The verdict: GMC fixed the one big area where the previous Sierra 1500 fell short (the interior), making the new 2022 model a no-excuses, fully competitive premium full-size pickup truck with some expensive high-end trims.
Versus the competition: More luxurious than its Chevrolet siblings, the new Sierra 1500 handily out-luxes the Ford F-150, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra, but the Ram 1500 still gives it a run for its money.
When GM redesigned its full-size pickup trucks for the 2019 model year, we were big fans of most of the changes it made: Styling was wild, capabilities were improved, and powertrains and chassis dynamics were top-notch. The interiors, however, were no better than the plastic-fantastic cabins they replaced. GM spent its money on everything but the inside and got one-upped by Ram and Ford on cabin quality and finishing touches.
Related: 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate, AT4X: Up Close
Now, with the 2022 versions of GM’s big trucks, that issue has been soundly resolved. Completely new interiors have arrived for the Chevy Silverado 1500 (see our review) and the truck discussed here, the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500. Along with the Sierra’s new digs comes some new tech, some new trims, and some decided hits and misses. After spending time behind the wheel of a new ’22 Sierra, we came away mostly impressed, but also a little concerned.
Keeping Familial Ties
The one area GMC really didn’t need to touch (but did anyway) was the Sierra’s exterior styling, but we ain’t mad about it. After its last big redesign, the Sierra came out looking like a more formal, more traditional model next to the Silverado’s wilder look. Both have their appeal. For 2022, the Sierra gets some mild updates to its front and rear end, with new grilles, new headlights, new LED running lights and new bumpers. The space between the ends remains the same, but there are some new wheel designs depending on trim level.
The model I tested was a new-for-2022 AT4X, which is a more luxurious upgrade to the still-available AT4 off-road variant. GMC bills the AT4X as a balanced approach to a premium off-road pickup, delivering advanced off-road tech and capability without sacrificing on-road performance, towing capability, payload rating or interior luxury.
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman
From the outside, the AT4X doesn’t look much different from the normal AT4, though it sports new 18-inch black wheels with Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac mud-terrain tires. It sits higher, too, thanks to its off-road suspension and has various blacked-out trim bits, including the grille and mirrors. It also features some curious choices for an off-road pickup, such as LED foglights set low and outboard in the bumper — where they’re likely to be damaged on a trail. It does make you wonder just how serious an off-road pickup this is given this styling choice. The equivalent Chevrolet, the new Silverado 1500 ZR2, also has LED foglights in its bumper, but the bumper itself is higher, has cutouts for the front wheels, and locates its lights more inboard and away from the corners. The difference suggests that the extremely expensive Sierra AT4X is more about looking off-road-capable than actually being in such environs.
Yet It Has Off-Road Equipment
The AT4X is equipped with all the goodies one needs to go off-road quite successfully, starting with the suspension. It uses a shared version of the Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers and off-road springs that debuted on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, which have since spread to the bigger trucks in the lineup. This increases suspension travel versus the standard AT4’s suspension by 50 millimeters up front and 25 millimeters in back. My time with the truck sadly did not include any serious off-roading, but I did manage to find some empty fields and gnarly rural dirt two-tracks, and I can confirm that the AT4X’s suspension is quite good out in the rough. Major washboard surfaces are barely noticeable at speed, and the truck had no problem crawling over mounds and hillocks. On the street, it provided a compliant, well-damped ride that swallowed southeastern Michigan’s cratered, potholed roads with ease. (Roads like these may actually be more reason to buy an off-road capable truck than a desire to actually go off-road.)
The AT4X powertrain is also solid. The trim level’s only engine choice is the standard 6.2-liter V-8 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It makes a very robust 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque — enough to get the big truck moving smartly with just a light stab of the go pedal. It’s all accompanied by a sonorous roar that no EV pickup could match with artificial noise. It burbles around town, can tow a decent-sized trailer (up to 8,900 pounds) and very much feels like a traditional big pickup in terms of capabilities and positioning.
