Don’t get stupid with it and the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X will get you there and back in secure comfort
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It was 109 degrees when I nudged the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X into the churned-up chute of the Diablo Drop Off in the craggy desert of Anza Borrego State Park.
The tire-rutted drop-off is just a few dozen yards long and is not extreme for skilled off-roaders. But what might be extreme is guiding this brawny crew-cab pickup — 8-feet wide and more than 19 feet long — along trails more commonly used by Jeepers and compact desert runners.
I consider myself a seasoned off-road driver, but it seemed indulgent to ramble along sand trails in an $80,000, 420-horsepower pickup with ventilated seats and a soundproofed and leather-lined cab. My drive partner and I were part of an extensive media drive of the new, more capable 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X.
This is the hauler to get your toy-hauler travel trailer to the desert or the mountains. Don’t get stupid with it, and the Sierra AT4X will get you there and back in secure comfort.
- Front and rear e-lockers.
- Multimatic DSSV shocks and dampers.
- 16-way power heated and ventilated front seats with massage.
- Terrain Mode for off-road crawling.
- Trail Cam.
Today, every pickup truck brand has an ultimate version with sophisticated off-roading technologies — at the ultimate price.
GMC added its AT4 sub-brand in 2019, which is now offered across its line of SUVs and pickups, including the HD versions.
All-Terrain4 is a premium treatment, GMC says, and not necessarily a contender to take a beating at the notorious King of the Hammers off-road racing event .
The GMC Sierra AT4 models have a 2-inch factory lift, skid plates, and Rancho monotube shocks. There are powertrain choices of a 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel inline-six engine or a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8. Starting prices for the diesel are about $64,000 or about $65,000 for the V-8.
GMC says its AT4 line is bringing in more affluent customers and younger customers who are new to GMC. According to GMC market research of its truck owners:
22 percent desire a rugged or off-road vehicle.
19 percent use their truck off-road.
67 percent say everyday convenience and on-road comfort are important for their vehicle.
And GMC truck owners are 3.5-times more likely to actively use their vehicle for camping and carrying outdoor sports gear.
AT4X Pinnacle In Price and Ability
The 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X is the new pinnacle for GMC off-roaders. The AT4X builds on the AT4 foundation to emphasize the “X” in the nameplate — all-terrain four-wheel-drive extreme.
The AT4X is a one-package offering of a crew-cab body style, 6.2-liter EcoTec V-8, 10-speed automatic transmission, Multimatic DSSV shocks and dampers, and an arsenal of electronic traction and safety controls.
Also standard is the six-function MultiPro tailgate. It features flip-and-fold panels for load stops, a center section drop-down for an easier reach into the bed, and a full-width step that folds down with a grab-bar arm that can be pulled out of the bed corner.
AT4X Crew Cab pricing starts at $78,195, including the $1,695 freight charge from Silao, Mexico. Options on the test truck were Desert Sand metallic paint $495 and rocker guards, $1,150. The as-tested price came to $78,940.
The interior color scheme is Obsidian Rush (black) with full-grain leather front seat upholstery.
Of the seven paint colors, only white is no cost. The others are $495 each except Cayenne Red Tintcoat, $645.
And there are easily 100 accessories for trailering, cargo systems, hard and soft bed tonneau covers, lighting, and exhaust upgrades.
Get current pricing and incentives here.
GMC updated its 2022-23 AT4 pickups with three new grille designs, a more in-your-face front fascia, and dual-projector LED headlights integrated with the grille. The so-called “split C” running lights half-circle the headlights that frame the grille. The AT4X grille has horizontal dark-nickel-colored bars centered by a big GMC badge.
New interior design includes a cockpit-oriented instrument panel and a larger 13.4-inch-diagonal color touchscreen with Google built in.
There is a new 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster and a 15-inch multicolor head-up display. GMC boasts that the more than 40 diagonal inches of digital displays are the most in its class.
Premium AT4X features include:
- Heated and ventilated 16-way power front seats with massage.
- Full-grain leather interior with white stitching and white piping on the seats.
- Authentic dark vanta ash wood adds texture to the shades of black in the cabin. (I’ve never heard of vanta ash, but its graining is handsome in the AT4X.)
- Microsuede headliner.
- 12-speaker Bose Premium audio with Centerpoint surround sound.
There is no substitute for displacement when moving a curb weight of 5,640 pounds; the AT4X is the heaviest pickup in the Sierra 1500 line. Add people and gear, and the weight rises to 3 tons and more.
With a towing capacity of 8,900 pounds, the 420-hp 6.2-liter overhead-valve V-8 is an obvious choice for the AT4X. But so would the diesel, which is not available for the AT4X. The 10-speed rolls out easy shifts and holds a steady pace without seeking gears on the highway.
Fuel economy, however, is about what might be expected. The EPA estimated fuel economy ratings are 14 mpg city, 18 highway and 16 mpg combined. And this engine has GM’s Dynamic Skip Fire, which shuts off half of the cylinders when cruising.
On the nearly 3-hour one-way run to the desert and back to the base hotel in Encinitas, Calif., we clocked a 15.1 mpg (not including the off-road driving). And we were pushing 65 to 70 mph when possible.
Rather than adding turbochargers or multi-valve cylinder heads to increase power, GM says it chooses to preserve power and save fuel by switching off half of the cylinders when they aren’t needed.
Premium fuel is recommended for peak power but not required, and filling the gas tank of 24 gallons will be painful.
