First Drive: 2019 GMC Sierra AT4 is Pricey Yet Compelling Adventure Pickup

May 10, 2019 by Carly Schaffner, @carlyschaffner

GMC’s new AT4 off-road dressing brings five-star treatment to adventuring without sacrificing performance and capability. But its rock-crawling ability comes with a steep price.

AT4 – code for all terrain four-wheel drive – is a no-nonsense sub-brand that debuted on the 2019 Sierra 1500 full-size pickup. So did the new six-way-configurable MultiPro tailgate, which makes accessing cargo a cinch. GMC also is adding the AT4 badge to its 2020 Acadia. It eventually will trickle down throughout the lineup.

The 2019 Sierra 1500 is already a robust truck. But the AT4 model features upgraded components and exclusive styling that separate it from its upscale, chrome-draped Denali counterpart. It has beefier, all-terrain tires; dark, machined aluminum wheels; and dual tow hooks. It comes standard with four-wheel-drive and is configured as a crew or double cab. Base price for the AT4 Sierra crew cab with a short bed is $53,200. A double-cab AT4 with a standard bed starts at $50,800. Neither includes the $1,595 destination fee. 

PRICE NOT A DETERRENT

Customers don’t seem to be detracted by the high sticker prices, however. Twenty percent of new Sierras sold in the first quarter of 2018 wore the AT4 badge, which helps the brand maintain some of the highest transaction prices in the full-size truck segment, according to GMC.

GMC showed off its new trucks on a drive through Southern California freeways and mountain trails east of San Diego. The truck is a comfortable commuter over long stretches of highway and a skillful trailblazer on mountainside passages.

2019 Sierra AT4

The 2019 Sierra AT4 is a robust truck. Add-ons make it luxurious too. (Photo: GMC)

Its standard engine is a 5.3-liter V8 that delivers 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque paired with an 8-speed transmission. A 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque is available as part of a $2,495 upgrade. A Duramax 3.0-liter turbo diesel also is available for the same price. Both are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.  

GM’s dynamic fuel-management system shuts down as many as six of the eight cylinders to optimize fuel efficiency. Engine start-stop is standard on both V8s. The Sierra AT4 equipped with the standard 5.3-liter V8 achieves 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway, according to GMC. A combined-driving figure was not provided. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the larger 6.2-liter V8 gets 15 mpg in city driving, 19 mpg in highway driving and 17 mpg in combined driving.

A performance exhaust system and air intake that cost $1,595 and $675, respectively, boost horsepower by 15 and torque by 9 pound-feet when coupled with the larger engine.

INTERIOR COMFORT

Despite loud rumbles from the performance exhaust, the interior stays quiet. Standard off-road-tuned suspension and monotube shocks help the truck smoothly tackle uneven terrain.

2019 Sierra AT4

The interior of the 2019 Sierra AT4 has heated leather seats, among other amenities. (Photo: GMC)

Like the Denali, the Sierra AT4’s large cabin boasts an assortment of premium amenities. It has heated leather seats that adjust 10 ways, including lumbar support. The 40/60 split back seats are spacious, offering passengers 43.4 inches of legroom with seatback and underneath storage. The leather armrest between the front seats tops a giant center console.

The AT4’s interior has an edgy aesthetic. Darkened aluminum accents appear on the wheel, center stack and doors. The seats combine jet black and Kalahari (named for the desert) leather. The headrests have AT4 badging. All-weather floor mats are standard.

The darker hues carry to the exterior. The standard 18-inch wheels feature dark accenting, as does the grille. The tow hooks are red, and the handles, front and rear bumpers blend with the exterior paint. Its shadowy appearance is masculine yet elegant.

SOLID PERFORMANCE

Its good looks complement an authentic capability. Four-wheel-drive and a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing help the Sierra 1500 AT4 maintain control crawling up and down boulders. On a closed off-road course with more than 20 degrees of pitch, the truck grabbed onto the rock’s surface and pulled itself upward with ease.

At low speeds it navigated assuredly through craggy rock gardens thanks in part to its standard 2-inch lift, which sends ground clearance near 11 inches, and substantial Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires (available for $295). All-terrain tires are standard and can be upgraded to fit 20-inch wheels.

Clever technology contributed to the Sierra AT4’s impressive performance. The 8-inch infotainment screen displayed a viewpoint from a front-facing camera, eliminating what can be a blind spot on sharp approaches. Surround vision gives a bird’s eye view of the truck. Hill-descent control facilitates a smooth ride on sharp declines. A multicolor head-up display offers a variety of data, including an inclinometer.

2019 Sierra AT4

The Sierra AT4 features GM’s six-way MultiPro tailgate. (Photo: GMC)

The truck’s all-terrain credentials also proved useful on a weekend ski trip to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in February. Predicted snow covered the main thoroughfare out of town. Diminished visibility and slippery roads forced most traffic onto the shoulder as drivers struggled to attach snow chains. But the Sierra AT4 with its Duratrac tires confidently managed the conditions, making its way out of the storm without any wheel slip.

MULTIPRO TAILGATE

Sierra AT4 also features the MultiPro tailgate that bends and folds six ways for efficient loading/unloading. For the winter blizzard the truck sported a GM-branded tonneau cover, which worked in harmony with the new tailgate. Luggage and gear were easily accessible and stayed protected in wet weather, especially when using the just the top portion of the gate. Folding it out creates a flat work surface.

Other standard road trip-friendly features include 12 cargo tie downs, automatic brakes and torque adjustment (StabiliTrak) with trailer sway (towing capacity is 9,400 pounds) and hill-start control, HD rear vision camera and Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto compatibility.

GMC’s 2019 Sierra AT4 has a lot of great adventuring characteristics, but most are options that add up quickly.

PRICEY OPTIONS

The AT4 performance package costs a whopping $3,100. It includes a rear sliding power window, navigation, Bose premium audio and a handful of driver-assistance technology such as front- and rear-park assist, lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

A tech package comprising the surround vision and head-up display costs $1,875. A power sunroof is $995.

2019 Sierra AT4

The 2019 Sierra AT4 has beefy, all-terrain tires. (Photo: GMC)

Other safety technology like forward-collision alert, lane-keep assist, forward automatic braking and pedestrian braking costs an additional $745. Adaptive cruise control is unavailable. And GMC executives said there is no plan to include it, a curious decision when the final price of the Sierra 1500 AT4 surpasses $66,000. That does not include the destination charge.

FITTING INTRO

The 2019 Sierra 1500 AT4 is a fitting introduction to GMC’s new sub-brand and gives Sierra Denali buyers another well-appointed truck in the lineup to consider. The question remains, however: Will the upgrades and performance parts be used, or is this just a more rugged version of the Denali?

Buyers will have to decide if they’re willing to push the limits of the Sierra AT4, only to watch it acquire off-road battle scars like dents and scratched paint.

The 2019 GMC Sierra AT4 is on sale at dealerships.

Carly Schaffner August 30, 2018
GMC’s 2019 Sierra 1500 Denali pickup truck costs $70,000 but delivers good driving dynamics and a comfortable cabin experience that’s worth the price.

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