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2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Trim Levels with Comparisons & Configurations.

2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: Base vs SLE vs Elevation, SLT, Denali & AT4
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

What 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Trim Level Should you Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Though certain truck shoppers may be interested in sport-based design or heavy-duty capabilities, there are many consumers that fall somewhere in between these two categories. While these two types of pickup trucks certainly serve a specific purpose, what options are there for buyers who enjoy the style and limited capability of a truck without those elements being their sole priorities? There must be a median model that offers reputable durability and appeal without sacrificing other facets.

The GMC Sierra is a popular choice for consumers who are looking for the type of pickup truck. Offering enhanced hauling capacity without incorporating the heavy-duty functionality and price tag, the GMC Sierra has been a preferred truck among consumers for generations. Currently in its fourth generation since 2019, the GMC Sierra offers three different bed lengths and various cab styles that can seat five or six passengers. While many changes in its most recent 2021 model revolve around equipment enhancements, towing capacity and changes in price also made appearances as changes in the most recent model of this pickup truck.

The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 comes in six different trim levels that range from the traditional base model to the prestigious Denali line. In 2021, GMC expanded the range of trim levels that receive the signature MultiPro tailgate as an optional upgrade. Higher trim levels also received a wider array of tech- and safety-based features to choose from. Offering a variety of powertrains, the GMC Sierra is highly customizable.
To compare the various trim level options of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500, this guide is meant to address the differences and similarities in these models. It is our hope that it can be used to aide buyers in deciding on the perfect Sierra configuration that is the best fit for their lifestyle and needs.

Compare the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Base vs SLE Trim Levels. What is the difference?

The base 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 was made to be an entry-level pickup truck. Its functional features boast a utilitarian feel that is useful but not overwhelming. Offering a clean interior without clutter, this truck is less focused on technology and more on a user-friendly appeal. Simplicity and capability are paired perfectly in the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 base model. In fact, that is the greatest appeal of this GMC pickup truck model.

"Base" does not necessarily mean "less" in the entry-level 2021 GMC Sierra 1500. Yet, the base trim level of this pickup truck offers fewer comfort and convenience features than higher trim level options do. In fact, it comes with a smaller touchscreen, no center console, and a standard 4.3-liter V6 engine. It does come with an optional upgrade to a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine that is turbocharged and unique to this trim level. Quite simply, the base 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 has all the basic features that one could ask for in a pickup truck. It is standard and traditional, which fits the personality of some consumers quite well.

Buyers who are looking for a bit more in a new pickup truck purchase may prefer to move up a trim level to the SLE. Still offering the standard features that the base GMC Sierra 1500 is known for, the SLE begins to build upon optional upgrades. In fact, the 2.7-liter turbocharged engine that is optional on the base model becomes a standard feature for both the SLE and the next level Elevation. The SLE also gains access to an optional engine upgrade to a 5.3-liter V8 that produces an astounding 355 horsepower.

The SLE trim level is also the first to be offered as a double cab configuration providing extra space for passengers and cargo within its cabin. Appearing quite close to the elevated SLT model, the main difference between these two Sierra trim levels mainly lies within their styling efforts. The SLE is more down to earth and conventional, while the SLT opts to enhance the overall look and feel of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500.

Compare the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE vs Elevation Trims. What is the difference?

New towing technology made its debut across all trim levels of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500. Introducing alerts for trailer jack-knife potential, indicator for trailer bed length in relation to nearby objects, and enhanced camera views, the newest Sierra is dedicated to making trailering safer than ever. By raising driver awareness regarding surroundings and trailer positioning, all models including the SLE and Elevation gain access to modern trailering features in 2021.

As stated before, only certain models of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 gain access to this pickup's bold, new MultiPro Tailgate. The Elevation trim level is one of the select few trims that do offer this feature. The Elevation also shares the same base 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with the underlying SLE model. This powertrain can generate up to 348 lb.-ft. of torque and up to 310 horsepower. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Elevation's engine aides it in achieving a maximum fuel economy of 21 mpg.

Adding configuration options to the design of the GMC Sierra, the Elevation trim level can be purchased with either a double cab or crew cab design. Therefore, it seats up to six in its maximum size layout. In fact, the crew cab layout of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 has won awards for its versatility and luxury qualities.

A wide array of technology attributes that grace every trim level of the GMC Sierra also add to the overall quality of the 2021 model. All trims gain access to at least an 8-inch touchscreen, app integration, and a sound system that is comprised of six-speakers. For a pickup truck, the GMC Sierra is quite upscale and modern in the technology offerings it utilizes. Ensuring passengers are always connected and safe are priorities of GMC, which is evident in the design of this truck.

