In the world of trucks in America, there’s always a looming battle when it comes to who has the baddest, most capable, and feature-packed truck. It seems truck-goers are always vying to have the best truck that their money can buy, and often enough, compromise is not an option within those parameters. GMC tends to be one that offers truck folks their cake and the ability to eat it with the AT4X trim of the latest Sierra pickup truck. Such a trim level brings many of the Denali luxury features and theme to the table but also mixes in off-roading prowess for an interesting package.
To enhance things even further, GMC offers up AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) equipment from the factory. Those in the know will realize AEV has some hard-core equipment, and GMC brings nearly $7,000 worth of AEV add-ons to the Sierra AT4X, making it the most capable and rugged half-ton truck from the brand fresh off the assembly line with a steel bumper to steel bumper warranty.
Building off the Sierra 1500 AT4X that we had at the end of last year, the AT4X AEV Edition in our possession this week is essentially the same truck, only it delightfully adds AEV equipment. Part of that equipment includes AEV hot-stamped boron steel skid plates covering all the vulnerable areas, including the front approach area under the steel bumper covering the steering gear, transfer cases, fuel tank, and rear differential. Other AEV equipment is added to complete the theme of having the ultimate protection for hard-core off-roading, which gives you an AEV stamped steel rear bumper, rocker protection guards that somewhat act as a smallish sidestep, 12-spoke gloss black aluminum Salta wheels, AEV-branded headrests, and AEV all-weather floor liners. All of the functional bits add to the capability of the Sierra 1500 AT4X, which we boasted about in our previous preview.
Powering the Sierra 1500 AT4X AEV Edition is the same proven 6.2-liter V8 that many have loved for decades, producing 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, all sent through a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s also nice to have the ability to enable a 4WD auto mode (also has 2WD high or 4WD low settings) and leave the transfer case guessing work for the computer unless you choose to select 4WD low and lock up the front and rear differentials at the press of a button.
Most of how the Sierra 1500 AT4X handles itself is predictable, with a decent amount of power getting the heavy truck up to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. The 33-inch tires a good for clawing at off-roading trails or loose surfaces as the MultiMatic DSSV shocks with 3 separate spool valves are quite adaptable for conquering off-roading challenges or giving you a smooth and somewhat compliant on-road ride quality. Towing capacity maxes at at 8,700 pounds and payload is up to 1,290 pounds.
Carrying around the extra weight of the AT4X trim add-ons, in addition to the added AEV equipment, fuel economy won’t be the least bit stellar where you will mostly match the EPA estimates of 14 mpg city, 17 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined. Around town, I mostly matched the 14-mpg figure but often found myself coming up a bit short at 13.2 mpg when I made a drive through downtown traffic. On the highway, I also came up a little short at 16.5 mpg, but I attribute that to my heavy foot in keeping up with interstate traffic traveling just above the posted speed limit.
Just like I stated in my previous review of the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X, you get a near-luxury cabin at the level of the Denali trim. There are plentiful amenities, including heated, ventilated, and back-area massaging front seats, heated rear outboard seats, accented stitching, a microsuede headliner, and the right amount of soft-touch surfaces. You also get a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and the welcomed 13.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The near-luxury interior will have some confused as to the purpose of such a vehicle when you have it outfitted with the unique AEV equipment and find the interior so plush. However, a number of buyers will take delight in having a truck that can serve as a comfy commuter or travel vehicle and knowing that it’s quite capable of navigating off-roading adventures. You even have built-in Kicker audio controls and speakers for tailgating via the MultiPro tailgate that offers a variety of opening and folding tricks.
There’s all of the expected active safety features included for the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X AEV Edition, including the highlights of a multi-angle 360-degree camera system that allows you to have live views of the bed, trailer connection area, and many other angles when driving. The digital rearview mirror is also a nice addition for a live camera-feed view of the rear to replace the customary rearview mirror view that can be obstructed by rear seat passengers.
When I previously reviewed the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X without the AEV equipment, it was already a head-scratcher for its pricing at $80,935. However, now, I’m a bit taken with the price tag of my loaded-up test vehicle coming in at $91,085, which makes the $81K figure a deal. The question here for most is if the unique AEV equipment is worth the extra cost when you don’t have any performance benefits for power to potentially give a challenge to the likings of champion off-roading trucks from Ford and RAM. Still, the Sierra AT4X and the AEV Edition have its merits for those who are brand loyal, enjoy the luxurious interior, or welcome the proven powertrain.