2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge

by Haney Louka

Super-sized family car

When it came time for The Big Move, making the decision to hire movers was easy. The more difficult part was determining how we were going to transport all of those things that we just didn’t want anyone to handle but ourselves. In our space-challenged Jetta we would have made more than a few trips, but as it turned out, GMC’s brand-spanking-new Sierra 1500 Crew Cab descended in front of our humble abode the day before moving day.

What luck.

As I backed up to the detached garage of my sixty-something-year-old home for the last time (and seeing that I had no hope of actually pulling into the garage), I realized that this truck is designed for a super-sized generation. Despite McDonald’s’ decision to discontinue its product line by the same name, there’s no question that North Americans like big.

Full-size light-duty pickups have always been the best workhorses for meeting various payload and towing requirements, whether for work or play. But now we are witnessing the resurgence of the “Crew Cab” – a pickup with four full-size doors and an abbreviated cargo box – a.k.a. Quad Cab, Super Crew, or Double Cab. The recent popularity of these models – GMC joins Ford, Dodge, Nissan, and Toyota in the four-door pickup market – demonstrates a shift in consumer use. Pickups are fast becoming the family vehicle of choice for many, because they can do so much. Perhaps most telling is the fact that a rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available on this new Sierra and others in the class.

2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab

2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab

2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab
Haney’s tester: 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab. Photos: Mike Aporius. Click images to enlarge

There is a trade-off of course – along with the 993 mm of rear legroom (that’s about 140 mm more than the Sierra Extended Cab) comes a short box that measures 1,740 mm in length, or 260 mm less than the Extended Cab’s short box. Also, a long box is available on the extended cab models but not on the Crew Cab.

The Crew Cab offers versatility for smaller cargo though: a quick flip of the rear seats results in a flat cargo floor that’s useful for items that need to be protected from the weather. It’s not, mind you, as versatile as Chevy’s Avalanche with its innovative mid-gate pass-through, but on the plus side it doesn’t look like an Avalanche either.

Powering the 1500 Crew Cab, which has base prices ranging from $37,900 for a two-wheel-drive model in SLE trim to $48,095 for my SLT 4WD tester, is a Vortec 5300 V8 engine. This mill (like all Vortec V8s) employs tried-and-true pushrod technology to produce 295 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The onslaught of the Japanese in the full-size truck market means that this dated design lags behind the overhead-cammers in performance and fuel economy. Nissan’s Titan, with its 5.6-litre dual overhead cam engine, produces 305 horsepower and 379 lb-ft of torque, all the while chugging about ten percent less fuel according to Transport Canada ratings.

Despite the hoopla surrounding the introduction of a new Crew Cab in 2004, the rest of the Sierra design is almost six years old, and it’s starting to show some wrinkles. There once was a time when truck designs soldiered on 15 years before a major redesign, but today that just doesn’t cut it. Particularly since Ford has been putting such emphasis on the interiors of every new model it introduces these days, and most notably in the successful F-150.

2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab
Click image to enlarge

The steering wheel is home to lots of buttons for audio and trip computer controls, but the cruise control is still relegated to the super stalk on the left of the steering column that’s also used to operate turn signals and wipers. So the interior is dated if at least functional.

Having said that, the Sierra is perhaps the most honest interpretation of what a light truck should be. It’s not oozing with machismo, nor is it trying to be a car where a car isn’t called for. Ride quality is firm but comfortable: where the big Dodge loosens fillings and the Ford goes for too much isolation, GMC has found a happy medium.

While Ford may be redefining light truck duties, some things are just better left alone. Like the tailgate for example: the Ford’s cargo box is a few inches higher than any other truck’s out there, necessitating a torsion-bar support to make the tailgate easier to open and close. The extra height not only makes it more cumbersome to hoist things over, but the tailgate now requires tools to remove it. Sierra’s keep-it-simple philosophy wins out here.

To Sum It Up

2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge

The increasing availability of Crew Cabs means the popularity of light trucks will likely continue to climb. General Motors lays claim to over half of the light truck market in Canada, with this class accounting for 46 percent of all Canadian motor vehicle sales in 2003.

Still, for all of its capability, including moving all of our miscellaneous treasures with ease, I can’t imagine a pickup replacing the family car (or minivan or wagon). It’s simply too much: too big, too thirsty, and too clumsy to be something I’d want to drive day in and day out.

Shopping Around

Clearly there are plenty of folks who disagree with me, and they’re backing it up with their wallets. So if you are in the market for a full-size light duty truck, your four-door choices are getting better all the time:

  • Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab ($38,400)

  • Chevy Avalanche 1500 ($38,705)
  • Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab ($28,180)
  • Ford F-150 Super Crew ($35,140)
  • Nissan Titan Crew Cab ($38,200)
  • Toyota Tundra Double Cab ($35,640)

Technical Data: 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab

Base price (Crew Cab SLE) $38,400
Base price (Crew Cab SLT) $48,595
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $49,745
Type 4-door, 5-passenger, full-size pickup
Layout longitudinal front engine/part-time 4 wheel drive
Engine 5.3-litre V8
Horsepower 295 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque 330 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 4 speed automatic
GVRW (max) 3,175 kg. (7,000 lb.)
Wheelbase 3,644 mm (143.5 in.)
Length 5,735 mm (225.9 in.)
Width 1,994 mm (78.5 in.)
Height 1,963 mm (75.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 1,405 L (49.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City – 17.0 L/100 km (17 mpg)
  Hwy – 13.1L/100 km (22 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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