It is an eighth-marvel of automotive engineering to build a towering pickup truck with a blunt front end that rides as quietly as a luxury sedan. The GMC Sierra AT4X is remarkably soundproofed and smooth-rolling along the highway. Tire noise is minimal, and the long wheelbase gives an unperturbed ride quality even along choppy road surfaces.
The magic is in the new Multimatic DSSV shocks and dampers https://www.multimatic.com/manufacturing/suspension/damping-technology/
Based in Ottawa, Canada, Multimatic has supplied suspensions to race cars, Aston Martins, and also the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Camaro ZL1 1LE, and Colorado ZR2.
Its Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers have three separate spool valves to control damping. The AT4X also has off-road calibrated springs that stretch maximum suspension travel by almost 2 inches (50mm) at the front and an inch (25mm) at the rear.
AT4X Off Road
Despite the heat and 20 mph winds, my drive partner and I were belted in with AC flowing and the climate system set to recirculation to filter the desert’s talcum-fine sand. The 18-inch black wheels with 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac Mud-Terrain tires were aired down to 15 pounds to fatten the footprint for toeholds.
The two-speed four-wheel-drive Autotrac transfer case has selectable modes for different trail conditions. Electronic front and rear locking differentials are engaged by a dashboard switch, with no need to unspool from low range.
For the rocks and ruts we were in, the traction control was set for Terrain Mode, allowing one-pedal rock crawling. It might as well be called Tractor Mode.
Nosing into the chute, I used the accelerator to apply power gently, and to lift off the pedal for braking. But the Level 1 of Terrain Mode was slower than a granny gear and almost suspended us in the seatbelts on the steep dip. But it takes just a flick of the paddle shifter to upshift to Level 2 or Level 3.
The graunch of steel on sandstone sent a shiver, but the skid plates (steel transfer case skid) and the rock rails ($1,150) bore the brunt.
The weight and crew-cab body style help keep the AT4X planted to hook-up traction. And despite the outside elements, the engine temp did not move a notch from normal.
Braking and Steering
On road or off, the four-wheel discs engaged without grab and have surprising force in emergency braking. The brake system has electro-hydraulic power assist for the 13-inch vented front rotors and rear 13.6-inch Duralife rotors.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is well-boosted for in-town comfort. But it also is firm enough off road to make minuscule adjustments when steering between rock outcrops.
But the turning circle of 47.5 feet is wide for making U-turns on the trail.
The spaciousness of the Sierra cabin is the American dream for comfort and openness. But there were some issues with some plastic trim pieces not fitting securely, and the passenger-side seatbelt anchor in our test truck was stuck at the upper position.
Front headroom of 43 inches and long legroom of 44.5 inches cannot be duplicated in a sedan or most SUVs. There are acres of storage, including dual glove compartments (the larger of which is lockable) and a deep and spacious center armrest box. Large visors extend and have wide, lighted mirrors. Five USB ports include the standard 2.0 and the new USB-C connectors.
While there are a lot of electronic controls, the display screens are not prone to glare and a simple enough to use.
Back-seat headroom is also tall at 40.1 inches, with a large headliner inset for heads with hats. The 43.4 inches of legroom is a country mile, even with a tall driver ahead. The rear bench is a little short on thigh support, and there are no heat, fan, or AC controls, but there are sturdy grab handles, seat heaters, two USBs, and a 12-volt plug.
Standard GMC Sierra safety technologies include:
- 6 air bags;
- Forward Collision Alert and Front Pedestrian Braking;
- Following Distance Indicator;
- Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning;
- Automatic Emergency Braking.
The AT4X is a showpiece of technological prowess. The mountain-climbing tech is not entirely necessary for the skilled driver, but it is an impressive array of capabilities.
Off-road enthusiasts can spend $80,000 on upgrades and modifications over the life of their vehicle. The GMC Sierra AT4X is a shortcut to completion. And when the AT4X is the daily driver during the workweek, it is always calling for the next weekend adventure.
Body style: half-ton 4-door 5-seat crew cab with a 5.8-foot-long box
Engine: 420-hp, direct-injection 6.2-liter overhead-valve V-8 with variable valve timing and Dynamic Fuel Management; 460 lb.-ft. torque at 4,100 rpm
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic; AutoTrac automatic transfer case with high- and low-range 4WD
Fuel economy: 14/18/16 mg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended, not required
Front suspension: Independent coil-over-shock with twin-tube shock absorbers; Multimatic DSSV dampers;
Rear suspension: Solid axle with semi-elliptic, variable-rate, two-stage multileaf springs and Multimatic DSSV dampers
Braking: 4-wheel discs with electro-hydraulic power assist and ABS; 13-inch vented front rotors and rear 13.6-inch Duralife rotors
Tires and wheels: 18-inch aluminum wheels; LT265/70R18 Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac Mud-Terrain
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 24 gallons
Payload: 1,420 pounds
Trailering: 8,900 pounds
Front head/leg room: 43/44.5 inches
Rear head/leg room: 40.1/43.4 inches
Length/wheelbase: 232.9/147.4 inches
Width/height: 97.6*/75.4 inches *81.2 in. without mirrors
Ground clearance: 10.9 inches
Approach angle: 25.5 degrees
Departure angle: 23 degrees
Breakover angle: 20.9 degrees
Curb weight: 5,640 pounds
Turning circle: 47.5 feet
Standard AT4X safety features include: 6 air bags; Forward Collision Alert and Front Pedestrian Braking; Following Distance Indicator; Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning; Automatic Emergency Braking
AT4X Crew Cab base price: $77,395, including the $1,695 freight charge. Price as tested $78,940
Options on the test truck: Desert Sand metallic paint $495; rocker guards $1,150
Where assembled: Silao, Mexico