GMC Sierra: competent comfort

Refined muscle. Those two words describe the 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck, which promises to make a good accounting of itself during a day’s work in the Back 40 or a night on the town.

The Sierra is a full-sized truck with three engine options and multiple body and bed designs. Our test truck, an SLT Crew Cab, accommodated a driver and four passengers, and featured a 5-foot, 8-inch bed. One rainy Saturday, we laid out tarps in the bed – not that we really needed to, since the truck's bed had a rugged spray-on bed-liner – and picked up an impressive load of firewood. The Sierra seemed made for the job.

Unlike the V-6-powered Sierra we tested in 2013, the 2016 model was equipped with a 5.3-liter, 355-horsepower engine. The V-6 is an impressive engine but isn't suitable for some heavy-duty applications. The V-8 has considerably more grunt but also uses more gasoline. We averaged no better than 18 mpg in mixed driving. The V-6, with rear-wheel drive, is rated as high as 26 mpg on the highway, compared with our test truck's highway rating of 21 mpg.

The pickup-truck field is quite crowded, with Japanese automakers Toyota and Nissan starting to revise their dated designs and Ford vaulting ahead last year with its aluminum-bodied F150. Ram, the Fiat Chrysler truck brand, continues to build the most smooth-riding, crisp-handling truck thanks to its 4-wheel independent suspension. General Motors also produces Chevrolet pickup trucks that are similar, though less refined, than their GMC cousins.

GMC builds trucks and SUVs only, and an astonishing variety of shapes, sizes, engine choices and option packages are available on most models. The Sierra 1500 alone has five body styles to go along with the three engine choices. The base Sierra 1500, with rear-wheel drive, standard bed and regular cab, starts at $28,710. Our Sierra SLT, not quite top of the line, had a sticker price about double that. For a lower price, better fuel economy and easier handling around town, the GMC Canyon compact pickup truck starts at about $21,000.

Built in Silao, Mexico, the Sierra has several enhancements from the previous model but is functionally similar. Among the improvements are projector-beam headlamps, LED taillamps, 8-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, an 8-inch touchscreen, and a wireless phone charging system.

The test truck was a true luxury truck, with options boosting the price from about $47,000. Among them were a heated steering wheel, power sliding rear window, 6-inch chrome assist steps, 20-inch wheels, power sunroof, front and rear park assist, heated and vented front seats, leather upholstery and navigation system. We liked the array of large, clearly labeled interior controls, which reduce the fumbling that often leads to accidents, especially with a large vehicle that may be pulling a trailer.

The Sierra's government safety ratings have improved to five-star marks across the board.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2016 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab SLT

Price: $55,050

Engine: 5.3-liter V-8, 355 horsepower, 383 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Ground clearance: 8.9 in.

Weight: 5,444 lb.

Suspension: coil-over-shock with twin-tube shock absorbers, front; solid axle with semi-elliptic, two-stage multileaf springs; splayed twin-tube shocks

Wheels: 20-in. polished aluminum

Tires: P275/55R20 all-season

Max. towing capacity: 10,800 lb.

Seating capacity: 5

Payload: 2,130 lb.

Fuel capacity: 26 gal.

Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded