Off-road pickup truck

The GMC Sierra AT4 is beefy but useful where it matters

No, it didn't snow in June.

GMC

Testing trucks is always fun. Well, to be honest, testing any vehicle is fun and is absolutely a privilege, but I absolutely love putting trucks through their paces. My most recent tester was the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4, a factory off-road model with style and substance. Let's take a look at what makes it tick.

Off-Road-Ready Truck With a Stout Powertrain

Key upgrades here include a two-inch factory lift kit with Rancho Monotube Shocks, Goodyear Mud-Terrain tires mounted on 20-inch wheels, a two-speed automatic transfer case, and a traction select system with off-road and towing settings.

The net effect of all that gear is impressive. The AT4 rides as smoothly as many crossovers and maneuvers with relative ease for a truck its size. In town, there's little distinction in driving manners between this beefy off-road pickup truck and most family haulers, as long as being taller than nearly everyone else in traffic is ok with you. The truck handles well, and exhibits little instability over bumps at speed, which is a common challenge with pickup trucks and off-road vehicles.

My test truck was equipped with the optional 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel and a ten-speed automatic gearbox. With 277 horsepower and a stout 460 pound-feet of torque, it's the perfect companion for a truck meant to climb over and out of gnarly obstacles on the trails. In daily driving scenarios, the engine is quiet and refined, and shows little of the rattly, noisy diesel sound many people expect from the engines. With plenty of torque on tap, the AT4 feels somewhat lively, and is able to navigate traffic with ease. Reaching highway speeds and passing once there is also a breeze, and the truck remains surprisingly peaceful on the interstate.

Comfy Interior and Useful Bed Features

Inside, my test truck came equipped with leather upholstery and optional heated/cooled front seats. We had a rare heat wave in Maine during my week with the truck, and its powerful air conditioning combined with the cooled seats to create a much-needed oasis for this rare brutal week in northern New England. The front seats are wide and well-padded, but I found myself shuffling around, wanting more in the way of hip and thigh support. There's a tendency to slide to one side of the seat and stay there, which could easily be solved with a bit more bolstering on both the seat back and bottom.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The Sierra's cabin is comfortable and well-made.GMC


As all of my vehicle testing adventures do, the week with the AT4 involved plenty of kid transport. The full-size pickup's back seat is wide and flat, which makes it ideal for installing car seats, but I can't imagine that it'd be extremely supportive for an adult over a long-haul trip. The truck's lift means it's hard for kids to climb in, but they had a fun time trying. The novelty may wear thin over time, but it lasted for the week we had the AT4. Once inside, the kids (and anyone else in the back seat) had their own air conditioning vents and plenty of room to stretch out in their booster seats.

Normally, a truck bed would be an afterthought in a review, but GMC has gone to lengths to make its bed a standout. The Carbon Pro composite bed material is tough, as in there's no need to worry about throwing whatever you want into the bed tough. I hauled over 100 30-pound patio paver blocks over the course of a few trips, and never felt the need to add extra protection to the bed after the first trip. I tossed an old rug and some flat cardboard to protect the bed at first, but it proved to be as stout as GMC claims. Adding functionality is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers several options for steps and different cargo hauling situations. It makes an excellent step, and when the center section is folded down, it opens up much more access to the bed when standing on the ground. My tester also had an optional Bluetooth speaker system built right into the step system, which would make for an awesome camping or beach party.

Tech-Heavy Cabin

In terms of tech, the Sierra AT4 is up to speed but nothing to write home about. Its optional 8.0-inch touchscreen runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with an option for wired connections. There's also Bluetooth, SiriusXM Radio, and more. It's a cohesive system that is easy to use and intuitive, made even easier by clever behind-the-steering-wheel-mounted controls that allow volume and track adjustments. My truck also had an optional head-up display, which unsurprisingly is extremely difficult to see with polarized sunglasses. This is a common issue not unique to GMC, and could be solved by switching to non-polarized glasses.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The MultiPro tailgate adds ultimate functionality.GMC


Most advanced safety equipment is optional, and when I say most, I mean all. The Sierra AT4, and all Sierras for that matter, is available with automatic emergency braking, a bed-view camera system, forward collision alerts, front pedestrian braking, a front/rear parking assist system, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warnings, and more. While I get the need to differentiate models with various features, the lack of some of these safety items is hard to swallow at nearly $60,000.

