The 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X: Powerful, Luxurious Pickup

In the early days, pickup trucks were sold bare bones, intended to be work vehicles more than family transportation. They were also inexpensive too, offering people who couldn’t afford a fancy sedan or station wagon an alternative. I remember in high school that one or two students had pickups and were popular because they had transportation for large groups, but if those trucks had AM/FM radio I’d be surprised. Zoom forward <cough> decades and pickup trucks have long since jumped the luxury vehicle shark, now sporting startling price tags and every luxury imaginable.

They are also great fun to drive, with their combination of spaciousness, power, and utility. It’s no wonder trucks like the 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X are popular nowadays and that people are routinely paying $75K-$100K for a top end truck. I had the chance to enjoy the AT4X for a week in Colorado, and it was an interesting transition after spending the prior week driving a plug-in hybrid EV (the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Outback 4xe). In a lot of ways, these big trucks are the pinnacle of the American car journey with their enormous engines and luxurious comforts that allow the driver to ignore the reality that they might be driving a beast that they don’t really need.

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - exterior front

This Sierra is in a striking Desert Sand Metallic, with an Obsidian Rush interior. It’s beautiful in person and I had more than one person strike up a conversation about the truck and its color, including a couple who knocked on my window while I was in a parking lot – surprising the heck out of me! – to ask about the truck. The truck also sports big, hefty 18″ wheels and plenty of ground clearance.

In fact, the AT4X is new, an even more off-road friendly version of the Sierra 1500 AT4, which itself is based on the popular Chevy Silverado ZR2 truck. New features include front and rear e-locking differentials, a winch-ready front bumper and boron steel front skidplates, among other features. It’s definitely ready to hit some rugged terrain, as the complex 4x controls located by the driver’s left knee suggest:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - 4x4 controls

There are also a number of different settings for pulling a trailer along, and this Sierra 1500 has an impressive 13,200-pound towing capacity. The truck I drove included various trailer-related safety features too, including Trailer Side Blind Zone Alert and Trailer Brake Controls and various other additions included in the “Trailer Package”. I didn’t have a trailer to test out, but it’s fun to see all the modern additions for trailer safety. Far better than the experience I had towing an unstabilized boat that I then tried to back into a slip some years ago!

One of the key themes of the Sierra 1500 is also luxury and a glance at the interior shows how the roomy and comfortable driver’s experience with this half-ton pickup:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - interior dash cockpit

As with most modern vehicles, there are a lot of controls, buttons, and switches, but also, as with most modern vehicles, you rarely have to do much more than steer, brake, and change music sources. Since it sports a 12″ infotainment screen the latter proves quite simple. Close examination of the display shows that it’s split into a 60/40 dual function; the left side is wireless Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is also supported) while the right side offers a built-in control for a limited subset of vehicle features. In the above image, it’s offering up music controls, while CarPlay is devoted to a big display map.

The AT4X also has a standard gearshift that hides its powerful 10-speed automatic transmission system. Push the button, slip it into “D” for drive, and you’re on your way. Move into “R”everse and the display switches to a dual view of what’s behind you and a terrific synthesized overhead view. That overhead view is critical for managing parking lots in this behemoth too, and even with that more than once I parked, got out, and realized I needed to adjust my parking to avoid having adjacent cars swear about my having blocked them in!

Of course, that width translates into a bigger, more comfortable interior too, and the armrest reflects that with its width, capacity, and design. It’s pretty glorious if you’re used to a smaller SUV or sedan:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - armrest storage wireless charging

This is looking downward with the front of the vehicle at the bottom. Notice the Qi wireless charging pad that allows you to slip your phone out of sight (a safety feature) while it’s charging wirelessly. Want wires? There’s USB-A, USB-C and a 12V power adapter in the same spot. Lift up the tray and it’s also plenty deep enough for a 6-pack and more. My regular vehicle is a Mazda CX-5 with a center console that’s about 12″ wide, so this was much appreciated!

Rotating view 180º here’s the center of the dash, including its complex climate control system and the rather staggering row of 747-style control switches:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - center front dashboard

True confession: I first got the truck while we were digging out from a snowstorm and was very frustrated that the last two switches didn’t actually enable 4×4 as the vehicle was stuck in 2-wheel drive and slipping around. That’s not what those controls do; switching to 4×4 requires using the controls by the driver’s left knee (as shown earlier). I figured it out. In fact, one great feature of the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X is that there’s an “auto” mode where it will use its own smarts to figure out whether you need 2-wheel, 4x high or 4x low gear to proceed.

The cost of the size and the powerful 6.2L ecotec3 V8 engine, however, was fuel efficiency. Arguably no-one buys a truck like this to be green, but with an average of 15mpg (14/17), you’ll be putting a lot of fuel in the tank even for drives around town. I averaged 14.1 mpg, which makes this one of the least fuel efficient vehicles I’ve driven in years. Gas prices have dropped down to the circa $3.00/gallon region, but if it bumped back up to $5.00/gallon? Not so good.

The main gauge display offers a lot of information, including some off road data to help you understand the orientation of your truck if you really are 4×4’ing:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - main gauge display

While initially visually interesting, it’s hard to understand why the huge truck image is shown in the middle of the tachometer, which itself is irrelevant if you have an automatic like the Sierra 1500. Notice that to allow for decent range with this level of fuel inefficiency, the tank has to be pretty big; 175mi on a half-tank translates to 350 miles total, or a 25 gallon tank. I do like the inclusion of the compass directions shown on the left side too; this can be quite handy if you are off main roads.

Stepping outside, the AT4X has a nice, long truckbed:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - exterior truck bed

This model included a spray-on bedliner (standard) and measures 69.9-inches or just a smidge under 6-feet in length. As is becoming more common in pickup truck design, the designers have sacrificed truck bed length for that crew cab’s second row of seats. Which are quite comfortable and roomy in this truck:

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - rear passenger legroom

As befitting a truck of this size, the GMC Sierra 1500 is quite comfortable for two or three adults in the back seat, giving it a passenger capacity of five plus whoever wants to risk sitting in the back (which is illegal in most states). There’s also the usual set of controls and power ports for rear passengers too, enough to keep your crew’s phones charging and cool air on their faces while you slog through rough desert terrain.

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X - rear exterior tailgate up

If you can get over the sticker shock of an $80K pickup truck, there really is a lot to like about this 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X vehicle. It offers a great drive experience with plenty of power, comfortable seating for five, a solid sound system and overall luxurious experience. The many safety features help offset its chunky size in modern parking lots too, so you won’t have to hunt out the furthest possible spots to ensure you don’t ding anyone at the supermarket. Whether you need the cargo space for work or just want a big, reliable, comfortable truck for weekend adventures and your own crew, this is definitely one to check out.

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X in Desert Sand Metallic with Obsidian Rush interior, powered by a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. MSRP: $77,500. OPTIONS INCLUDED: Rocker Protection, Premium Paint. AS DRIVEN: $80,935.00.

Disclosure: GMC loaned me the Sierra 1500 for a week in return for this candid drive experience writeup. Thanks, GMC!


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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