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When it comes to full-size pickups, one of the best available is the GMC Sierra 1500; even J.D. Power thinks so. When it comes to names, you have to wonder why GMC would use numbers like 1500. What has the Sierra offered over the years, and why does it name its models with numbers like 1500, 2500, and 3500?

A 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X full-size truck off-road driving.
2023 GMC Sierra 1500 | GMC

What the GMC Sierra 1500 looked like over the years

The GMC Sierra 1500 rolled off the production line in 1999 and was launched as an extended and regular cab model, according to J.D. Power. The Crew cab version came later for the 2005 model year. Powering up the first few models were three engine options, including a 4.3-liter V6, a 4.8-liter V8 producing 255hp, and a 5.3-liter V8 generating 270 hp. 

The pickup sported average trim levels until 2001, when GMC added a first-class version that was initially named the C3 trim. In 2002, though, the C3 went through a name change, and it became what we know today as the Denali version.

GMC added Dynamic Brake Propositioning System and Quadrasteer to this trim at that time as well. However, the Quadrasteer was discontinued a few years later due to a lack of interest. 

According to Autoevolution, The 2004 model added a hybrid version, which was offered with a starter generator and a torque converter that helped save fuel and offered portable power auxiliary unit. In 2007, a redesign came for the truck with a new list of engine options. This time you could opt for a 4.3-liter V6, a 4.8-liter V8, 5.3-liter V8, and a 6.0-liter producing 367 hp. 

A few EcoTec3 engines came to the lineup in 2014, though. Also, this model year saw front-hinged rear doors on the extended cab versions. Fuel economy at that point reached 18 mpg on city roads and 24 mpg on the highway. The 2017 model saw some changes, but it turned out to be a bad year for the truck. It saw too many problems with the brakes, fuel system, in-car electronics, and power equipment. 

What does the number 1500 mean on the Sierra?

Years ago, the numbers we see on trucks meant something to buyers. For example, you might see the numbers 1500, 2500, and 3500 after a pickup model name like Sierra. The 1500 number signified that the truck in question had a payload capacity of 1,000 lbs, otherwise known as a half-ton. If you saw 2500, it would mean that the pickup’s payload figure was 1,500 lbs, or three-quarter-ton, and so on. 

However, times have changed, and payload capacities have increased with added technologies and features that some automakers have put in their truck lineup. Also, the half-ton truck wasn’t nearly as popular as the bigger counterparts, so it rendered this version useless to many drivers. 

The issue, though, was that automakers never bothered to change its way of naming the pickup trucks in the lineup. The Sierra 1500, for example, remains the same despite having a payload capacity of 2,270 lbs, which would otherwise make it a one-ton pickup. 

Nowadays, automakers use it to represent what class of truck the vehicle is. The number 1500 signifies a light-duty truck, while the 2500-3500 represents heavy-duty pickups, according to Autotrader

What does the truck offer today?

The 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 continues to offer the multi-pro tailgate, which used to be exclusive to the Denali trim. It’s now offered for all trim levels. GMC’s 1500 now comes with a Duramax diesel V6 engine that can get you up to 30 mpg combined. It’s optional on all trims, except the AT4, its newest all-terrain vehicle, where you get it standard. 

With the addition of the second Denali trim, this one being the Denali Ultimate, you get the Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system standard. All other trim levels have it as an available feature. The Ultimate version also includes Alpine umber leather materials and Vader Chrome trimmings. 

The Sierra 1500 offers premium features, like its infotainment system. You get a 13.4-inch touchscreen that lets you access Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Basically, the Sierra, which shares many of the same features as the Chevy Silverado, offers a bit more upscale items, such as a 15-inch heads-up display. 

We’ve seen the GMC Sierra 1500 on the pickup market for at least two decades, and it’s had many changes along the way. The newest version adds some new features that will please many truck owners. But the most interesting part is the story behind the numbers we see on trucks like the Sierra 1500. 


What Does 150, 1500, or 2500 Mean on a Truck?