At Off Road Xtreme, we are always excited to get behind the wheel of a new truck. When it is a purpose-built vehicle with enhanced off-road capabilities from the factory, then yeah, you know it is going to be a good time. When that purpose-built off-road truck is the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X, well, I could barely contain myself. Recently, GMC invited Off Road Xtreme to take the brand new Sierra AT4X off-road for field testing in the desert. We test the truck’s off-road capabilities, but did we find the limit?
GMC recently refreshed its version of the GMT-T1 platform, which debuted in 2019, with the newly updated 2022 Sierra 1500. As expected, GMC went above and beyond the standard color shifts, front-end transformation, wheel options, and slight technical advancements. The top-tier maker of trucks and SUVs added two new flagship trim models with the hyper-luxury Denali Ultimate and the AT4X, their new premium off-roader.
To see another of the “Big 3” market a specially equipped off-road performance truck gets me jazzed up. However, going into this off-road field test opportunity, I neutralized my expectations as well as my personal hopes and dreams. I realized GMC’s Sierra 1500 AT4X is essentially an upgraded AT4, refined with ultra-premium interior qualities and hyping it up with Silverado 1500 ZR2 off-road performance. I also realized that neither of GM’s current flagship 4×4 trucks was never intended to go head-to-head with off-road super predators like the TRX and Raptor.
Why Should We Be Excited About The Sierra 1500 AT4X?
This is a first! GMC has emboldened the Sierra 1500 by taking it to the “peak of premium off-roading” as they put it. It is obvious that the majority of AT4X owners will not be taking their trucks to shred the side of a steep sand dune or rip down the peninsula on an off-road Baja adventure. But it certainly is capable of doing so. In fact, GM regularly races their GMT-T1-based Silverado Zr2 competition mule in the Best In The Desert off-road racing series. That truck is a known winner and off-road champion.
It is no wonder that GMC has highlighted the AT4 sub-brand with the new AT4X. The company notes that since the introduction of the AT4, they have expanded the off-road application across every truck and SUV model offered. Justifying their efforts, GMC recognizes they are attracting new and younger customers looking for premium off-road vehicles. Over half of AT4 buyers are new to the brand and a customer poll reveals that around 19-percent are actually off-roading their GMC.
What the AT4X really offers is an ultra-premium luxury truck that exceeds the off-road requirements of what most drivers will want and need. For that, I commend them for throwing their hat in the ring. So, what specifically is this enhanced off-road equipment, and does it measure up?
What Are The Sierra 1500 AT4X Off-Road Features?
The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X has what a modern off-road pickup truck would need right from the factory! The AT4X is based on the AT4, and then GMC pumps it up utilizing some of the best parts from the Silverado ZR2. The result is a factory-equipped truck with next-level off-road capabilities plus all of the comfort, tech, towing, and payload capacity expected from a modern premium pickup.
So what is the difference between the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 and AT4X? It has mainly to do with the AT4X ultra-premium interior, front and rear e-locker differentials, and the high-performance Multimatic shock absorbers.
AT4 Off-Road Capability Features:
- Factory-Installed 2-inch suspension lift
- 2-speed AutoTrac transfer case
- Red vertical recovery hooks
- Underbody skid plates
- 18-inch wheels
- 32-inch all-terrain Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires
- Full-size spare tire
AT4X Off-Road Capability Features:
- All of the listed AT4 off-road capabilities above
- Specific off-road chassis and tuning
- Multimatic™ DSSV spool-valve dampers featuring three separate spool valves to control damping and three connected chambers for fluid flow.
