Preview: 2020 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

As the cover comes off the all-new 2020 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty at a dedicated reveal event in San Diego, one thought springs to mind: Boy, the Ram Heavy Duty press conference at the Detroit auto show last week took some of wind out of these sails, didn’t it?

Torque isn’t everything

That’s because Ram announced that it’s achieved an output of 1,000 lb-ft of torque from the Ram 3500’s new 6.7-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine. The latest GMC Sierra HD hits the pavement with the same Duramax 6.6-litre turbo diesel it had in its previous generation, which churns out 910 lb-ft.

Torque isn’t everything, believe it or not – not even in these behemoth workhorses. The Sierra HD has some interesting new features, mostly in the technology department, that for certain buyers might be more appealing than that extra bit of grunt.

But First, Powertrains

Not everything about the Sierra HD’s powertrains has been announced yet, but here’s what we do know: the aforementioned 6.6-litre turbo diesel remains on offer with its 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 10-speed Allison automatic transmission - a first in a heavy-duty pickup. GMC says that its closer gear spacing “allows the engine to operate in an optimal range at all times with varying load and terrain conditions.” The fact that it should also deliver overall better fuel efficiency than the six-speed automatic from the previous generation certainly doesn’t hurt either.

With this engine and a larger frame, GMC says they expect the towing capacity of this configuration to be well in excess of 30,000 lb (13,607 kg). For reference, the new Ram HD launched with 35,100 lb (15,921 kg).

An all-new gas-powered engine is also in the plans for the new generation. The details on that, along with more specifics on the trailering capabilities will be announced at a later date.

Towing-centric Technology

Features designed to help make towing easier are front and centre among the Sierra HD’s new offerings.

An optional camera package provides 15 unique views (best-in-class) from around the truck, including an industry-first transparent trailer view on compatible trailers. The latter combines views of the tailgate-mounted camera and an available accessory camera mounted on the rear of the trailer to simulate a view through the trailer that GMC says helps with navigating parking lots, merging into traffic, or making tight turns.

The new Sierra HD also has available connectivity through smartphones or on the vehicle’s infotainment system through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The myGMC mobile app allows access to select features from the iN Command control system. With compatible trailers, owners can turn on a trailer’s air conditioning or water heater, check water and holding tank levels, and monitor fuel levels on trailers equipped with generators.

An in-vehicle trailering app can test the trailer lights and run electrical diagnostics, monitor tire pressures and temperatures, deliver maintenance reminders and departure checklists. Several of these features can also be accessed through the myGMC app to be used outside the truck or trailer.

There’s also a massive 15-inch-diagonal heads up display unit available that displays trailering information including vehicle speed, navigation information, and an incline tracker. It will be interesting to see how this comes across in real-life driving scenarios. 

Other interesting towing features include: a new grade-parking hold assist that levels up hill-hold by engaging all four brakes for an extended period; new larger trailering mirrors with a four-bar link for power extending and retracting; an auto-engaging tow-haul mode that remembers its setting through key on–off cycles for up to four hours; an auto-engaging parking brake; and an integrated trailer brake controller that recalls a trailer’s most recent gain setting via its profile in the trailering app.

Other Class-bests

GMC says the new Sierra HD is longer and taller than the outgoing model, though specifics on exactly how much so haven’t been provided yet. In crew-cab configuration, the brand claims it has class-leading head and leg room in the front row on top of a higher-mounted seating position.

GM’s rear camera mirror is available with the Sierra HD for the first time with the new generation. It projects an image captured by the truck’s rear-facing camera onto the rear-view mirror instead of the standard reflection to provide a view free of in-cab obstacles.

Its longer wheelbase also gives it segment-best cargo bed volume, a figure that also hasn’t been provided. A newly available 120-volt power outlet and 12 tie-downs are integrated, as is a 1-inch lower bed height, and segment-exclusive cargo bed side steps located in front of the rear wheel openings on all box styles. The six-function MultiPro tailgate introduced on the 2019 Sierra 1500 is available on all trims and standard on SLT, AT4 and Denali.

Did you say AT4?

That’s right – there’s now a GMC Sierra Heavy Duty AT4 off-roader to compete with Ram’s Power Wagon that comes equipped with off-road suspension, Rancho shocks, skid plates, an Eaton locking rear differential, standard 18-inch wheels (20-inches are available), Michelin all-terrain tires, a traction select system with off-road mode, hill descent control and hill start assist, the 15-inch-diagonal head-up display with incline tracking, and low-speed visibility of the vehicle’s surroundings through an HD surround vision camera.

Visually, this model is accented by dark chrome exterior finishes, unique front and rear bumpers, a black chrome grille with body-colour surround, and red vertical recovery hooks. Darkened trims continue into the interior through aluminum finishes, a unique jet-black interior, and AT4-badged headrests.

Arriving This Summer

The 2020 Sierra HD will go on sale late this summer in 2500HD and 3500HD dual rear wheel and single rear wheel configurations. Pricing and complete specifications will follow closer to launch.

Three-digit torque, but cool doodads. 1/22/2019 7:15:00 PM