I'm a little bit country,
And I'm a little bit rock 'n roll...
You don’t have to know the song to get an idea of what I’m getting at with the GMC Sierra AT4. It’s for those pickup owners who want off-road capability, as well as a daily driver you can take out for a night on the town.
It also happens to be General Motor’s (GM) best pickup in quite a long time.
GM updated the GMC Sierra and and its twin, the Chevrolet Silverado, for the 2019 model year. There are some carry-over engines, but both pickups are pretty much all-new — bigger proportions, bolder styling, and hundreds of pounds lighter depending on the model.
Among the various trims offered, the one that caught my eye was the Sierra AT4. Think of it as more Ram 1500 Rebel (FCAU) in terms of capability, not Ford Raptor (F). What I mean by this is you’re not going to be taking this truck on the Dakar Rally, but you will have some fun on trails and mud ruts.
Like I said earlier, it’s for those who want an everyday driver with weekend offloading — and a GM warranty to boot. Here’s what you get in the AT4 as part of this standard package:
2-inch lift kit
Rancho monotube dampers
Electronic locking rear differential
Hill descent control
Red tow hooks
Other options include a performance air intake, “cat-back” exhaust, and 20-inch wheels with uprated tires. Our tester had these options among other packages like the Premium Package and Technology Package that pushed the AT4 from a base price of $53,200, to a pretty substantial $65,475. Yup — you do not want this to be your work truck.
Among some interesting features on the Sierra is the available “model exclusive,” as their calling it, six-position tailgate called MultiPro. It opens in various stages, allows you to carry objects that are longer than the bed, and makes it easier to access the bed. Cool stuff.
Other features include dynamic fuel management for the engine, which shuts off cylinders when not needed, and a rearview “mirror” that’s actually being fed the image from a rear camera. Although odd at first I found the wide field of view and unobstructed video view quite helpful.
Our AT4 was optioned up with GMC’s 6.2-liter V8 — pumping out 420hp and 460 lb-ft via a 10-speed transmission. Even for a big truck, this engine felt powerful at pretty much all times. It's torquey, has great throttle response, and the 10-speed auto shifts smoothly. With that setup, your getting 16/20/17 (city/highway/comb) fuel economy. Not great but it’s to be expected.
During our test we took the AT4 up to Woodstock, NY. Despite riding on big tires and off-road suspension, the truck felt planted, with only a slight bit of traction loss to the rear wheels if you mashed the accelerator too hard. Other than that, the engine just powered this big rig through numerous highway miles and backroad curves.
We hit some inclement weather up in the Catskills region, including some snow that was a surprise in the late spring. But it was no problem for the AT4 — slipping into 4x4 mode, the truck felt planted and didn’t feel too squirrely on slushy roads. It was great having the peace of mind of being in the AT4 when the weather, and the sledding, got tough.
We didn’t have the opportunity to actually take the AT4 off-road, though I imagine with its oodles of torque, lift kit, and Rancho shocks it would be just fine for most rough terrain.
Things to work on
Now to some of the bad parts. The interior, though upgraded with two-tone leather and Sierra’s slightly differentiated electronic instrument cluster, is still not as nice as the competition. The touchscreen is small compared to peers, the switchgear is a little plasticky, and the leather padding on the dash looks a little thin. Compare that to the F-150 and creature comfort leader Ram 1500, and the GM pickups are still lacking.
Nor did the AT4 include adaptive cruise control, even as an option, which is a feature that’s a must-have if you’re going to be doing some long-rage driving. GMC says adaptive cruise control will be available in mid-2019 at the earliest.
Those negatives aside, GM has a really compelling pickup here with the GMC Sierra in AT4 trim. If I was to buy a GM pickup it would be this one — a nice combination of rugged looks and off-road capabilities packaged in a very modern looking truck. We haven’t driven the new Ram 1500 Rebel yet, but I have to imagine they would be comparable. The question is: Can GM peel off enough Ram and Ford buyers to give the AT4 a chance?
Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.