- Uniquely tuned springs to increase maximum front and rear suspension travel
- Front suspension travel: 9.84-inches
- Rear suspension travel: 10.62-inches
- Ground clearance: 11.1-inches
- Grille-integrated camera
- First in-class front and rear e-locking differentials
- 3.23 axle ratio
- Terrain Mode, ideal for low-speed, off-road conditions, providing one-pedal driver controls, using only the accelerator
- Unique, larger steel transfer case skid plate and available rocker protection
- Approach angle: 25.5-degrees
- Departure angle: 23-degrees
The AT4X On The Road
The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X is why we are here and the truck we got to field test off-road in the desert. GMC arranged for select media to experience the vehicle’s on and off-road capabilities on a 110-mile road trip to Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Spanning 585,930 acres, the State Park occupies ⅕ of San Diego County and is the largest in California. This was really exciting for me since I grew up off-roading in this exact area.
After a presentation on the AT4X, reviewing the day’s schedule, and the formal safety briefing, we were ushered out to a row of staged trucks gassed up and ready. Earlier, I had a front-row view of these from my room’s balcony and I pondered about what color I preferred. AT4X options include Summit White, Onyx Black, Quicksilver Metallic, Titanium Rush Metallic, Dynamic Blue Metallic, and Desert Sand Metallic. They all looked great and there was really no bad option. My top choice is the lighter Quicksilver Metallic, but I really started liking the tan Desert Sand Metallic by the end of the day.
AT4X Color Options:
- Summit White
- Onyx Black
- Quicksilver Metallic
- Titanium Rush Metallic
- Dynamic Blue Metallic
- Desert Sand Metallic
I have always had a strong affinity for anything GMC, and the 2022 Silverado 1500 AT4X did not disappoint. The drive out east of San Diego through the hills of Ramona, and then Julian, revealed a road-worthy and powerful truck. Carving the turns was made effortless as the suspension firmly hugged the road. I will admit that driving felt somewhat disconnected from the pavement through the electronic power steering system. There just felt like no natural feedback. On the other hand, the 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 420 horsepower grounded me back to reality. All that power on tap managed the hill climbs while the 10-speed automatic transmission assisted on the Banner Grade descent down towards the desert.
AT4X Engine and Powertrain:
- Standard 6.2-liter V-8 engine
- 10-speed automatic transmission
- Horsepower: 420
- Torque: 460
- Payload: 1,420
- Towing: 8,900
AT4X Cabin Interior
Inside, is where the AT4X really shined in my opinion. GMC raises the bar with a sporty and modern stylized interior. Really, the first thing that stood out to me was the suede headliner. I have always wanted to put one in the Ultimate PreRunner to make it that next-level Luxury PreRunner but alas, GMC has figured this part out. The front 16-way power seats are lusciously comfortable. To top that off, the full-grain leather can be fully heated, or air-cooled ventilated, and offer power massage. This really came in handy later!
The all-new interior was arranged around a massive 13.4-inch-diagonal infotainment screen as the focal point. Centered in the gauge cluster is the fully programmable 12.3-inch-diagonal digital instrument cluster. Behind that is another 15-inch-diagonal head-up display situated low across the driver’s windscreen. In my opinion, it is too much screen when the eyes are supposed to be up and out on the road. The HUD feature is supposed to alleviate this, but I felt it was obscuring vision and got in the way while off-roading.
Having a crisp to the ears 12-speaker Bose premium sound system made the two-hour drive enjoyable. Of course, I did like the dual climate control, but having only one airspeed function was a bit confusing. Helping to keep a clearer vision is an optional-to-use Rear Camera Mirror and HD Surround Vision camera system. You can press a button to toggle between the traditional rear view mirror and video monitor.
GMC’s AT4X Is Professional Grade
The advanced center console is appropriately sized and could serve as a general contractor’s well-organized office. In the back, there is adequate room for any oversized 6-foot, 4-inch adult male like myself. The rear seat back even holds an access panel to retrieve gear from behind the seat. Under the rear seats was built-in partitioned storage for more organization. Highlighting the functional aspects of this truck, the 6-way MultiPro Tailgate with Kicker MultiPro Audio System is a super rad feature. True to form, GMC built the AT4X with professional-grade characteristics.
