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First Look: 2011 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

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First 2011 Heavy d look

First Look: 2011 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

Posted by Mike Levine | March 9, 2010

First Look: 2011 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty

It was only a month ago that we had our first look at the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty pickups. Now, it’s GMC’s turn in the spotlight. The “professional grade” brand is unveiling the 2011 GMC Sierra HD lineup at the NTEA Work Truck Show. While most of the technical specifications of GM’s HD pickups are identical, GMC is adding a new high-end Sierra Denali HD model to its work truck lineup.

The luxurious Sierra Denali will only be available as a crew cab four-wheel drive 2500 model with a choice of either the standard 360 horsepower / 380 pounds-feet of torque 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine or the class-leading 397 hp and 765 pounds-feet 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 turbodiesel.

To separate it visually from the rest of the Sierra HD trucks, the exterior of the Denali HD will feature a four-bar chrome grille along with body-color bumpers, chrome door handles, chrome accents and 18- and 20-inch polished forged aluminum wheels. As with other Denali models, the cabin will be unique with standard premium touches. It will include Denali-specific brushed aluminum trim, power-adjustable pedals, a Bose premium surround audio system and 12-way power seats. Along with an optional heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather-appointed seating is available. The exterior will be offered in three colors: Black, Stealth Gray and White.

The rest of the new 2011 Sierra HD lineup receives new three-bar grilles and prominent louvered hoods, along with a revised chrome steel front bumper and new 17-, 18- and 20-inch wheels. The interior, though, is mostly unchanged.

GM made the biggest changes to the Sierra’s frame, powertrain and running gear to increase towing and hauling capacity.

Maximum trailering is rated up to 20,000 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a dual rear wheel Duramax diesel and up to 14,500 pounds pulling a fifth wheel trailer with a single rear wheel 6.0-liter gas V-8.

Maximum payload is rated up to 6,335 pounds with the DRW 6.0-liter gas V-8 and up to 5,724 pounds with the DRW 6.6-liter Duramax V-8. Five of 12 Sierra 3500 models offer a payload capability greater than 6,000 pounds.

2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD

Jeff Luke, GM's chief engineer for full-size pickups, said the new frame has five times the torsional strength, 92 percent better bending stiffness and 20 percent better beaming stiffness. The front frame bay cradling the engine is 125 percent stiffer than the old frame.

Torsional strength is how much the frame will twist side to side under load. Bending stiffness is how much the frame will bend under load. Beaming stiffness is how much the frame will flex as it's loaded in the center and supported at both ends. The stronger frame is also said to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness, particularly up front. The engine mount brackets have been strengthened, and their positions supporting the engine are optimized so that the bracket attachment points are now set relative to the center of the frame rail instead of offset at an angle, which had caused unwanted engine vibration.

There are a total of 11 different frame assemblies, depending on cab configuration, wheelbase, weight class and whether it's a pickup or a commercial chassis cab.

In the front suspension, the upper control arm is now made from forged instead of cast steel, for increased strength and weight savings, while the cast-iron lower control arm has been bolstered to handle greater loads. To help improve ride quality, two urethane jounce bumpers instead of one are mounted to the frame to cushion each side of the lower control arm, and there's also a new upper shock mount attachment design as well as all-new shocks.

There's also a new steering box with a 16-1 turn ratio and larger front linkage to manage increased front-end loads resulting from the improved front gross axle weight rating, which has jumped from 4,800 pounds to 6,000 pounds.

It's not just the stronger frame and suspension that support the increased towing and hauling numbers in the 2011 GMC Sierra HD. There's also a revised 6.6-liter Duramax clean diesel. Sixty percent of its parts are new, and Duramax chief engineer Gary Arvan said it will be 11 percent more fuel efficient than the previous LMM Duramax.


A new 36-gallon fuel tank extends the driving range of the Sierra. It’s standard on long and short box versions. GM promises up to a country-crossing 680-mile range, or about 18.8 mpg.

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