GMC Sierra 1500 Generations: Through the Years

Take a look back at the GMC Sierra 1500 generations. This overview covers all models from its beginnings in the 1970s to the current fourth generation.

A Long-lasting Name and Long-lasting Truck

Majestic and rugged. That was GMC’s goal with the Sierra pickup truck, named after the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and Nevada. Although the modern GMC Sierra 1500 is and has always been essentially a mechanically identical twin to the Chevrolet Silverado, there are some features that set it apart. The GMC Sierra 1500 is considered the more upscale of the two trucks thanks to some styling and added cabin features. That’s where the majesty is.

The ruggedness can be found under the hood. These days the GMC Sierra 1500 comes with V6, V8, and turbo-charged four-cylinder engines. Being one of the first pickups to be built on a platform not based on a car added some rugged capability, too. Despite sharing a name with other previous GMC trucks and sharing parts with the Chevy Silverado, the GMC Sierra 1500 has managed to create its own identity as a powerful, reliable, versatile truck over the course of 20+ years. Just how did that happen? Read on to find out.

Before the First Generation (1970-1999)

1988 GMC C1500 Sierra - media.gmc.com

1988 GMC C1500 Sierra – media.gmc.com |  Shop GMC Sierra 1500 on Carsforsale.com

  • The Sierra name first appeared on the 1970 model year as an optional luxury package for the GMC C/K pickups. The package was popular enough that it became a top trim level for GMC trucks by the 1972 model year.
  • The 1973 GMC Sierra was the first in the C/K series to add the 1500, 2500, and 3500 designations to the name. It continued that way for several other model years through 1986.
  • The Sierra name showed up again in 1988, this time attached to the fourth generation 1988 Chevrolet C/K. The C/K became exclusive to Chevrolet, so all GMC pickups became Sierras.

First Generation GMC Sierra 1500 (1999-2006)

1999 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
1999 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
  • It was the 1999 GMC Sierra 1500 that introduced the Sierra 1500 we know today.
  • This GMC Sierra 1500 came on a GMT800-chassis, an all-new shared platform with the Chevy Silverado. It was available in regular cab, extended cab, short bed, or long bed configurations.
  • Three trims were available with this model: the SL, SLE, and SLT.
  • The 1999 Sierra 1500 was heavily updated with new body and sheet metal styling, a passenger-side third door on extended cabs.
  • The new three-piece frame was finished with bigger chrome bumpers and larger headlights.
  • A 4.3-liter V6 was carried over into the truck, but three Vortec V8 gasoline engines were also available: a 4.8-liter, a 5.3-liter, and a 6.0-liter V8. The 6.0-liter produced 300 horsepower.
GMC Sierra 1500 6.0L Vortec 6000 V8 - netcarshow.com
GMC Sierra 1500 6.0L Vortec 6000 V8 - netcarshow.com
  • Each 1999 Sierra 1500 model was available as a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
  • Foldout cupholders, three power outlets, and a large armrest storage area were all part of the cabin improvements on the 1999 GMC Sierra 1500.
  • The Sierra HD was launched with the arrival of the 2000 GMC Sierra 1500. The HD had Duramax diesel engines available.
  • An additional driver’s side door was added as an option for the extended cab version of the 2000 Sierra 1500.
  • GMC continued focusing on increasing quality in the 2001 Sierra when they released the Sierra C3.
  • GMC also added more power with a 6.0-liter Vortec 6000 V8 that made 325 horsepower.
2005 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali - netcarshow.com
2005 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali - netcarshow.com
  • A Denali version of the 2002 GMC Sierra pickup provided even more luxury in the cabin.
  • An upgraded 5.3-liter engine in the 2004 GMC Sierra increased output to 285 horsepower.
  • A crew cab was made available with a standard 2004 Sierra.
  • A five-and-a-half-foot bed and newly designed 17-inch wheels on select models were also added. 17-inch wheels became standard on all models starting with the 2005 GMC Sierra 1500.
  • A gasoline/electric hybrid model was also introduced for Florida and western parts of the U.S.
  • Flared wheel-arches added a little more style to this Sierra.