AT4X Comfort and Technology:
- Heated and ventilated 16-way power front seats with massage
- Obsidian Rush interior
- Full-grain leather seating with technical grain leather
- Authentic Vanta ash wood accents
- 12-speaker Bose® Premium Series with Centerpoint® surround sound
- 15-inch-diagonal head-up display
- 12.3-inch-diagonal digital instrument cluster
- 13.4-inch-diagonal infotainment screen
- Full-grain leather interior with technical accents
Off-Roading The AT4X In The Desert!
Once we arrived in the desert, the scorching 100-degree temperatures were shocking to most of my colleagues who had departed from the breezy California beach of Encinitas. Good thing for them, all the trucks have those air-cooled seats! For me, it was just another day in the desert. While we were treated to a BBQ lunch, the GMC entourage aired down each of the AT4X’s 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires to 15-psi. This would allow us additional traction on the sandy desert surface.
I have to say the HPA Air System is just about the coolest tool for inflation and deflation. This military-grade UltraAir Auto Tire Pressure Adjuster was simple to use, and you just set it and forget it. At the end of the day, the UltraAir66 made airing up over a dozen trucks only a 20-minute job.
Finally, we got the nod to get going out on the trail. With lead and rear guides and every truck wired with Rugged Radio communications, it was clear that our off-road testing opportunities were going to be closely controlled. The parade of AT4X Sierras pounded their way through the sand washes with the guttering thunder of dual exhaust. We wound our way through the desert for approximately 12-miles. At each obstacle, instruction from the lead guide was given through the radio on how to best make an approach and what off-road vehicle functions were recommended.
Off Road Xtreme Editor’s Note: Anza Borrego Desert State Park
This particular region of Anza Borrego Desert State Park is popular for a variety of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy any number of activities; off-road recreation, hiking, camping, wildlife observation, super bloom tourism, landscape photography, rock hounding, and fossil hunting just to name a few. Oddly enough, traditional poled street signs keep people informed of where they are and/or are trying to get to even though there are no paved streets.
It is a highly recommended destination worth exploring. Since the park covers a vast area of remote wilderness, Off Road Xtreme advises to recreate safely. Make sure you have a plan, notify your people of the plan, and know how to stick to that plan. Also, it is not a bad idea to check in the park rangers to let them know what you plan to be doing. They can recommend all of what the park has to offer and the best highlights for a specific time of year. Only licensed and registered vehicles are allowed in the park.
Driving The AT4X Selectable Terrain Mode
Crisscrossing through the desert obstacles and sand washes between low and high speeds, I used the unique AT4X selectable Terrain Mode (slow-speed for technical driving) and Off-Road Mode which was best suited for high-speed driving. This offered precise StabiliTrak throttle control and kept the truck’s power balanced and firmly planted. Terrain Mode provided the ultimate grip, while Off-Road Mode allowed for a good amount of wheel spin to keep things fun and exciting.
In conjunction with the 10-speed automatic transmission, a high-tech electronic precision shift system can be controlled by the paddle shifters. While in Terrain Mode, and depending on the obstacle difficulty or challenge, I had the option to shift into L1 (manual shift mode first gear) with really low gearing all the way up to faster L10 as needed. Once I maneuvered through and over one obstacle I could shift up or program the AT4X out of Terrain Mode and into Off-Road Mode.
While in Terrain Mode one-pedal driving is automatically initiated. Basically, this simplifies the driving experience during technically demanding off-road scenarios. If I let off the throttle, the brakes immediately drag on the rotors, and the truck stops. This could be helpful to some inexperienced drivers attempting a steep hill climb or descent. At any point, I could and did prefer to use two-foot throttle and braking.
AT4X Gives A Big Picture Off-Road
The HD Surround Vision camera system is also a novelty feature that might assist a beginning off-roader. The center screen projects a realistic bird’s eye image of the truck and the surroundings on each side. If needed, you could determine how to best maneuver the big truck through a tight squeeze. You can scroll through a variety of screen options that present the bird’s eye surround picture, front trail camera, rear trail camera, or a combination.
