the driving experience.
Moving onto the transmission, things get a bit worse. I have the 6 speed Hydramatic transmission and it is not that amazing in smoothness. On the highway, the transmission has a hard time choosing which gear it wants when you add a bit of gas, or after a long hill. Shifting times are okay but nothing that would be acceptable on new trucks today. It’s as if this thing must think what it is before it does it. Like am I a differential, am I a tire, oh I know, I’m a transmission! Time to change gears! It is slow and rough. But on a better note, the transmission has needed zero repairs in my time with it (185,000 km), only maintenance. I can get behind that in a truck for work!
OVERALL and VERDICT
GMC logo on tailgate on GMC Sierra- Shot and edited on Samsung Galaxy A71
This is a great truck. It has the power, looks and practicality to win over any workman, and it has a reasonable ride too, but a bit springy with no payload. The cabin minimizes road noise while letting in more V8 rumble, which any real truck guy will love, I know I sure do.
Sierra badging on the tailgate on GMC Sierra- Shot and edited on Samsung Galaxy A71
This truck has a character, and a hardworking, but fun one. It may not be the smartest, best performing thing on the planet, but man, I love it. Me and my family has used this as a work truck, a family hauler and a vacation mobile pulling trailers and heavy payload. I even learned to drive on this truck, giving it a special place in my heart. It is a part of the family, and though not the best, it’s loved, nevertheless. It is old fashioned, and reliable. It won’t stand out to others, they’ll just think it’s another truck that should soon be replaced, but no. I’m keeping it forever, cause in my eyes, it’s the best a truck could be, and a testament to what a truck should be.