BURGO SPRINGS, CA – What does the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X have in common with the Aston Martin Vulcan, Mercedes-AMG GT, Camaro ZL1 and Ford GT? Answer: DSSV spool valve dampers. These dampers – or shock absorbers as they are also called – are very similar to the adaptive dampers found in many sports and luxury cars. In general, they allow drivers to choose how soft or firm they want them to be, but multifunction dampers are quicker to respond and have additional off-road benefits.
Off-road driving is the main reason for adding the new AT4X to the Sierra lineup this year, along with its high levels of luxury. It’s a huge step up from the current, less capable AT4 model, which is missing DSSV dampers, electronic locking front and rear differentials, and 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac Mud-Terrain tires. The timing of this debut coincides with an overhaul of the entire 2022 Sierra range, including a revised design, a more powerful 2.7-liter four-cylinder turbo engine and, most importantly, an interior overhaul that replaces this generation’s dull and outdated dashboard with a new one. , a modern, more competitive interpretation backed by a large 13.4″ touchscreen display running Android Automotive OS. Adding to the luxury comes a new, fully-loaded Denali Ultimate that includes the automatic Super Cruise system, although our time in the revamped 2022 Sierra was almost entirely in the AT4X.
In addition to the off-road equipment and interior improvements mentioned above, the Sierra AT4X features a 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 horsepower as standard equipment, improved skid plates under the chassis, and a new all-terrain driving mode. But that’s not all, because the AT4X also stands out from the X-less AT4 with a cabin that’s nearly as extravagant as the Denali’s luxury model, minus the availability of the Super Cruise. Ventilated seats with massage functions, luxury leather upholstery, wood inlays and a Bose sound system are all standard. All in all, this big truck could be the perfect way to get on your next luxury adventure.
We had the opportunity to check out the capabilities of the AT4X inside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a few hours east of San Diego. There, we encountered long stretches of dry riverbeds and narrow choke points as well as steep ascents and descents. After dropping the pressures in our Goodyear mud terrain tires to 15 psi, we skimmed through muddy riverbeds with ease.
Throttle points prove more difficult because seeing from the driver’s seat doesn’t give a good indication of where the truck’s corners are. The new dashboard is still tall enough to push the 5-foot-10 driver to increase seat height to at least see the hood, but even then he would likely have misjudged the permits by a full foot. Many cameras have proven useful, but only if the lenses are kept clean. With light dust covering them, the view from this new infotainment screen resulted in a shady beige haze. Instead, we opted for the not so elegant solution of having the passenger hang their head out of the window to act as a spotter.
In Devil’s Drop-Off, a parallel set of steep hills with offset ripples that could swallow the Miata, we paused to switch to low-range gearing with the push of a button. We also brought the new console-mounted electronic gear selector to neutral, pushed another button under the touchscreen to lock the front and rear differentials, and then set the new Terrain mode with a knob to the left of the steering wheel. With second gear selected, we carefully slipped into a big low on the left, then another low on the right, and so on. Terrain mode allows one-pedal driving in such situations, with enough engine braking to come to a complete stop on the track.
Bottoming was easy, but those offset ripples highlighted the AT4X’s break angle. We pulled optional rock sliders (called Rocker Guards by GMC) across the top of just about every hump, which makes the taller tires seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, GMC states that 35-inch tires won’t fit without a truck modification. Then again, this hurdle is likely to be more advanced than most drivers would encounter.
Climbing the parallel track was similarly easy and the 11.1 inches of ground clearance proved adequate for some of the larger rocks on our path. The power from the big V8 was just right for that climb and truck gearing. Reaching the summit at a slow and steady pace was so easy that it was almost non-climatic. The AT4X sometimes had a wheel that hung well off the ground, but the solid tire didn’t make any squeaks from the resulting torsion.
Suspension travel is specified as 9.84 inches for the front and 10.62 inches for the rear, which is less than the minimum distances on a Ford F-150 Raptor (13 inches) or Ram TRX (14 inches). The AT4X’s 25.5-degree approach angle comes short versus the Raptor and TRX’s 30.2-degree 31-degree angle, but its 23-degree departure angle is only a fraction of a degree. The Raptor qualifies for 37-inch tires, which allows it to go further.
