Capable of towing up to 18,100 pounds when properly equipped, the three-quarter-ton GMC Sierra 2500HD is a wieldy tool for truck buyers in need of more capability than the standard half-ton Sierra 1500 affords but who aren’t ready to jump into the driver’s seat of the burlier, one-ton Sierra 3500HD.
The Sierra 2500HD comes in four trim levels, three cab styles, and two bed lengths, and the truck offers two engine options with either rear- or four-wheel drive. The base Sierra 2500HD is the definitive work truck and lacks standard features such as a key-fob remote and power windows—at least in the two-door regular-cab configuration. While four-door double-cab and crew-cab body styles can be equipped with either the standard 78.9-inch or optional 97.8-inch bed, the regular cab is limited to the eight-foot box.
Moving up to the Sierra 2500HD SLE adds convenience items such as an integrated trailer-brake controller, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a 4.2-inch color information display in the gauge cluster. The better-equipped SLT trim is limited to double-cab and crew-cab models and brings luxuries such as leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, and more brightwork to the exterior.
Finally, the top-of-the-line Denali kicks things up a notch courtesy of standard heated and ventilated front seats, lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems, navigation, and model-specific exterior and interior details. The Denali trim is exclusive to the crew-cab body style and the short bed.
With a base price of $57,240, the 2018 Sierra 2500HD Denali costs $17,420 more than a base Sierra 2500HD with the crew cab and a short bed but just $6125 more than a crew-cab, short-bed Sierra 2500HD SLT. No matter the trim, all Sierra 2500HD trucks can be equipped with either a stout 6.0-liter V-8 that produces 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque or a diesel-drinking, turbocharged 6.6-liter V-8 with 445 horses and a tarmac-tearing 910 lb-ft. A large, functional hood scoop denotes diesel-powered Sierra 2500HD models from their gas-sipping counterparts. Both engines put their might to the ground by way of engine-specific, six-speed automatic transmissions.
The Denali test truck we drove for this review featured $14,800 in options, including a $9550 fee for the diesel engine and the Allison six-speed automatic transmission and $3200 for four-wheel drive. The options list included a $995 sunroof, a $395 coat of Dark Slate Metallic paint, $370 for a bed-mounted hitch for towing with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer, a $180 off-road suspension package that adds twin-tube Rancho shock absorbers and hill-descent control, $55 worth of roof-mounted marker lamps, and another $55 for a radiator cover. All told, this Sierra 2500HD Denali wore an as-tested price of $72,040.
What’s New: The base Sierra 2500HD gains a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a backup camera for 2018. Previously, the two features were bundled into the optional Convenience package. Additionally, the truck’s tire-pressure-monitoring system is now able to give an alert once a tire has been filled to the correct pressure, while the Sierra 2500HD Denali trades its prior single-piece, eggcrate-style grille for a new three-piece unit.
What We Like: Despite its mammoth proportions, the Sierra 2500HD feels surprisingly nimble. Credit its well-weighted steering and composed suspension setup, which includes an independent torsion-bar layout in front. Although most consumers will be plenty satisfied with the standard 360-hp 6.0-liter V-8 engine, it’s the optional turbo-diesel V-8 that truly wows. Not only capable of towing mighty payloads, the diesel managed to move an 8000-pound 2017 Sierra 2500HD Denali from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds in our testing and through the quarter-mile in 15.0 seconds at 91 mph, which is quicker than a 2509-pound Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. The diesel-swilling Sierra 2500HD was surprisingly thrifty, too—the chunky truck returned a reasonable 18 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy loop. Performance aside, the Sierra 2500HD benefits from an impressively versatile cabin with ergonomically friendly controls, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and plenty of space for storing miscellaneous items.
What We Don’t Like: The big truck also is unavailable with certain comfort and convenience features we expect in modern cars and trucks. Not a single Sierra 2500HD model can be equipped with push-button start, a proximity key, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, or automated emergency braking. Like the lighter-duty Sierra 1500, the Sierra 2500HD suffers from a steering wheel that is positioned just off-center from the driver’s seat, which consistently annoys the obsessive among us. And while the Sierra 2500HD is more wieldy and comfortable relative to its competition, the three-quarter-ton pickup still rides far more stiffly than its half-ton counterpart. Unless you absolutely need the extra capability of the Sierra 2500HD, we’d recommend sticking with the more softly sprung Sierra 1500.