Compare the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation vs SLT Trim Levels. What is the difference?

Moving into the median trim level territory, a subtle change from the GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation to the SLT occurs. While most of the innate features of these two trims are the same, the SLT takes style and refinement to the next level. One of the main changes that sets the SLT and higher trim levels apart from the underlying trim is the inclusion of standard driver-assistive safety features. Until this point, such features were either limited, unavailable, or optional as an upgrade. Lane-keep assist, automated braking, and forward collision warning all come standard on the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500.

The SLT trim also enters buyers into a new segment of power and performance for the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500. It is the first trim level to offer the impressive 5.3-liter V8 engine that can produce up to 355 horsepower and put out 383 lb.-ft. of torque. Though optional on the SLT and Elevation, the signature V8 comes standard on the SLT, AT4, and Denali. The SLT also opens the door to an optional upgrade to a 6.2-liter V8 that gains it access to 65 additional horsepower and almost 100 extra lb.-ft. of torque. Paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, the fuel economy of the SLT dips down to 17 combined MPG.

The SLT trim thrives on contemporary style that is completed by the incorporation of a spacious crew cab configuration. A choice between a standard or short box provides buyers with the flexibility to choose the layout that best defines their standards and fits their needs. Gaining up to 71 cubic feet of cargo space and almost 45 inches of front leg room for passengers, one can really tell the difference in the available space in the cabin on the SLT model compared to lower trim level options.

Compare the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT vs AT4 Trims. What is the difference?

The SLT's focus on style and design is soon forgotten when the off-road capabilities and attributes of the AT4 take over. Designed to take fun off the beaten path, the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 is a more rough and tough pickup truck that is equipped with all-terrain navigation elements. Oriented toward off-road travel, the AT4 breaks loose from the conventional working nature of a private passenger truck. This model is a great option for consumers looking for something a little different in a pickup truck.

Safety features of the GMC Sierra AT4 are ingrained in the very nature of this Sierra trim level. Gaining access to a standard suite of safety features, passengers can feel secure when they are traveling on or off the road in this capable vehicle. Optional blind-spot monitoring to help alert drivers of unseen hazards and rear cross-traffic warnings that notify drivers of objects behind them provide necessary reassurance for safe vehicle navigation.

The biggest difference between the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT and AT4 is the overall look of each trim level. Made for off-roading, the AT4 features stronger and bolder attributes that show off its athleticism. The SLT is handsomely styled, but the AT4 adds in muscular accents and practical exterior add-ons.

Compare the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 vs Denali Trim Level. What is the difference?

There is no doubt that the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali stands out among any other trim level. As part of a prestigious line that is distinctively of the GMC brand, Denali models offer the highest level of luxury available in a vehicle of this stature. Chrome trims, enhanced tech features, and prominent design elements show the true charisma and class of the Sierra 1500 Denali.

Unlike the durable and all-terrain AT4 model, the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is focused on sophistication and class. Though still as capable as the underlying trim levels, the Denali adds upscale looks to the mix. Every single convenience feature and indulgence element is present in the luxury-based Sierra 1500 Denali.

Improved handling and an exceptional ride experience are expected in the Denali trim level, just as luxury interior materials and a tech-savvy cabin are predicted. GMC delivers upon these expectations and goes above and beyond to prove just how classy their Denali line is. Complete with wood trim, detailed stitching, and a carbon fiber composite bed, the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali was one of the first luxury trucks to hit the market. It appears that the attitude and class of the Denali lives on in the modern 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 model to this day.

Which Trim to Choose?

Making the choice of a new vehicle purchase is a huge task for a buyer to undertake, and it is not a responsibility to take lightly. After all, this is the vehicle you will likely be driving for years to come. Great thought must be put into the attributes that each buyer finds the most useful for the price at which each trim level is offered.

For those who may be a bit tighter in the economical department or those who prefer a more standard look, the base or SLE model would be a good place to start. These models will be limited on the number and intensity of standard and available upgrade options, but some buyers prefer the simplicity of the base and SLE models because of that factor.

Buyers who are most interested in style may feel more at home with the design driven SLT, while those who are off-road enthusiasts and live for adventure would find the AT4 trim better suited for them. Still yet, those who are looking for a luxury truck experience would find a home in the Sierra 1500's Denali trim level that features all the best assets.

Of course, price is always a factor in a new pickup truck purchase. The base and SLE models will be the most economical, while the SLT offers a great value when the price is compared with the benefits buyers can attain. For those who have no limit, the Denali is simply the best you can get in the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500.

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Compare the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Trim Levels