Further qualifying the powertrain for off-road duties are front and rear electronic locking differentials — a class-exclusive feature, not counting the Silverado 1500 ZR2. The big and most notable difference between the AT4X and other pickups is its tires: Its 18-inch mud-terrain tires are knobby and definitely deliver more noise into the cabin thanks to their chunky tread pattern. They’re a bit more squirrely on dry pavement, as well, especially at highway speeds, but such is the price you pay for off-road capability that you’re not likely to use very often. The new AT4X could easily head into the muck and do well in such environments, but given the truck’s staggering price tag, you have to wonder how eager its owners will be to thrash their luxury rigs around in such places. The AT4X seems built more for captains of very specific industries (like construction company owners) — drivers more likely to use its abilities on poor terrain, build sites, logging roads and the like.
Stellar Interior With Buggy Electronics
Another reason you may not want to take an AT4X off-road is the risk of messing up its truly fantastic, luxurious and well-appointed interior. Who wants to get all that leather and wood actually muddy?
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman
GMC did an absolutely fantastic job revamping the dour, plasticky, low-rent interior from the previous Sierra. Prior to this model year, there was frankly little reason to spend extra money on higher-grade trims of this truck, as the materials inside weren’t much better than what you got on lesser models. Now, the Sierra starts at “nice” and climbs all the way up to “genuinely luxurious.” The AT4X is what you get when you climb the off-road style path in the Sierra trim hierarchy versus the Denali path toward outright on-road luxury. That means that along with the nice materials in the AT4X, there’s also more rugged bits and pieces that can handle some dirt. You won’t be taking a hose to the interior to wash anything out, but the thick, rubber-trimmed floormats make the cabin feel a bit more off-road-ready (even if it really isn’t).
As with the Silverado, the Sierra’s interiors are comfortable, spacious, and feature tons of head- and legroom. The truck’s dash is distinctly different from the Silverado’s; long gone are the days where the only difference was a badge on the steering wheel. There’s also far more digital presence today, with screens galore. It starts with a reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with a number of different styles and themes. It continues with the enormous 13.4-inch touchscreen on the dashboard running Google’s Built-In operating system (which can be a bit buggy; more on that in a moment). To top it all off, there’s a 15-inch full-color head-up display projected above the dash that offers all kinds of information (also configurable). It’s almost screen overload, but it’s easy to use; it’s nice and clear even in bright sunlight, and it works reasonably quickly, too, with little lag.
The switch to Google Built-In for the overall operating system, however, carries some pros and cons. Yes, it does allow you to sign in with your own Google account and transfer all manner of information between your vehicle and devices, and to control various systems and apps using your phone. But it also means that many functions in the vehicle that were previously locally controlled (such as voice commands for functions like switching stations or adjusting the temperature) are also now tied into this system and thus use cloud-based processing to work. So, if you’re somewhere with little data signal, some of those systems aren’t going to work. That’s a big problem for pickup truck owners living in rural areas where cellular data networks aren’t the most reliable. It’s something we hope all automakers will realize and address — and we’re fairly confident they will once feedback starts rolling in from dissatisfied customers whose expensive pickup’s fancy voice commands won’t do what they’re supposed to do.
More From Cars.com:
Affordability Is Not the Goal
If you haven’t been paying attention, pickup trucks have supplanted luxury sedans as the premium American vehicle offering over the past 20 years. I mean, how often do you see big Lincoln Continentals or Cadillac CT6s around anymore?
In those cars’ place are the GMC Sierra Denali, Chevrolet Silverado High Country, Ford F-150 Platinum, Ram 1500 Longhorn and the like. That’s why my loaded 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X’s sticker price of just a tick under $80,000 is both hard to swallow and easy to understand. Sure, you can buy a less expensive pickup, but the AT4X will be as much a luxury style statement for some buyers as it will be a functional tool. It’s like buying expensive Red Wing leather work boots you’re not likely to get muddy or expensive Patagonia outdoor gear when the regular old JCPenney stuff works just as well. It’s not “poser” equipment; the boots, gear and pickup absolutely can do all the things they’re designed to do. It’s just that, given their expense and luxury pretense, they’re less likely to ever be used for such purposes. But maybe that’s OK; we’re all allowed to have nice things.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.