The current GMC Sierra 1500 first showed up on the market in 2019, but its yawn-inducing interior was a major letdown compared to one of its main rivals, the Ram 1500. That may change for 2022 with the arrival of the updated Sierra 1500, which receives revised styling, major interior upgrades, and available Super Cruise driver-assist technology. What’s more, two new trims – the luxurious Denali Ultimate and off-road AT4X – join the lineup.
The new cabin takes clear inspiration from the well-regarded GMC Yukon SUV, with enlarged touchscreens and revised materials relative to the outgoing Sierra 1500. And while styling outside remains similar, keen eyes will note a few tweaks that keep the truck current. The new Sierra will join the closely related (and likewise updated) 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 on the market in the first quarter of 2022 with a starting price of $32,495 for the base Pro trim.
New Face, Who Dis?
The most obvious update to the exterior of the 2022 GMC Sierra is its front end, which sports a wider grille than before. Revised grille textures appear on every trim level, with that of the Denali and Denali Ultimate intended to spread to the automaker’s other luxury-trim vehicles in the future. A new front bumper hides subtle LED foglamps, while the LED headlights themselves get a dual-projector design with bolder C-shaped daytime running lights and animated lighting sequences.
New wheel designs across the board and three new exterior colors – Titanium Rush Metallic, Dynamic Blue Metallic and Desert Sand Metallic – give the side profile a slight update. Unchanged is the truck’s bed, which is still available with the clever six-position MultiPro tailgate and CarbonPro composite construction. Overall, the sharp new face and minor revisions elsewhere keep the new Sierra current without detracting much from its already handsome exterior design.
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To those basic alterations, the new-for-2022 Denali Ultimate trim receives a dark-finished “Vader chrome” front grille and exterior accents, low-gloss black 22-inch wheels, and revised badging. Meanwhile, the likewise-fresh AT4X receives its own 18-inch black wheels and an optional rocker guard for aggressive off-roading.
If the outside of the 2022 Sierra is similar to its immediate predecessor, the interior is a massive departure. GMC revealed images of both its new trims, the Denali Ultimate and AT4X, and they rip their cabins almost unaltered from the high-spec Yukon Denali and AT4. That means a clean, angular dashboard design and revised climate controls, looking far more modern and refined than the outgoing Sierra 1500’s bland, blobby design.
The new-for-2022 Denali Ultimate trim brings a number of upgrades over the regular Denali, coming standard with Adaptive Ride Control, sueded headliner, and 12-speaker Bose audio system with etched stainless steel speaker grilles. Distinguishing the Denali Ultimate stylistically is unique matte-finish Paldao wood trim, paired with gorgeous Alpine Umber upholstery. A topographical map of Alaska’s Denali mountain appears etched into the wood and embossed in the full-grain leather seats. A leather dash, door panels, and center console add to the appeal; ditto 16-way massaging front seats. The Ultimate will start at a lofty $80,395.
The likewise-new AT4X trim is similarly polished. Although not quite as plush as the Denali Ultimate, the AT4X still gets standard massaging seats with 16-way functionality, as well as trim-specific Vanta ash wood trim and leather upholstery. The Bose audio system is likewise standard, and it all wears the same overall interior design as the Denali Ultimate. The luxurious and capable AT4X will demand $74,995 to start.
Even lesser trims of the revised Sierra lineup get new cabin styling. Although GMC didn’t have photos available, a company representative confirmed that the Sierra SLE and SLT would feature similar interior styling as their Yukon equivalents, just as the Denali, Denali Ultimate, AT4, and AT4X ape their SUV siblings. What’s more, every trim SLE and above will get a standard 13.4-inch infotainment system and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a huge upgrade over the outgoing Sierra’s flagship 8.0-inch touchscreen and analog gauges with 8.0-inch center display. Only the base Sierra Pro will do without the pixel overload.
The new Sierra 1500 AT4X is more than a styling and interior upgrade, with a long list of suspension and hardware improvements that will help it get off the beaten path. Foremost among them is a new set of Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers. Based on the technology found in the smaller Colorado ZR2 and shared with the mechanically similar Silverado ZR2, these dampers provide far greater control in varied off-road terrain without sacrificing on-road comfort. Although we haven’t experienced them in a full-size pickup application, in the mid-size Colorado, they’re incredible.
The AT4X also takes advantage of unique springs that increase wheel travel by 50 millimeters in front and 25 mm in the rear compared to the regular AT4. Front and rear electronic locking differentials are standard, improving traction and flexibility in many low-traction, off-road conditions. A larger transfer case underbody shield helps those aforementioned rocker guards to prevent accidental damage over large obstacles. In addition to the hardware upgrades, the drive mode selector includes a Terrain mode that enables one-pedal trail driving with the transfer case set to 4-Low.
Look, But Don’t Touch
Standard on the Sierra Denali Ultimate and optional on the Denali will be General Motors’ new Super Cruise driver-assist technology. When the Sierra is driving on a mapped road, Super Cruise can activate to allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel, allowing the truck to handle lane centering and tracing, adaptive cruise control, and even automatic lane changes and overtaking. Most impressively, Super Cruise also works with a trailer in tow – the driver can even enter the trailer’s length to enable those same automatic lane changes, the truck monitoring the appropriate distance behind and to the side.
Making Super Cruise operation better is the 2022 Sierra’s Android Automotive infotainment system found on SLE trims and above. Featuring embedded Google Maps, the system can make route suggestions based on Super Cruise availability. It also features other Google ecosystem apps, like Assistant and Play, and it will offer over-the-air updates. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will also come standard with the system.
Those software improvements will help take advantage of the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500’s slightly revised powertrain and chassis. Although the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s carry over mostly unchanged, the headline-grabbing turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four now makes an estimated 420 pound-feet (569 newton-meters), a 20-percent increase over the current 2.7’s 348 lb-ft (472 Nm). Power is unconfirmed, but the outgoing four-banger makes 310 hp (231 kW). All that adds up to a maximum trailer rating of 9,600 pounds for the two-wheel drive version, a 200-pound upgrade over 2021.
Also receiving a few minor improvements is the optional 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six turbodiesel. A few minor chassis alterations mean buyers can now option the diesel with GMC’s max tow package, bumping its trailer rating to 13,200 pounds with two-wheel drive – a 4,000-pound improvement over the outgoing Duramax. The automaker is also proud of the Sierra Duramax 4x4’s maximum rating of 13,000 pounds, a best-in-class number among light-duty four-wheel-drive diesel pickups.
Curiously, GMC is already marketing the 2021-style pickup as the 2022 Sierra 1500 Limited (in Pro, SLE, SLT, AT4, and Denali grades), leading us to believe that it will offer both the pre- and post-facelift trucks at the same time. The automaker says this decision was due to longer-term product planning, and it may also help more versions of the Sierra find new homes through fleet sales and discounted pricing. Ram follows a similar tactic with the 1500 Classic, a previous-generation version of the truck sold alongside its successor since 2019.
Whatever the case may be, the new 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 promises to be a massive improvement over the Limited-style predecessor. We already liked the handsome exterior and quiet ride, but the cabin’s materials and styling felt well off the mark from its competitors. That changes for 2022, and with a massive lineup of technology and functionality upgrades, the Sierra will finally be a major contender in the full-size truck segment.