Bottom Line

I tend to become infatuated with full-size pickup trucks while I have them in for testing, but that feeling typically fades after a while. The Sierra AT4 was a little different. The diesel engine and comfortable interior make for a supremely daily-drivable pickup truck, and the Carbon Pro bed with multi-function tailgate makes a strong case for the GMC. Ultimately, it's too much truck for me, but it's a solid choice for those that can put it to work.

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Cadillac will be the first brand with Ultra Cruise

General Motors

Tesla has been in hot water for a while now for shenanigans pulled by owners abusing the automaker's advanced cruise control functions. While the company's Full Self Driving (FSD) tech isn't quite ready for primetime, other automakers are catching up – quickly. Today, General Motors announced Ultra Cruise, its advanced driver assistance tech that promises to allow hands-free driving in 95 percent of driving scenarios.

Ultra Cruise Ultra Cruise will build on Super Cruise functionality.General Motors

GM notes that its goal is to eventually roll the service out to all paved roads in the U.S. and Canada. When it launches, the service will work on over two million miles of roads, which could nearly double as the program expands.

Ultra Cruise will offer a host of automated driving features that build on Super Cruise:

  • Dynamic display system
  • Ability to react to permanent traffic control devices
  • Follow internal navigation routes
  • Maintain headway and follow speed limits
  • Support automatic, on-demand lane changes
  • Support left and right turns
  • Support close object avoidance
  • Support parking in residential driveways

The system uses LiDAR, radar, and cameras to build a 360-degree, three-dimensional picture of the world around it. An additional LiDAR unit is located behind the windshield. GM notes that a big part of the system is its Human Machine Interface (HMI), which communicates with the driver to alert them when they need to take control. Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles will do this with a head-up display that helps drivers stay focused on the road, and will use the same driver monitoring cameras that are used in Super Cruise.

Ultra Cruise Ultra Cruise will enable hands-free driving in the majority of driving scenarios.General Motors

Ultra Cruise will first be available in Cadillac vehicles starting from 2023. There's no word on pricing or specific vehicle availability at this time.

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The concept has been extensively modified for a life lived off the beaten path.

GMC

Overlanding has become a world of its own, with several parts and vehicle customization companies, media publications, and guide services popping up all over the place. GMC realizes this, and to capitalize on the overlanding craze, the automaker built a Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX off-road concept to show off at the Overland Expo Mountain West 2021, which took place last week.


GMC Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX Concept The OVRLANDX concept carries a kitchenette, solar panels, and more.GMC


Some of the upgrades on the truck include:

  • Cast-iron control arms
  • A heavy-duty front bumper with winch
  • Front and rear electronic locking differentials
  • An off-road jack and mount
  • Multimatic DSSV dampers
  • Off-road rocker panel protectors


Listing the rest of the upgrades would take more words than anybody cares to read but rest assured that they are plentiful and impressive. GMC says that the concept truck gained legitimate capability from the upgrades. The approach angle is 27.7 degrees, and the truck can ford water up to 32.1 inches, which come thanks to a ground clearance of 10 inches and a custom-built snorkel system. The truck rides on 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch BFGoodrich KM3 mud-terrain tires.

Since it's an overlanding concept, the truck needs the ability to support its passengers well off the beaten path. To do that, GMC gave the Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX a cooler and kitchenette, solar panel, and a truck bed storage system with drawers.



GMC Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX Concept You can build something similar to the concept with off-the-shelf parts.GMC


As a concept truck, it's unlikely the AT4 overlanding rig will make it into production as it sits. That said, it's an interesting idea for an intrepid Canyon owner to use as a blueprint. Outside of the chassis work, most of the parts and upgrades can be purchased and installed without a major hassle, but if you're in the market to build a rig, it's best to research your truck's payload capacity and capabilities before overloading for overlanding.

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