2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Double Cab SLE review: Surprised?

2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE

2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE

Now here’s a surprise, sort of. There’s a 2014 GMC Sierra pickup in our driveway provided by GMC for our testing (the truck, not the driveway), and it has a V-6 under the hood.  Indeed, six-cylinder engines have long been available in full-size pickups, but the V-6 has been, well, let us show you our great V-8 power! Sixes have been for fleet buyers, for businesses where a V-8 really wasn’t necessary but the boss wants to watch that old bottom line. Otherwise, it’s c’mon, let’s flex those eight cylinders of muscle.

But GMC wants to show that its all-new 4.3-liter V-6 has the gumption to replace the V-8 for many if not most non-commercial truck owners. Our tester is the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 4wd Double Cab SLE. For the uninitiated, that translates into the standard full-size pickup with four-wheel drive (with full-time mode), with two rows of seats, and the trim level between the base Sierra model and the Sierra SLT, which itself is topped by the Sierra Denali, the latter finished and fettled like a top-line Audi.

 2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE interior

The interior of the 2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE has a classy and comfortable design but will not be mistaken for anything but a truck. (click to enlarge)

A little more truck definition stuff: The GMC Sierra is available in five configurations, including a standard cab (with minimal room behind the driver/passenger seat) with either a short or long pickup bed, a double cab (a cab with an occasional back seat) with a standard box, or a crew cab (two rows with proper leg room and seat back angle) with either a short box or standard box.

And lastly, the GMC Sierra is available with either rear-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive. The latter is set via a twist-knob on the dash, with a choice of rear-wheel, full-time all-wheel, center differential-lock high (4-hi), and center differential-lock low (4-low).

And it’s all available with a choice of three new engines, a  4.3L V-6, a 5.3L V-8 and a 6.2L V-8, all from BM’s EcoTec3 engine family. They all have direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and what GM calls Active Fuel Management, a “variable displacement” system that switches the engines to running on four cylinders during light-load driving to save fuel.

 The armrest for the front seat of the 2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE folds up to make room for one more passenger.

The armrest for the front seat of the 2014 GMC Sierra Double Cab SLE folds up to make room for one more passenger. (click to enlarge)

While GM claims the horsepower crown for half-ton pickup trucks with the 6.2-liter V-8 at 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 takes honors against other base engines, with 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque.

And it’s not just the engines that are stronger. The fully boxed frame continues with high-strength steel with the front section hydroformed.  High-strength steel has been added to the A-pillars, B-pillars, roof rails and rocker panels for added rigidity, and new ultra-high-strength steel segments of the rocker panels increase protection for shallow offset crashes

For 2014, the GM pickups replace the extended cab with the new double cab. Instead of the extended cab’s rear-hinged “suicide” doors, the double cab has front-hinged rear doors. For safety’s sake, the rear doors of the extended cab wouldn’t open unless the front doors were open. Also for inconvenience’s sake. To get in or out of the back seat, the front door had to open, and good luck with that during nasty weather. The rear doors on the double cab, however, act like real doors. The tradeoff is the new B-pillar makes a smaller gap for a back seat passenger to slide his number tens between pillar and seat base.

 V-6 engine of the 2014 GMC Sierra

The V-6 engine of the 2014 GMC Sierra is rated at 285 horsepower. (click to enlarge)

The Sierra exterior is all-new, described as a “fist in the wind,” but with improved aerodynamics. We were surprised to look into the bed after running at highway speed and still see almost as much snow inside, suggesting that there’s hardly any turbulence, and therefore less drag, behind the truck’s cab. GMC credits the outside mirrors, roof and tailgate design for the smooth flow of air around the truck. Triple-sealed inlaid doors reduce wind noise.

Along with the new exterior, with its aggressively squared off fenders and large rectangular grille with the big GMC letters, the interior received a full redesign with additional soft touch surfaces and upgraded materials. The instrument panel on all trim levels gets a new instrument cluster with six gauges. Our test vehicle had the optional 4.2-inch color Driver Information Center positioned between the speedometer and tach, with vehicle status information, a trip computer and other information, including radio tuning and navigation updates.

2014 GMC Sierra instrument panel

An optional vehicle status screen nestles between the speedometer and tachometer of the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500. (click to enlare)

Our test 2014 GMC Sierra SLE had the optional Intellilink infotainment system that also includes an upgraded audio system, navigation system on an eight-inch color touchscreen. Most of the icons on the screen are big enough to be actuated by a carefully placed gloved finger—we know, we drove the truck during a December cold snap—with detailed graphics and an easy to read navigation screen. Our only complaint was the absence of soft buttons and data in the standard navigation mode. It removes clutter but it also complicates operation…which no doubt a constant user would learn to work with.