The earliest vehicles all came with various styles of manual transmissions. The first automatic transmission in the U.S. was developed in 1938 by Oldsmobile. It began selling automatic transmissions on 1940 Oldsmobiles; however, manual transmissions remained common into the mid-1980s. They began to disappear from trucks in the 2000s. The GMC Sierra initially included a manual transmission option, but it no longer does today.
History of the GMC Sierra
General Motors introduced both the GMC Sierra and its equivalent, the Chevrolet Silverado, in 1998. The trucks have had four generations so far, running from 1999 to 2007, 2007 to 2014, 2014 to 2019, and 2019 to the present. The first generation had the option of a five-speed manual transmission, while the second generation offered a six-speed manual transmission option.
As full-size trucks got stronger and torque increase, existing manual transmissions weren’t able to keep up. In addition, manufacturers today are able to cut costs in the U.S. if they don’t have to certify an additional powertrain for emissions and fuel economy. With reduced interest from consumers in purchasing manual transmission vehicles, manufacturers aren’t able to recoup the more than one-million-dollar cost of certification.
Both the GMC Sierra and the Chevrolet Silverado stopped offering manual transmission options in the U.S. with the 2008 model year. The Ram 2500 was the last to go with the 2018 model year. This means that for 2020, there remain only three new pickup trucks with manual transmissions to pick from, and none is a full-size truck: Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma.
2020 GMC Sierra 1500
The 2020 Sierra doesn’t have a manual transmission option, but it does offer a number of choices. It has six trim levels: Base, SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4, and Denali. The AT4 is designed for off-road use. Body styles include regular, double, or crew cabs, and there are three different box lengths.
It’s marketed as being more luxurious than the Silverado, but Car and Driver disagrees, saying it “lacks any posh interior materials or true luxury features.” It has a touchscreen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, it comes standard with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. It also is the only one in its class with the option of a carbon-fiber-reinforced cargo bed. The Sierra 1500 received average crash-test ratings, but it does have plenty of available driver-assistance technology features.
The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 powertrain options
The 2020 Sierra has five different engine options and multiple automatic transmissions. It also comes in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The base engine is a 285-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic transmission. It gets 305 lb.-ft. of torque.
There is also a 310-horsepower 2.7-liter engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It gets 348 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine on the SLE, Elevation, and SLT trims gets an estimated 20 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway. The third engine is a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 engine with either a six-, eight-, or ten-speed automatic transmission. This engine gets 383 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets 16 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the highway on the AT4 trim. In the Denali trim, it gets 17 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway.
The 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 has a 10-speed automatic, which gets 460 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets 15 MPG in the city and 20 MPG on the highway when the truck has all-wheel drive. Lastly, the 277-horsepower 3.0-liter diesel six-cylinder also has a 10-speed automatic. It gets 460 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine gets the best fuel efficiency for the Sierra, with 23 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.
The SLE, Elevation, and SLT are able to tow up to 12,100 pounds with the 6.2-liter V-8 engine and the Trailering Package. The AT4 trim has towing capabilities up to 9,800 pounds with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine. And the Denali trim can tow up to 9,600 pounds with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine.
But, unless you’re looking for a GMC Sierra 1500 that’s more than a decade old, you won’t be driving a manual transmission.