2003 GMC Sierra

Nov. 6, 2003
Luxury pick-up truck sounds like an oxymoron to me. But that's just what the Sierra 1500 HD 4WD Crew Cab sets out to be.

The three-quarter and one-ton vehicle has all the trappings of a luxury car in a heavy-duty pickup form, such as adjustable leather seating; premium auto package with Bose speakers and an in-dash CD and cassette player; OnStar; and power doors and locks. And for an extra $1,295, they'll throw in a DVD player with a pull-down screen and headphones for back-seat passengers (i.e., restless children).

With a Vortec 6000 V8 that provides 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, Sierra has a lot of punch. I was able to merge with highway traffic easily. The only caveat was its hesitation starting from a complete stop. A few times I felt like I had to goose the engine to get it to go, and then it would peel out. I thought this would dissipate after I got the feel for it, but I never did fully get the feel for it.

All of the GMC Vortec 6000 V8 trucks boast cleaner, more-efficient engines, according to the manufacturer, providing better economy, with standard electronic throttle control. New oxygen sensors reduce emissions during cold starts and only draw electrical current when and as needed.

The Sierra was also equipped with GM's Quadrasteer, a four-wheel steering option. This is designed to make backing up with a trailer easier. I did not get to test this feature to its fullest potential, as I had no trailer or boat. However, I was able to back into a parking space with relative ease, which surprised me.

As another reviewer explained to me, Quadrasteer is an option that ups the initial price of the truck and also the maintenance of the vehicle over the course of ownership, so I'm not sure how practical it actually is. If your main need for the car is to haul a trailer, then this may be a real plus, otherwise it could be more trouble than it's worth. However, the Instra-Trac part-time electric-shift 4WD transfer case reduces potential servicing costs with a new electronic control module, providing enhanced diagnostic capability and programmable flash memory.

Beyond that I occasionally found the steering to be difficult, making a creaking noise when I turned the wheel. I attribute this to the Quadrasteer.

Even with the ultracomfortable, plush leather seats (which come with three heat settings for cold weather), the Sierra still rides like a pickup truck. We took the truck on a tour of the back roads and countryside for the afternoon. At day's end my husband and I both had achy muscles and stiff necks. This is not something we experience after a long trip in either of our compact cars.

The XM Satellite Radio -- 100 channels which adds an extra $325 to the price tag, was nice. It was a little tricky figuring out how to tune it at first, but like all GM cars, the control buttons were located on the steering wheel for less distraction while driving, which made it easy to browse through stations while driving.

This truck is designed for the avid vacationers who either have a boat or trailer to haul to their recreational destination and children to occupy in the backseat. The bed of this truck is not that large because of the extended cab, but would easily fit camping gear and luggage. All this, including options and destination charge, can be yours for a mere $45,910.

-- Heather Hall

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