If anything, these shortcomings highlight the fact that the AT4X and its new cousin the Chevy Silverado ZR2 are not meant to be apple-to-apple competitors to the Raptor and TRX. Basically, they open between those trucks and lower off-road trim levels like the AT4 Relay, Ford F-150 Tremor, and Ram 1500 Rebel. At the same time, the AT4X also has features that could be more useful than any tough all-terrain challenges it can’t quite tackle.
Specifically, since most of us have to travel to get into a suitable off-road area and use our weekend games for daily commuting, less committed off-road drivers should find the AT4X’s on-road behavior to their liking. Thanks to these multi-purpose dampers, ride quality is noticeably smoother than a Raptor or TRX. While none of these trucks show any real harshness, there is a little bit of bounce and rumble inside the GMC, which makes it feel more stable and quieter. It’s also much quieter, with barely detectable amounts of wind noise and no howling from those chunky tires.
However, there are some driving quirks to live with. The steering has a good center feel, allowing the truck to track directly on a highway with minimal input from the driver, but when navigating tight turns on mountain trails, the steering feels oddly lazy. On more than a few occasions, the truck has been going wide of these turns unless we keep feeding more steering inputs the whole time. The brakes also required an increased amount of pedal pressure to stop, which resulted in some rapid heart rates.
There’s not just one new interior for the 2022 Sierra, but two. The SLE, SLT and Elevation trim levels share the same updated design as the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado (SLT pictured above right), while the AT4, AT4X, Denali and Denali Ultimate get their own variants in the same overall look (AT4X pictured above left). It’s a similar approach to what you’ll find on the GMC Yukon. With either design, you’re looking at a serious improvement. The replaced interior looked dated the second it debuted, and suffers from a small touchscreen and an abundance of cheap-looking plastic surfaces. It was especially noticeable in the upper trim levels, where the token bits of “wood” were supposed to somehow be enough to compete with the Ram 1500 Limited. An overhaul for 2022, including a sleek new infotainment screen, slim center console and soft-touch materials, now puts the Sierra’s highest levels of decor on a par with the Ram. The unique design also gives the higher Sierra a distinct point of difference with its Silverado counterparts.
lice? We would have preferred the transfer case and drive mode dials to be grouped near the rest of the off-road buttons on the bottom of the center stack or in the center console. Everything is a little scattered. A new electronic gear selector and accompanying trailer brake control unit also take up a lot of real estate on this center console, which makes us wonder if GM could come up with a better alternative to the old shaft shifter.
With everything in mind, the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X will likely meet the off-road expectations of the vast majority of shoppers. Those looking to conquer more challenging terrain will be better served by alternatives like the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX, as well as the Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler. GMC gains an advantage with its 8,900-pound towing capacity, outpacing the Raptor and TRX by up to 900 pounds.
On the other hand, the AT4X is likely to exceed shoppers’ expectations for comfort and luxury. It’s a better truck to drive on the pavement during the daily grind and comes with just about every option available. It’s the efficient off-road answer to a Denali-style, although this truck gets some upgrades not available on the AT4X, including the option of the Super Cruise automatic drive system. There’s also the new range-topping Denali Ultimate that elevates the upper shell of Sierra’s cabin to the highest levels of luxury possible.
All of this comes at a price, of course. Pricing for the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X starts at $79,090, including destination fees. Compared to Apex-predator trucks, this price is not as scary as you might think. The Raptor starts around $8000 less, but the similarly equipped model (remember the luxury AT4X is already fully loaded) knocks that price advantage down to $1,000. TRX starts at a few hundred dollars extra, but with competitive options, it’s closer to $90,000. Then again, the TRX has 282 horsepower. Within GM’s private lineup, the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 starts about $10,000 less and has nearly identical capabilities, but is less luxurious and operates without the same standard bells and whistles.
The Sierra AT4X should be a perfect fit for the affluent shopper looking for a reasonable combination of all-terrain capabilities and on-road comfort. It’s one of those rare vehicles that can play in dirt all day and yet is luxurious enough for a night on the town, with only a car wash in between.