Second Generation GMC Sierra 1500 (2007-2013)

2007 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
2007 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
  • With the second generation 2007 GMC Sierra came a new platform: the GMT900. It included standard vehicle stability control.
  • Tow capacity increased to 10,500 lbs. in the 2007 Sierra. That’s up from 8,1000 lbs. in the 2006 models.
  • Minor changes, like making satellite radio standard on all trims, were made in the 2008 GMC Sierra 1500.
  • 22-inch wheels were offered for the Sierra All Terrain, GMC’s Z71 Off-Road package.
  • All non-Denali 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 models received a new 6.2-liter V8 option making 403 horsepower. It came with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
2009 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
2009 GMC Sierra 1500 - media.gmc.com
  • 2009 Sierras also received optional Bluetooth, XM traffic reporting, and a back-up camera option.
  • GMC removed the 6.0-liter V8 as an option for the 2010 Sierra 1500. They also ensured all V8s could run on E-85 and gasoline.
  • The OnStar system was added to the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500.
  • Minor changes in the 2012 GMC Sierra included a hard-drive-based navigation system. Trailer sway control was added to the stability control system, too.

Third Generation GMC Sierra 1500 (2014-2018)

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
2014 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
  • Engine updates for the redesigned 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 resulted in more power, more torque, and better fuel efficiency. Engines include: a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, and a 6.2-liter V8. The 4.3-liter V6 was built entirely new by GMC engineers.
  • Each engine uses standard direct injection, continuously variable valve timing, and Active Fuel Management. That combination switches to run on four cylinders during light-road driving.
  • A new instrument cluster on every 2014 Sierra has six gauges and a 4.2-inch color screen.
  • An eight-inch touchscreen is a first for the Sierra models.
2014 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
2014 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
  • Safety updates include available front Park Assist and a sliding rear window with defrost.
  • Towing has increased to a 12,000 lb. maximum.
  • New power-folding trailer-towing mirrors were added for the 2015 Sierra 1500.
  • The 2016 Sierra 1500 is the first GMC truck to offer over 400 horsepower with the 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 horsepower. It’s also the first GMC pickup to have an eight-speed transmission.
2016 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
2016 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
  • LED running lights are standard, LED taillights are available on most trims, and LED fog lights are optional on all trims.
  • GMC’s Teen Driver feature was added as standard to all 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 models. The system allows parents to view maximum speed, distance driven, and the number of times active safety features were engaged while driving.
  • Also new is the capless fuel fill feature, which eliminates the need for a fuel filler cap.
  • The seven-inch touchscreen and rearview camera aren’t new features, but they are now standard across all 2018 GMC Sierra 1500 trims.

Fourth Generation GMC Sierra 1500 (2019-Present)

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
2019 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com
  • The fourth generation of the GMC Sierra kicked off with a truck that was up to 360 lbs lighter, depending on the trim. Designers used aluminum for the doors, hood, and tailgate while choosing steel for the fenders, roof, and cargo box.
  • Six powertrain combinations could be made, starting with a 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed automatic all the way up to a 3.0-liter I-6 turbo diesel with a 10-speed automatic.
  • A multi-color Head-Up Display was available on the 2019 GMC Sierra to show customizable vehicle data on the windshield.
  • Cargo volume expands to 63 cu-ft, the best in the class.
  • The tailgate on this truck featured several industry-first technological advances like power opening and closing, six positions that include a standing work station, embedded tailgate speakers, and a USB port for device charging.
  • The bed was given more functionality with LED cargo lights, 12 fixed tie-downs, and corner steps that are rated for up to 500 lbs.
GMC Sierra Work Surface Tailgate - media.gmc.com
GMC Sierra Work Surface Tailgate - media.gmc.com
  • A carbon fiber cargo box was also new, increasing durability.
  • Look at each of the four available trims in detail by reading our full 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 review.
  • The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 added a 3.0-liter turbodiesel as an engine option.
  • The 10-speed automatic transmission from the 2019 Sierra 1500 was made available with the 5.3-liter V8.
  • A new super Cruise semi-automated driving system that works when towing was made available on certain 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 trims.
  • The latest Denali Ultimate trim level moved to the top of the 2021 Sierra 1500 lineup.
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 - netcarshow.com

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 – netcarshow.com |  Shop GMC Sierra 1500 on Carsforsale.com

  • A Sierra AT4X is now available as a 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 trim. This trim focuses on off-road performance with electronic-locking front and rear differentials. Suspension is improved as well.
  • The front design of the 2022 Sierra 1500 is even more stylish than before.
  • Almost every 2022 Sierra has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 13.4-inch touchscreen to control the infotainment system. This is part of the added luxury we mentioned in our 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 review.
  • The Max Trailering package is able to tow 13,200 lbs now that it’s compatible with the diesel engine.
  • The 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 isn’t expected to have too many updates after the total refresh that happened with the 2022 GMC Sierra. The base trim is expected to have an MSRP of about $32,000.
  • If you’re debating spending money on a GMC Sierra 1500, be sure to read New vs. Used: GMC Sierra 1500 for a comparison between current and past model years.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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