GMC Sierra Elevation — Handsome in black

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Johnny Cash would have probably liked the Elevation Edition of the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500; after all Cash was the "man in black" and for a guy who favored black attire we figure he might like the "truck in black." This special edition Sierra, sporting a monochromatic Onyx Black exterior with 20-inch black painted alloy wheels and black bumpers, door handles and grille would fit the late singer's image.

But if black is not your color choice, the Elevation can also be purchased in Quicksilver Metallic, Sonoma Red Metallic, or Summit White.

Actually, we discovered that our black Sierra test truck was a fairly typical GMC — available only in double cab format — with rear-wheel drive and the base 4.3-liter V-6. We would replace the V-6 with the popular and very capable 5.3-liter V-8 to round out a neat-looking — and performing — GMC. Our test truck came with the V-8 ($1,095) — and the black Elevation accoutrements at cost of $3,855. Four-wheel drive can also be added. Indeed, the Elevation Edition raises the standard of what a sport pickup truck can and should be.

Elevation models also feature premium headlamps with distinctive light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting, fog lamps, and black-painted 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. And all Sierra Elevation Edition models are equipped with remote keyless entry, power mirrors, a 110-volt AC power outlet, and LED cargo box lighting. Advanced connectivity is the main theme of the Elevation and it includes a 4.2-inch IntelliLink color audio system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity, and an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices.

What makes this GMC even more appealing is the handsome, well-designed space that is amazingly quiet at highway speeds. The cabin solitude gives the full-sized pickup a felling of refinement. The seats are comfortable and we figure they will prove just as agreeable on long hauls.

The new 5.3-liter V-8 producing 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque is the way to go when purchasing a Sierra. Mated to a six-speed automatic that provides smooth and timely gear changes in normal driving, the V-8 offers rewarding performance while returning 16 mpg city, 23 highway and a combined 19 on regular gas with rear-wheel drive. The V-8-equipped Sierra has the ability to vault from zero to 60 in a scant 6.7 seconds, which points up the truck's ability to perform in an exemplary manner in all driving situations, even when loaded down to capacity. It can tow up to 9,500 pounds.

From behind the wheel the Sierra feels solid, a rock — to borrow an old Silverado theme — structurally robust yet compliant and comfortable over the worst pavement, attributes that inspire confidence in driving and pride in ownership. The Sierra is unfaltering around turns, and steering is well weighted. The ride and handling dynamics are commendable, making the GMC a good choice if daily commuting is part of your routine.

Safety features on the Sierra and specifically in the Elevation Edition include StabiliTrak stability control with trailer sway control and hill start assist, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Duralife rotors, a tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights, and a full range of airbags including side head curtain.

In government crash tests, the Sierra received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2015 Sierra 1500 its highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal offset crash test, the only test that agency has conducted to date on the pickup.

“The Sierra Elevation Edition is all about expressive style and technology,” says GMC. “Its customized appearance makes it a standout for style-conscious customers, while its technologies help keep them plugged into to their connected lifestyles.”

But we think the Elevation Edition is missing a few key components that would make it a true standout. The biggest omission is a backup camera, a feature that will soon be mandated on all vehicles and one that is sorely needed on a big pickup. Also, the Elevation came sans a blind spot monitor system and satellite radio, something we have come to rely on for entertainment and news. That's a strange omission because we have long assumed that satellite-ready radios came on all GM products.

The base GMC Sierra Elevation Edition comes in at $34,865 with two-wheel drive and the V-6 engine. Including the V-8, and a $475 spray-on bed liner, our test truck with its exceptional exterior styling and connectivity stickered for $36,565.

Base price: $34,865; as driven, $36,454
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8
Horsepower: 355 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 383 pound-feet @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
Length: 229.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,106 pounds
Turning circle: 46.9 feet
Towing capacity: 9,100 pounds
Payload: 2,260 pounds
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 23 city, 16 highway, 19 combined
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra

The Good
• Quiet, quality interior
• Excellent performance from 5.3-liter V-8
• Sporty exterior treatment

The Bad
• Satellite radio missing

The Ugly
• No backup camera