Off the Beaten Path: 2019 GMC Sierra AT4
GMC has determined there’s gold in them thar trails, witnessing Ram hoovering up dollars from off-roaders and wannabe off-roaders with the Rebel variation of its 1500 pickup.
The tri-lettered half of The General’s truck duo latched onto the off-road life in the previous Sierra with a trim called All Terrain. It’s back and beefed up on the revamped 2019 model but, taking a page from the Cadillac Book of Alphanumerics, it is now called the AT4.
This new version of the Sierra is bestowed with various visual addenda such as black chrome finishes and the scattered bit of red trim. What sets it apart from other Sierras, GMC says, is its two-inch suspension lift and Rancho shock absorbers. Standard equipment on the AT4 includes the brand’s familiar 5.3-liter V8 engine. A choice of tires include 18-inch Goodyear Duratracs or 20-inch rubber, although (somehow) the tires on the model shown here look like casters from a piano. Surely they will look more substantial in person. The “squircle” wheel arches continue.
Interestingly, it will also be available with the macho 6.2-liter V8 or the Duramax 3.0-liter inline-six turbo-diesel. These engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. A system called Traction Select allows the driver to choose from preset drive modes that have been tailored for different terrain or weather conditions, not unlike what’s found on some burly SUVs. GMC says selecting one of these modes adjusts Sierra’s transmission shift points, throttle mapping, and StabiliTrak to optimize performance for whatever terrain the driver is trying to traverse.
GMC’s interesting MultiPro tailgate makes an appearance and the AT4 cribs the CarbonPro from its Denali brother. This latter detail speaks to two thoughts. First, GMC must have invested heavily in the development of a carbon fiber box and some pencil-necked accountant within the company is screaming that the costs be recouped. Second, the company seems determined not to repeat the Pro-Tec debacle of 15 years ago by more aggressively marketing the CarbonPro box and offering it on multiple trims.
“The 2019 Sierra AT4 is designed for the customer who wants an elevated presence on the road and the capability to venture off life’s beaten path,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC. “It’s also the beginning for the AT4 brand, which will be seen on every vehicle in our lineup in the next two years.”
Reading into this, that means there will be an AT4 version of the Canyon, which would make for an interesting welterweight foil to Chevy’s own Colorado ZR2. Nothing in the release says that future AT4 models won’t receive additional equipment, so it is indeed plausible that the Canyon could earn the trick suspension from its ZR2 cousin. The Sierra AT4 shown here does not possess such off-road goodies.
Taking Mr. Aldred’s point to the next level, we should also expect an AT4 trim GMC’s various cadre of SUVs and crossovers including, not to put too fine a point on it, the Yukon and Yukon XL. An off-road(ish) version of these two brutes would please this author to no end. The other half of GM showroom offers a supremely cool (if eye-wateringly expensive) Tahoe RST which is not trail-focused at all but certainly makes the point that GM is not afraid to throw a few high dollar pieces at its largest SUV platform.
I would not call this Sierra AT4 a competitor to the Raptor, even with the fabulous 6.2-liter under the hood, as the GMC is not equipped with the same level of off-road kit that accepts repeated beatings on the Ford. It is, however, in this author’s truck-focused mind, an alternative to the Ram Rebel.
The AT4 is expected to appear on dealer lots this Fall.
[Images: General Motors]
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