AT4X Off-Road Multimatic Shocks
The 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X off-road advancement is highlighted by the Multimatic™ DSSV spool-valve dampers. These technical marvels are derived from off-road racing technology and the performance was clearly felt in person. While zipping out to our final off-road destination, we had about 12-miles of trails to navigate through. Blasting through the multiple lines of sand washes gave me plenty of un-level terrain to test the truck’s suspension. The first chance I got, I darted offline and steered the truck off a small ledge. The Multimatic shocks absorbed the drop-off without unsettling me or my passenger.
Further, there were plenty of whooped-out holes I was driving through. The truck ate them up and felt controlled the whole time. Never once did the rear end step out, and it just felt planted, no matter the terrain, on or off the road. While maybe insignificant for a true purpose-built off-roader, it proved to me that the AT4X was the real deal.
Brand New 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X Off-Road Field Tested In The Desert
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X Final Thoughts And Conclusions
After having spent two days driving the new 2022 Sierra 1500, and a full day with the AT4X off-road, I can confidently share my opinions on the truck. The AT4X delivers and checks the boxes for the typical and non-typical Sierra 1500 truck owner. Its off-road equipment and capabilities are on par for modern purposes. But does it deliver for the off-road enthusiasts reading Off Road Xtreme?
Knowing that this truck from the factory was designed to be what it is… let us just say a Sierra ZR2, er I mean AT4X, and not a dinosaur hunter-killer. With that in mind, we feel it does deliver and measure up to its competition. The AT4X gets the nod of approval and more than a passing grade from Off Road Xtreme. We acknowledge that like a Toyota TRD Pro owner if an AT4X truck owner determines they want a super off-roader, they can turn to the aftermarket to customize, or enhance performance, as needed.
One thing that I feel GMC missed the mark on was that the AT4X does not receive a tricked-out high clearance front bumper. Chevrolet implemented this distinguishing feature on the ZR2. It really is the defining characteristic that separates the front-end profile from a regular Silverado. Also, the truck should come with 33-inch tires. They need to figure that out even if it requires more lift. We would not be mad about that.
What I Like About The AT4X
- 420 horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 engine
- Multimatic Shocks
- Air-conditioned seats and interior comfort
- Front and rear eLockers
- High-clearance exhaust
- MultiPro Tailgate with Kicker MultiPro Audio System
What I Do Not Like About The AT4X
- Minimal ground clearance
- Minimal tire size
- Electronic steering felt sterile and synthetic
- 0-60 timed speed was sluggish
- Minimal payload capacity
- High price tag
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X Pricing
The AT4X is available now at local GMC dealerships or available to be built online in their Build & Price Configurator. Starting price begins at $77,395, but after selecting the minimum choice equipment, I was looking at an $80,000-plus invoice.
Could a potential AT4X shopper spec out a similarly equipped AT4, and upgrade to achieve AT4X performance? The short answer is no. A similarly equipped AT4 would cost around $74,000. The 6.2-liter V-8 is available as an engine option upgrade. It would be difficult to source the Multimatic Shocks, but there are equal or better alternatives for that. Aftermarket performance shocks can run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. To purchase and install eLockers in the front and rear of a modern truck could cost $3500 or more. And you would still be missing the premium interior and sound system. In short, the AT4X is GMC’s peak of premium off-roading vehicle.
Off Road Xtreme’s Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle Of The Year
Something new for this publication will be an annual runoff of vehicles we test and review for consideration of Off Road Xtreme’s Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle Of The Year program. The criteria is very simple and relegated only to vehicles that we have the opportunity to get hands-on with. Is this vehicle the top and ultimate off-roader? The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X is a flagship vehicle and one that will most definitely be in the running.