While heavy-duty pickups are unmatched when it comes to towing and payload capacity, off-roading has never really been their strong suit. Drivers looking to build their dream off-road rig will usually start with a full-size pickup, which offers the ideal balance of ride quality and durability, along with some respectable capacities. The 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD AT4 is here to challenge that long-held perception, offering a new, off-road-ready option for those who prefer life behind the wheel of a heavy-duty truck.
First introduced in 2019, this new, rugged trim for the popular Sierra 2500 HD speaks to a larger trend in the world of pickups that’s seen nearly every manufacturer expand their off-duty offerings in recent years. In many ways, it’s a logical move. Pickups, especially those of the heavy-duty variety, are already some of the most capable, durable vehicles on the road, so the rigors of the off-road life are just par for the course.
The Sierra 2500 HD AT4’s edge in this ultra-competitive market comes down to its mammoth towing and payload capacity, which opens the doors to a new world of off-road adventure and convenience that wouldn’t be possible with some smaller pickups. With over 17,000 lbs of towing capacity with the base 6.6-liter V8 gas engine and up to 21,130 lbs when opting for the V8 Duramax Turbo-Diesel, the Sierra 2500 HD AT4 is one of the brawniest heavy-duty pickups on the market. You might be asking yourself, what does towing capacity have to do with off-road performance? It’s not like you’re trying to take everything but the kitchen sink with you every time you set out on an off-road trip, but suppose you were.
With the Sierra 2500 HD AT4’s considerable towing power on your side, bringing those comforts of home to the wide-open trail is easier than ever. The Sierra 2500 pairs perfectly with the new breed of off-road trailers and campers. It enables longer, more remote excursions that allow drivers to explore the world of off-road fun without worrying about where they’re going to lay their heads at night. Let’s dive into some of the equipment and features that make the 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD AT4 a top off-road performer and window shop for a few of the fully-equipped trailers and campers you can call home on your next journey.
Heavy-Duty Meets the Off-Road
The 2023 Sierra 2500 HD is already a more-than-capable truck that’s perfectly at home performing feats of pickup strength around the job site, but the AT4 trim brings the truck’s off-road bona fides to a whole other level. Unlike some of the lower Sierra 2500 HD trims on offer for 2023, the AT4 model comes standard with all-wheel drive, which allows it to max out the most important stat for any off-road application: traction. Pair that 4WD setup with the two powerful engines, and you’ve got the ideal platform to realize your off-road dreams.
We briefly mentioned the engines already, but to ensure these numbers hit home, let’s dive in a little deeper. The Sierra 2500 HD’s standard engine offering is a 6.6-liter V8 that produces 401 hp and some 464 lb-ft of torque. That’s good enough to achieve up to 14,500 lbs of towing capacity and an equally impressive 3,760 lbs of payload, but the diesel option really takes the pickup to the next level.
The 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 doesn’t see a massive upgrade in horsepower, with 445 hp, but it downright blows it out of the water when it comes to torque. The Duramax diesel ups the Sierra 2500 HD’s torque to a mindblowing 910 lb-ft, which goes a long way in helping the pickup to achieve its towing and payload ratings of 21,130 lbs and 3,563 lbs, respectively. While drivers tend to obsess over horsepower, torque is a particularly important metric for any off-road vehicle, especially when climbing steep grades or obstacles.
The latter engine option also adds two more gears than the entry-level motor, as it’s paired with a 10-speed Allison automatic transmission instead of the gas engine’s 8-speed offering. While less relevant for on-road use, those two extra gears can come in very handy during certain off-road scenarios, allowing drivers to achieve the sort of low-end traction they need to surmount daunting obstacles.
Of course, these features can be found on any GMC Sierra 2500 HD model, so what sets the AT4 trim apart from the rest of the 2023 lineup? It all starts with the pickup’s twin-tube Rancho shock absorbers, which give the Sierra 2500 HD AT4 some considerable advantages when it comes to navigating bumpy off-road terrain. These gas-charged shock absorbers are filled with pressurized nitrogen, which provides consistent pressure within the tubes by reducing the type of oil aeration that can make for a rough ride.
The twin-tube construction offers another major benefit when it comes to the obstacles-strewn world of off-roading, as the outer tube can take the brunt of the damage from rocks, sticks, and other debris without risking the integrity of the internal tube. The pickup’s skid plates, a standard offering on the AT4 model, serve much the same purpose, protecting vulnerable underbody components like the oil pan, front axle, and transfer case from the sort of impacts that can lead to a breakdown in the middle of nowhere.
The AT4 trim also comes standard with generously upsized off-road tires and a two-speed AutoTrac transfer case that allows drivers to switch between various driving modes, including 4WD, 2Hi, 4Hi, and 4Lo. This feature is handy for improving the Sierra 2500 HD’s performance on paved roads where four-wheel drive might not be necessary, improving fuel economy and saving you some money at the pump. The AT4’s most unique off-road feature might be its off-road inclinometer, a novel feature that displays the truck’s fore-and-aft tilt, front tire angle, and left-and-right tilt. This sort of information can come in handy in off-road environments, giving drivers all the data they need to stay safe and upright, no matter what the trail might throw at them.
Aside from its impressive towing and payload capacity, the 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD AT4 is loaded with impressive tech, making it the ideal choice for hauling an off-road camper or trailer. The pickup comes standard with hill descent control, which is a form of low-speed cruise control. It controls the Sierra 2500’s speed when driving down steep grades and allows drivers to focus on steering instead of the throttle and brake.
The Sierra 2500 HD also includes up to 15 camera views, giving drivers the confidence to navigate everything from off-road trails to busy highways. These cameras provide a wide range of POVs, including a handy transparent trailer view that effectively erases the trailer or camper from the rear-view camera feed and allows drivers to see any following vehicles that might normally be hidden behind the trailer or camper.
The Ultimate Off-Road Truck Experience
The 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD AT4 is here to prove that a heavy-duty truck can venture off-road with the best of them. While the off-road segment has traditionally been dominated by mid and full-size trucks, heavy-duty models like the Sierra 2500 HD AT4 offer some real advantages when it comes to power and especially towing capacity. With the ability to tow 14,500 lbs and up to 21,130 with the Duramax diesel option, the Sierra 2500 HD AT4 is more than a little overpowered.
This degree of towing capacity means no more hard decisions about what to bring along or your next off-roading trip and what to leave behind, which, when it comes to camping, is the definition of luxury. All 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD models are well-equipped pickups that hold their own in nearly every category, but it’s the off-road upgrades like Rancho twin-tube shocks, skid plates, hill descent control, and off-road inclinometer that set the adventure-ready AT4 apart from its off-road truck competition.