GMC’s full-size Sierra pickup undergoes several changes for 2005. There’s a new gasoline-electric hybrid version of the half-ton 1500 extended cab model. Other changes include a 1500 Crew Cab Denali model; the return of the 1500 heavy-duty model; 17-inch wheels and tires on most 1500 models; a power increase for the 6.6-litre turbo diesel; OnStar Gen 6 hardware with enhanced hands-free capability; and a new Deep Blue Exterior colour.

GM claims that the hybrid option, available in 2WD or 4WD, improves fuel economy by up to 10 per cent over a comparable gasoline engine, with reduced emissions. It’s not a true hybrid; its electric motor doesn’t actually help move the vehicle along. Instead, it starts the engine, and stops it whenever the truck would normally be idling, such as at a stoplight. The motor also takes the place of the alternator, runs the electro-hydraulic power steering and provides power assist to the hydraulic brake booster. It becomes most useful at a job site; it has four 120-volt/20-amp electrical auxiliary power outlets under the rear seat and in the pickup bed, and can be used in place of a generator. The truck is worth mentioning here, but don’t run down to your dealer just yet; for 2005, only a limited number are being allotted to customers in six selected U.S. states.

The Sierra also appears as the Chevrolet Silverado, which is also premiering a hybrid model.

The Sierra comes in a huge number of choices. Cab choices are regular, extended or crew cab; engine choices are a 4.3-litre V6, 4.8-litre V8, 5.3-litre V8 and 6.0-litre V8, with three versions of the four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission and two five-speed manual transmissions, one heavy-duty. Heavy-duty models feature a 6.0-litre V8, 8.1-litre V8, or 6.6-litre Duramax diesel; transmission choices are a five-speed manual, six-speed manual, four-speed automatic and five-speed automatic.

Numerous standard and optional features are available for the various models; the Sierra can be taken from a basic work truck to a seriously luxurious asphalt cruiser. As always, GM is locked in a three-way tie with the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram; the imports, while very good, don’t crack this traditional market easily. The Sierra stands well on its own merits, but its interior looks and feels the cheapest of the bunch.

The Sierra is built in Oshawa, Ontario; Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Flint, Michigan. Heavy-duty Sierras are built in Flint, Michigan; Pontiac, Michigan; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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