2014 GMC Sierra

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Date Posted: August 1, 2013
By Zack Spencer

''Glamping'' in the all-new GMC Sierra.

I learned a lot on a recent trip to Alberta to drive the all-new 2014 GMC Sierra. First, the term ''glamping'' (a cross between glam or glamorous and camping) or glam-camping. The idea is to head out into the wilderness and not rough it in any way. To facilitate my first run at glamping General Motor invited media from across the country to take their new Sierra on the road attached to a fully kitted out camping trailer. This was to show the merits of their new truck and to make it memorable. I have to say, in light of the dozens of media trips we attend each year, it worked. All of the trucks used were 4-door models fitted with their new 5.3L V8 engine and trailers ranged in sizes and weights. My trailer was shared with my Driving Television cameraman, so we asked and received the biggest trailer, weighing in at 3900kg (8600 lbs.) with a total length of 10.6m (35 ft.). I didn't want to hear him snoring and visa versa. In addition we would have a chance to drive the Sierra without any load to experience the fuel efficiency, something that is becoming more important to truck buyers over the usual selling features like capability and ruggedness.

The second thing I learned is how to tow a big trailer. Sure I have taken smaller trailers with a boat or ATV's behind but never such a big overbearing beast like this one. The instructors pointed out the new position of the trailer braking system on the inside of the cab. It has been moved from the right, of the steering wheel, to a new spot high on the dash and to the left. After a short time, the brake balance between the truck and trailer was established making the whole unit feel as one. Third on the list of things to learn was the incredibly wide turns needed to maneuver such a long trailer. After a while I felt confident enough to even tackle a suburban Tim Horton's parking lot on my way out of Calgary. No problem pulling into the lot, it was getting a parking spot that was the trouble, with a slight amount of curb rash on one of the trailer's wheels. ''That will buff out'', I said, as the GM executives pretended not to hear.

The route out of Calgary sent us south and west towards the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Now, I've been to Alberta many times but taking the less travelled highways was a real eye opener. The scenery is breathtaking, with vast expanses of rolling ranches framed by bigger mountains; think of the movie ''A River Runs Through It'' and you can picture the beauty.

With changes in elevation, the 355hp 5.3L V8 was put to the test. GMC added 40hp and 48 lb-ft of torque, compared to the outgoing model, not only to improve towing and hauling but also improved fuel efficiency. Towing capacity, with the 5.3L V8, has been increased to 11,500 lbs. when equipped with the optional towing package. All the new Chevrolet and GMC trucks have been fitted with direct injection technology that enabled the engineers to lean the fuel burn under light loads and run the engine with just 4-cylinders. In real world conditions, pulling a big heavy trailer up some pretty steep grades, the fuel economy came in at 30L/100km. But when the truck was empty I noticed the engine running in 4-cylinder mode a lot and I averaged just 11L/100km. Keep in mind that truck buyers need to average out their fuel burn throughout the year. If you only trailer occasionally, the fuel burn is less. If you trailer a lot, then the larger 6.2L V8 might be the right choice.

On the road I also learned something about trailering, it is a rather bumpy way to get somewhere. The trailer can buck and bounce making the ride not very relaxing. The cabin, of the new Sierra, compensated nicely due to a very quiet interior that is fitted with multiple USB outlets to charge our phones, Go-Pro cameras and battery packs. The streaming Bluetooth audio worked like a charm and the overall upgrades to the interior are near the top of the pickup truck class. This is one area where the new GM trucks shine.

Once we arrived at the Sierra West Ranch (really! Not just rebadged for this event) we had our trailers unhitched and the glamping began. As we sprayed ourselves in Deep Woods Off, to repel some hungry mosquitoes and set up a chair by the main eating tent, there was a roar, a hoot and holler, followed by an enormous splash. One of our group members decided to take their new Sierra, at considerable speed, trough the creek next to our campsite. Well, over the next hour or so we all had to have a shot, trying to make the biggest splash and blasting through the fastest. Once again the GM executives pretended not to notice and mumbled something about their legal team at head office would not approve. It was all good fun and the truck looked pretty rugged charging through the water.

Glamping is a lot of fun, especially with a 35 foot home-on-wheels, good food, a few brown pops and the stereo of one of the GMC's blasting Van Helen and Led Zeppelin to name a few.

The next morning it was back to Calgary to experience the Calgary Stampede. This year was rather emotional, to witness the civic pride this great western city has. The floods that devastated this area were front and centre in everyone's mind but there was no evidence that the catastrophic event had even happened, except for the Stampede shirts with the phrase ''Come Hell or High Water'' that were worn by many.

The last think I learned, talking to the engineers on hand is that it is a good idea to speak to the truck specialist at your local dealer to equip your next truck with just the right combination of engine size, rear differential setup and bed length. The first two can have a great effect on doing the job correctly and often truck owners buy too much truck. Getting the right amount of towing capability and no-load drivability is important and can save money, on the truck, and reduce fuel consumption.

Glamping is a lot of fun, the city of Calgary is fantastic during Stampede season and the new Sierra never set a wheel wrong. Splash...

The Lowdown

Power: 5.3L V8 with 355hp

Fill-up: 13.0/8.7L/100km (city/highway)

Backup: 3-year/60,000km

Sticker price: From $31,615

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