Refined Off-Roading

By Derek Price
Judging from how many I’ve seen prowling the rural roads of Northeast Texas in the past year, GMC has found a hit in the big, brawny Sierra AT4 pickup.
When I first heard about this AT4 package, I was skeptical. It’s designed to slot between a hardcore off-road screamer like the Ford F-150 Raptor and a frilly, comfy luxury truck like the Ram 1500 Limited.
While it’s neither as exciting as the best Baja-conquering trucks nor as plush as the top chrome-and-leather luxury pickups, the AT4 seems to hit enough high points on both ends of the truck spectrum. It’s turning out to be popular with buyers since its introduction last year as an important part of the all-new Sierra lineup.
Put in General Motors terminology, the AT4 basically is like driving a Denali Trail Boss. With a two-inch lift, rugged suspension and aggressive mud-flinging tires — coupled with the most important Denali goodies — it both looks and feels like something special.
Already a gargantuan truck, the two inches of extra height give the Sierra AT4 a hulk-like presence from all angles. Smoky exterior trim adds to the sinister look, while dual exhaust tips integrated into the rear bumper and red tow hooks add visual interest.

The GMC Sierra AT4 aims to hit two seemingly opposing extremes at the same time: luxury and off-road capability. Its rugged suspension and high-end, Denali-like amenities offer an intriguing combination.

Inside, while it has a lot of the same content as the luxurious Denali line, it feels much more functional. This is a truck for people who plan to use it like a truck, not just take it out for a date night, as evidenced by the washable rubber floor mats and purposeful storage built into the cabin.
Extra storage nooks hidden in surprising places — including the rear seat back — are useful for both travel and work. There are plenty of places to toss tools, papers and electronics.
Still, the interior feels dated in many places, a disappointment in a recently redesigned product. Materials and tightness in the cabin don’t seem to match the price point.
Fortunately, the 2020 version of this truck fixes an almost unfathomable omission from last year: the lack of adaptive cruise control as an option. That feature should be a no-brainer on a vehicle this expensive.
How pricey is it? A double cab AT4 starts at $52,595, while the crew cab starts at $55,295 with a standard box. That’s with the base 5.3-liter V8 engine, which would be my pick.
For around $2,500 more, buyers can opt for either a bigger, 6.2-liter V8 or a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder diesel engine. All send power to the wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission.
I loved how confident my AT4 tester made me feel both on and off the road.

Digital gauges behind the steering wheel can be customized to the driver’s preferences. It results in a modern and functional feature set in the upscale off-road truck.

This is not the truck I’d want strictly for commuting or highway trips, but it’s great for what it’s designed to do: travel off pavement with ease. The firm Rancho shocks make it feel like no other truck for sale today, offering informative feedback over rocks and dirt without jostling you too much in regular driving.
Hill descent control makes it easy to crawl down rocky inclines. GMC’s Traction Select System adjusts the way the truck’s electronic brain tackles different terrain, and skid plates help protect it from damage. Best of all, those features are all standard on the AT4.
It also comes with GMC’s fantastic MultiPro tailgate, perhaps the best-designed way to access and load the bed on any truck for sale today. It’s ingenious, offering six different positions to help you load or secure various types of cargo.
While the enthusiast in me still wishes General Motors would directly address the spectacular, thrilling Raptor from its crosstown rival, a week in the AT4 shows GM is focused on something very different: a breed of off-road truck that’s as luxurious as it is capable.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2020 GMC Sierra AT4 Crew Cab ($53,700). Options: Red quartz tint coat paint ($595), AT4 Premium Package ($2,855). Price as tested (including $1,595 destination charge): $59,245
Wheelbase: 147.5 in.
Length: 231.7 in.
Width: 81.2 in.
Height: 75.4 in.
Engine: 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp, 383 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 16 city, 21 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 5
Handling: 6
Ride: 6
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Why buy it? 
It combines beastly off-road capability with the Denali’s famously opulent feature set.

Posted in GMC