The new 2021 GMC Sierra doesn’t get a ton of new features over its used counterpart, so is it really the better choice on the market today?
The GMC Sierra has long been the gold standard when it comes to full-sized pickup trucks made by General Motors. In 2019, the latest iteration was released to a mixed reaction. The bold styling was shocking to some, but so were the excellent new features. Now, just a few years later, the 2021 model is getting some new features and improvements. Today we dive into the details of each truck to determine if a few extra years of production has made the new model worth its premium price tag or if you’re better off buying a used GMC Sierra.
For our comparison, we’ve selected the SLT trim of each truck. Similarly equipped, both come with the tried and true 5.3-liter V8 under the hood mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque are routed straight to the rear wheels only. Fuel economy is identical with each truck getting 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway.
Pricing for each truck will vary depending on your region, but expect to pay between $45,000 and $50,000 for each. That’s right, despite a 3-year gap, the used truck has held its value incredibly well. Inside you’ll find leather-clad power-adjustable front seats, 18-inch wheels, LED bed lighting, dual-zone climate control, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The GMC Sierra is one of the most capable trucks on the planet. This 5.3-liter powered version can tow more than 9,500 lbs and haul more than 2,000 lbs in its bed. That exceptional performance defines the ride and handling of the Sierra. This truck is better with a load in the bed or a trailer out back than it is on its own in many situations. While it’s clearly no featherweight vehicle, the added heft seems to help the truck be a bit less jarring over rougher roads. It also seems to tamper body roll which we feel to be a consistent complaint.
Braking performance is exceptional regardless of what kind of job this truck is doing, but we were a bit disappointed with the primary controls. Trying to be deft and subtle with inputs in the Sierra is tough thanks to a brake pedal that feels more like an on/off switch than a dimmer knob and a steering wheel that’s less communicative than an angered romantic partner. Whether on center or in a turn, the Sierra feels incredibly numb through the wheel and that makes it a bit harder to judge exactly what the tires are really up to.
One size fits all. That seems to be the motto above the door so to speak with the inside of either the new or used GMC Sierra. No matter what type of interiors you may personally prefer, there’s going to be something in the Sierra to enjoy. The seats can accommodate practically any body type comfortably and that includes the rear pair that are spacious even on long trips. The only complaint we have about the seats is that a bit more lateral bolstering might reduce the body roll experience.
The dual-zone climate control in these trucks is outstanding. Not only is it highly effective, but it’s also incredibly easy to use. It might be our favorite part of the center control stack, because the rest seems to be a bit plastic and bland. Fit and finish is fine, but it’s all as drab as it gets aside from the high-quality HVAC controls. What’s perhaps the most surprising is that even in the high-end Denali trim, the interior doesn’t get much better. You’ll be comfortable in the Sierra and you’ll have more space than you need, which is a luxury all on its own. However, you won’t be deceived into thinking you’re in a real luxury vehicle no matter how much you spend.
For both new and used GMC Sierra, the SLT trim level is well equipped compared to the base truck or even the SLE model. Entry level Sierra’s get a 285-horsepower V6, a 7-inch infotainment screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. SLE provides heated front seats, LED bed lighting, keyless entry, an automatic locking rear differential, the MultiPro tailgate, and cruise control.
Past the SLT, you would get you into the GMC Sierra AT4 edition which gets four-wheel-drive standard in addition to skid plates, an upgraded suspension, a 2-inch lift, and all-terrain tires. Above that is the aforementioned Denali. All of those will come with the fantastic 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420-horsepower and 460 ft-lbs. It also gets a boost in comfort with heated rear seats and ventilated front seats. The rear window is powered and a premium Bose sound system is equipped as are 20-inch wheels (22’s are optional).
For 2021, the rarely used “DoubleCab” configuration isn’t available on the SLT or the AT4. GM also imbued the new truck with additional trailer assist features that really enhance towing ability and ease over the used 2019 model. Buyers will also notice that should they want to opt for the 3.0-liter diesel, it’s cheaper than ever with just a $995 premium over the 5.3-liter V8.
Considering how closely matched these two trucks are, it’s incredibly tough to think that the used truck is the better option. That’s because they haven’t lost much, if any value over the past 3 years. That’s even more apparent if you’re willing to travel a little bit to pick up your brand new GMC Sierra as dealers are ready and willing to make a deal on the brand new 2021 edition with little to no miles on the clock. It’s rare to see a new car or truck that’s as much of a no brainer over its own used counterpart, but the GMC Sierra is one of them.