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GMC Sierra: Big, beefy, hard to park

Personally, I feel kind of bad for the GMC Sierra full-size pickup. Its close cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado, seems to get the lion's share of attention.

Personally, I feel kind of bad for the GMC Sierra full-size pickup.

Its close cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado, seems to get the lion's share of attention.

That's a shame because a week spent in the 2007 Sierra 1500 Extended Cab 4WD SLE1 Standard Box (say that three times fast) left me impressed.

The tested Sierra shaped up as a worthy competitor for the all-new 2007 Toyota Tundra, which has benefited from a monster publicity campaign.

I tested the Sierra the same week as the '07 Toyota Tundra 4X2 SR5 Double Cab, and the GMC product compared favorably with the Japanese automaker's pickup in every way.

For example, the Sierra's ride was remarkably smooth for a vehicle topping 5,000 pounds. Acceleration from the tester's 5.3-liter, 295-horsepower V-8 was decidedly robust, and the power curve held up well even on steep inclines.

Only the nastiest road bumps made their presence felt in the Sierra cabin. Wind and road noise also had a tough time getting inside.

When the big truck was in cruise control on a stretch of flatland interstate, it had all the road manners of a Cadillac CTS sedan.

Fuel economy on the tester, however, was an absolutely forgettable 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 m.p.g. on the open road. The tester was a flex-fuel truck - meaning it could be filled with the E85 gasoline-ethanol blend - but that does not do a lot for mileage.

Parking the Sierra next to the Tundra brought another surprise. While there was a difference in pickup configurations, I expected the Tundra to dwarf the Sierra. Not so.

In truth, the two trucks were nearly mirror images. A check of the respective specification sheets showed the Tundra's length at 228.7 inches, a mere 1.3 inches longer than the Sierra. The Tundra's wheelbase was 145.7 inches; the Sierra's was just a nose behind, at 143.5 inches.

These extra-large measurements are good news for Sierra extended-cab buyers who envision plentiful hauling in the truck's ample cargo bed. As for towing, the tester could hitch up to 8,700 pounds. Move up to GM's 6-liter V-8 engine, and the same truck with two-wheel drive can pull nearly 10,500 pounds.

Largeness, however, can have its drawbacks.

The Sierra was an absolute bear to park in tight lots. If you are heading to the local retail strip, it is probably a good idea to find an isolated parking spot and walk those few extra yards to the front door.

Stepping up into the cab of the tested Sierra made me feel small, something I am not accustomed to as a six-footer. (Six stout adults would be most comfortable in this GMC.)

Likewise, the big buttons on the truck's dash and center stack of controls reminded me of when I was 6 years old, when every button and dial in a car seemed oversize.

If you cannot find what you want on a GMC Sierra pickup, better give up. The Sierra 1500 Extended Cab 4WD version comes in 12 trim levels.

As for options, the tester offered a blizzard of choices, including such goodies as an off-road/skid-plate package, adjustable pedals, park-assist, remote start-up system, and a transmission-cooling system.

Just be careful when you are pondering those add-ons. The extras and a $900 destination charge on the tester boosted the truck's bottom-line sticker price more than $6,000 above the manufacturer's suggested retail of $29,600.

Overall, the GMC Sierra is a big, beefy player in a segment that respects those qualities. It is geared to rural and ranch environments.

Just be sure to give it plenty of room when parking.

2007 GMC Sierra

Model tested: 1500 Extended Cab 4WD SLE1 Standard Box.

Vehicle type: Six-passenger, four-door, four-wheel-drive, full-size pickup truck.

Base price: $29,600 (as tested, $35,635).

Engine: 5.3-liter flexible-fuel V-8 with 295 horsepower.

EPA fuel economy: 16 miles per gallon city, 20 m.p.g. highway.

Transmission: Four-speed automatic with overdrive.

Steering: Power-assisted recirculating-ball type.

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs with antilock and other braking-enhancement features.

Suspension: Independent, coil-over-shock type on front; live, multileaf on rear.

Fuel tank: 26 gallons.

Maximum cargo volume: 56.9 cubic feet.

Curb weight: 5,200 pounds (estimated).

Height: 73.9 inches.

Length: 227.4 inches.

Wheelbase: 143.5 inches.

Width: 78.5 inches.

Track: 65 inches on front, 66 inches on rear.

Ground clearance: 8.7 inches.

Towing capacity: 8,700 pounds.

Tires: P265/70R17 all-season radials.

Final assembly point: Roanoke, Ind.