Review: The New GMC Sierra AT4X AEV Is A Legit Luxury Off-Roader

Massaging leather seats and a Bluetooth audio-enhanced tailgate are among this powerful pickup’s opulent amenities.

(GMC)

Serious off-road trucks often have spartan interiors that deliberately shy away from luxury. As if creature comforts like large HD touch screens and massaging leather seats are for road people and stark, rubberized surfaces are for off-road people. But the new $90,000 GMC Sierra AT4X AEV is a truck that can coddle you while you’re taking on punishing terrain. 

Design & Interior

(Stinson Carter)

My opinion of the exterior comes with a disclaimer that I’m biased by the beauty of the Deep Bronze Metallic model I tested. It looks like more of a moss green, with a perfect blend of ruggedness and beauty. Subtle two-tone touches of black trim, glossy black aluminum wheels and pops of red in the badges are perfect understated accents. When you add the steel bumpers, skid plates, and the two-inch lift, it makes a clear statement that this is not your average full-sized truck.  

One off-road detail that looks great—but I didn’t love in practice—was the rocker panel guards—rails running along the sides below the doors that protect the flanks the way skid plates guard the undercarriage. Because of the height of the truck, my instinct was to try to use them like running boards as a step up, but they’re too shallow to use for a toe hold. So, they end up as more of an obstacle to getting into a truck that’s already high for this six-foot-tall driver, let alone for shorter people. I would have liked them more if they had flattened sections that could double as steps. 

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(Stinson Carter)

The grip of the coated cargo bed keeps things from slipping around inside—a feature I tested when I had to haul a set of off-road wheels and tires to an installer to upgrade my own family hauler. They sat perfectly in the bed without moving an inch. While we’re back there, the Bluetooth tailgate sound system is another nice touch, as is the 120-volt outlet. 

Once you get inside this thing, you realize where that the $90,000 that isn’t being spent on things like Multimatic dampers, off-road suspension, and boron steel reinforcements is going. Even just the start button is elevated into a wide, inverted trapezoid of brushed metal.

(Stinson Carter)

The 13.4-inch touchscreen is glossy and sharp, unlike the tiny matte screens found in some other top-tier off-roaders. A suite of Bose speakers fills the very spacious interior well, and the Google assistant control made this the easiest system to get used to in the shortest amount of time. Usually, I have an awkward period in new cars where I have to get my head around the user interface, but the day this arrived I got in and told Google where I wanted to go, and we were off. 

By the time I got the massaging leather seats for driver and passenger going, I wanted to set off across the country. The only thing I’d miss on a road trip would be a panoramic sunroof, as the one on the tester was just for the driver and passenger and not for those in the plush and very spacious back seats. 

What It’s Like To Drive

(Stinson Carter)

My first impressions on reversing out of my downtown Charleston, South Carolina driveway is that it’s big in a city. I leaned on the great 360-degree view on the screen without issue, but this is a truck you need a serious driveway for. And I wouldn’t want to have to do a lot of urban parallel parking.

But once you get on the open road, it’s a quiet and extremely comfortable ride. The 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 is naturally aspirated so it sounds nice and not whiny. With 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, it backs that sound up when you’re accelerating, merging and, I imagine, towing. 

(Stinson Carter)

The large head-up display was useful with such a large vehicle to keep focused on the road. The average MPG is 15, which is about what I got, and it didn’t seem bad given the sheer heft of it.

I didn’t get to test out the trailer-focused features, the hill-start assist, and the front and rear locking differentials, but I did get it off pavement to try out the suspension and it showed a new side of its personality. At slower speeds over off-road terrain, you really see the benefit of the 10-speed transmission to give you only as much power as you want in a range of increments that made it feel very steady.  

Back to the off-road wheels and tires I was hauling in the truck bed: I get different perspectives on cars I’m reviewing by watching other people react to them. They tell me things I can’t get from my own first-hand impressions. I’d had the truck a week without any of the usual gym parking lot conversations with strangers that I’m used to. This told me the truck knows how to keep its secrets among regular folk.

But, on the last day I had with it, I pulled up to an off-road supply store where grease-smeared guys in workwear came out of the garage to help me unload the bed. They were four young men who spend eight hours a day tricking out trucks and SUVs for off-roading.

(Stinson Carter)

On any other day, as an off-road dabbler in a polo and boat shoes, I’d probably be a punchline for these guys. But they clocked the AT4X badge quicker than a watch snob spots a Rolex crown. They looked at me with different eyes. The truck had found its people.

“Is that what I think it is?” one asked.  

I just nodded, then planted a boat shoe in the cab and climbed back in. 

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