Upon recently returning from a Grecian summer getaway, the culture shock of re-entering America hits hardest not from the mannerisms of people, not from the colossal grocery stores, absurdly expensive restaurants, or even the ability to flush bathroom tissue down the toilet. No. The biggest culture shock can be found on the roads. For myriad reasons, the automobiles in the Aegean nation are far more petite than they are in the USA. And finding oneself surrounded by 5,000-pound Class 2 vehicles driven by the least qualified among us on a high-velocity interstate is by all accounts, a culture shock. As my Cretan friend Giorgo describes the scene: American pickup trucks, in particular, are like “tanks.” Relatively speaking, he’s right.
Considering there’s almost no retail pickup truck over there on sale that’s larger than a Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger, and the fact that, oppositely, USA roads are teaming with oversized crew cab half-ton, 3/4-ton and full ton pickup trucks that a 16-year-old can drive off with after finding their operating license in a cereal box — it’s easy to see how Giorgo landed on that opinion. Perhaps he has a point, no? But of course, we love our trucks. Our big, beautiful trucks.
However, what if there was a product that could perhaps balance all of the ruggedness, size and capability that the most extreme American trucks are known for, but in a more reasonable package? GMC may have did that with the 2022 Sierra 1500 AT4X. And after a quick stint with one in the Anza Borrego Badlands of California, it certainly feels that way.
One can immediately draw comparisons to the standard bearer of the segment, the Ford F-150 Raptor (and just as well, the 702 hp Ram 1500 TRX). Considering that the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X is $80,000, it’s totally fair (okay, it’s $79,100 with destination, but before add-ons. Option with any paint other than white and some rock sliders, and suddenly it’s over $81,000. One can load up a Raptor with 37-inch tires and the High content package for just a little more). GMC will tell you that the AT4X is going after a different customer than the Raptor. Chevrolet told us the same thing with the Silverado ZR2, despite the price similarities in relation to the Ford. This is important because the GM off-road trucks do not possess as much horsepower as the F-150 Raptor, they have less tire than the Raptor, and they have a narrower track than the Raptor. But this is also where the Sierra AT4X and Silverado ZR2 can out-wit the duo of dinosaurs.
Despite their full-sized stature, the GM trucks are far more easier to wield than the wider, bouncier, and taller Raptor and TRX. This wasn’t a very big deal to me, until we approached a few narrow pathways through Anza Borrego canyon – the scenery like that of Tatooine – where anything even an inch or two wider simply would not pass through. Sometimes size matters in a different way. And despite their smaller tires, the GMC Sierra AT4X and Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 both possess a true front locking differential, as well as one in the rear, that allow them to do more with less. The F-150 Raptor has a Torsen in the front. The Ram, even worse, has an open front differential with brake sensing software to mimic an LSD. This unique feature from the GM trucks will have the Sierra AT4X and Silverado ZR2 performing one-armed pull-ups over staggered rocks, rutted sand, fallen trees, and prudent descents into Borrego’s Diablo Drop with total control. And control is everything.
Adding to the control is a set of Multimatic DSSV dampers, which are position sensitive and do not offer variable ride settings. But they don’t need to. The magic Multimatics help the AT4X operate smoother on the road than the competition, and deliver precision when and where the pavement ends.
So, is the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X simply a Chevy reskin? Ultimately, no.
While the Silverado ZR2 and Sierra AT4X are mechanically identical – using the same frame, same 6.2L L87 V8 engine with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, same 10-speed automatic transmission, same axles, same brakes, etc., the GMC and Chevrolet come equipped with different off-road kit. With the same front bumper dimensions as the rest of the Sierra 1500 family, the max approach angle of the 2022 AT4X is only 25.5 degrees compared to 31.8 degrees on ZR2. More crucially, the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X lacks some of the underbody protection that the Chevy has, which covers everything from the front bumper to the front differential, save for a skid plate at the transfer case.
The tires are different, too. The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 comes with the 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory – a top-shelf off-roading tire that finely balances on-road requirements. The 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X comes from the factory with a set of 32-inch 275/65R18 Goodyear Duratrac tires. These are shared with the standard AT4, and the Silverado Trail Boss, and are lower on the Goodyear Wrangler family hierarchy compared to the Territory. A larger wheel size (it’s GMC after all) also means less sidewall to absorb road imperfections compared to the ZR2.
There are other, more granular differences that nobody should really care about. Like that the AT4X has 11.1 inches of ground clearance compared to the Silverado ZR2’s 11.2 inches. But if that .1 inch really will make a difference to you, I suggest you enter King of the Hammers and win it outright, because if your acute driving abilities require that operational window to have an extra tenth of an inch and no more, you could be the next Randy Slawson. Or, you can wait for the 2023 GMC Sierra AT4X with its high-clearance AEV bumper and improved tires over the current model year.
Overall, the ZR2 certainly looks more the part, and is by a slim margin, more qualified to play the part of the first good overlanding half-ton truck. Even as GMC had the cool Sierra AT4X Overland concept that our friend Lucas Bell over at Road & Track got play with, the Chevy distances itself from the GMC in the off-road tale of the tape with superior approach angles, more armor, and slightly larger tires.
Tell you what, though. Considering all the dusting and digging that transpired in Anza Borrego Canyon with a convoy of GMC Sierra AT4X trucks; the fact that nobody got stuck, nothing broke, and we didn’t have to divert for anything just goes to show how capable the current crop of off-road trucks are. So where you may have heard a bad thing or two about how some trucks fared out in the wild, consider the wise words of Bradley Bradshaw, callsign Rooster: “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.”
Anyway, where the Silverado ZR2 carries a bit more merit off-road, the GMC Sierra AT4X pulls away from the Chevrolet with a more upscale interior (this thing has standard massaging seats for crying out loud) and a more posh exterior design that doesn’t give off the vibe of being a militia recon vehicle. Instead, the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X pulls more toward that coveted Patagucci vibe. You know: the younger-skewing demographic of the finance/tech skill set that wears a vest and slides to work, has the income to afford an $80,000 pickup truck, and is addicted to rock climbing. And CrossFit. But they don’t want a Raptor. Or a Rivian. And their significant others complained about the cheapish feel of those smaller midsize trucks. So they upsized. Or maybe ongoing supply chain issues kept them from getting a TRX in a reasonable amount of time.
Perhaps that all sounds oddly specific, but the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X is also a specific kind of truck. This pickup truck segment, right now, is as saturated with go-anywhere, do-anything products as its ever been. It’s a golden age for trucks, actually. So there’s room to be specific.
Every truckmaker is slicing and dicing up the market with a massive sliding scale of price points, packaging, capabilities, luxuries, powertrains, tire sizes, weight ratings, cab sizes, bed lengths, tailgate features, storage solutions, tow ratings, payload ratings, water fording depth… it goes on. Why is it so? Because 2,174,351 full-sized trucks were sold in the USA in 2021, and that was a bad year. And even if $80,000 for a truck seems like an exorbitant amount of money to somebody who drives a leased Hyundai Elantra, rabid market demand does not care about what the leased Hyundai Elantra driver actually thinks. And, if a particular customer doesn’t want a 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X, because it’s too small, GMC can upsell them the Hummer EV.