The 2019 GMC Sierra’s carbon fiber cargo bed and crazy six-way tailgate are the real headlines from the truck’s debut, but for a small group of particularly particular people, the new truck’s steering wheel is worth getting excited about too.
The steering wheel, or rather, the steering column in the GMC Sierra has been a little, uh, “off” for quite some time. Like, at least the last two generations. Take a close look at this picture of the command console from a 2015 Sierra Denali crew cab:
I added those little lines to make it easier for you to spot the differences. It’s not trick photography, either. GM Executive Chief Engineer Jeff Luke broke it down when Jalopnik asked him about this years ago: “The steering column of the K2xx lineup is approximately three degrees off straight on center. Essentially, if you are sitting in the driver seat looking at the steering wheel, the column is rotated slightly (three degrees) left. This results from carryover components from previous generation trucks.”
He went on to say that the visual effect is “washed out” by the interior design, and I’d agree. I really didn’t notice the three degrees off-center until one of you readers pointed it out. In fact, I completely forgot about this phenomenon altogether until automotive journalist Gary Gastelu tweeted about it. Or rather, about the steering wheel finally being straight.
After seeing that, I asked our man in Detroit David Tracy to take a close look at the 2019 Sierra’s cockpit and ask somebody at GM if indeed the wheel had finally been centered. He got a hold of Development Engineer Mike Norrito who explained, yes, the helm has been “fixed”.
“It was just an objective, because it was a clean sheet approach,” Norrito told Tracy. “Our customers... don’t complain about it. This is the first time we were about to do a bumper to bumper (redesign).”
As to why the wheel was off-center in the first place, it was apparently a packaging issue. The old truck’s hydraulic power steering system forced the steering column to be angled a certain way. And even when the truck later changed over to electric power steering, that issue was a holdover due to other pieces of the cab’s geometry.
But like Norrito said, the ’19 is an all-new Sierra and that cleared the path for GM engineers to sort out the steering wheel. And I know, like, three people who are going to be really, really happy about that.