An early look at GMC’s 2019 Sierra AT4, which loves hiking anywhere

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

GMC is blowing the redesigned 2019 Sierra pickups off of dealer lots as if they were the latest smartphone, and the most elusive of the new models is the AT4 — the Sierra with all the hiking gear. Nobody needs all of the capability and style that comes with the muscular Sierra, but go for a drive and you’ll sure crave it. I recently had a chance to sample the truck at its recent media launch.

“The 2019 GMC Sierra AT4 debuted all-new, purposeful technologies for the premium truck segment and the new Off-Road Performance Package takes it a step farther,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC. “It offers optimized performance, both on- and off-road.”

Sexing it up, you’ll notice the AT4’s 2-in. factory lift, black chrome exterior trim, body color grille surround, off-road kicks and red vertical recovery hooks from the curb. There’s even GMC’s flexible MultiPro tailgate that can be configured six ways including a workbench, wide step, or bed extender. You might also admire body color door handles and bumpers, but you’ll have to slide behind the wheel to really appreciate the AT4’s strengths.

Behind the noir grille style is a snarling 6.2-liter V8 engine delivering 435 horsepower — an additional 15 ponies over standard Sierras — connected to a smooth shifting 10-speed automatic transmission. Choose the optional performance exhaust system and stomp the throttle often to tickle your giggle. Engineers also conjured standard 4-wheel-drive with 2-speed transfer case, locking rear differential, skid plates and Rancho monotube shock absorbers. That means you can bang boulders and come out on top. Hill descent control and GMC’s traction select system ease it up and down challenging trails.

When pavement turns to rugged dirt, you’ll really appreciate the AT4. We spent several hours weaving up and down narrow rutted roads that only Border Patrol finds appetizing. We also climbed up rock faces and slammed Interstates. In all conditions, the big truck felt nimble, absorbed the rough trail and never put a wheel wrong. Passengers checked their e-mail with 4G Wi-Fi, cranked up their heated seats, synced up to two phones via Bluetooth, and did so in a hushed cabin. A 15-in. diagonal widescreen head-up displayed included speed and vehicle inclinometer. It’s way over-kill for the morning commute, but almost nothing will stop your morning commute if you’re driving this truck.

It does all that, and comes with an advanced suite of crash avoidance tech that includes surround vision cameras, lane change alert, side blind zone alert, front pedestrian braking and low speed automatic braking. A camera in the nose even helps you maneuver through tight obstacles, whether in a downtown parking garage or threading through boulders and trees. The AT4 adopts GM’s Rear Camera Mirror that places an obstacle-free video screen in the rearview mirror.

Given the Ram Rebel and Ford Raptor, GMC needed a bit more breadth in the britches to nail a spot in the big and brash pickup wars. GMC should always do so with class. And it does — the AT4 feels quiet and smooth, no matter the road. Drive it to work, or haul its acrobatic tailgate across some of the roughest trails you can find, and the Sierra AT4 proves it likes hiking anywhere. Prices rise from $50,800.

If you like the Sierra AT4’s style and capability, hang on. GMC plans to roll out AT4 models across the entire model range, beginning later this year.

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