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1997 GMC C3500

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1997 GMC C3500 Review

A sturdy and capable workhorse.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 1997 GMC C3500 trucks have strong engines that provide great hauling and towing capacity. The all-around design is average at best, and the interior is slightly complex for a truck meant for hard work. Handling is a bit of a struggle, and it sometimes needs a bit of effort to work in tight spaces. The changes for the new model year are performance-based, but are not major. An improved transmission and steering make it easier to handle.

The Range

Body Styles: pickup
Engines: 5.7-liter V-8, 7.4-liter V-8, 6.5-liter V-8
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: GMC C3500 SL, GMC C3500 SLE, GMC C3500 SLT

What's New

The heavy-duty 1997 GMC C3500 doesn’t get as many upgrades as its 1500 and 2500 counterparts. Aside from three new paint colors, the only other updates are speed-sensitive steering that helps out at lower speeds and refined automatic transmissions that shift smoother and are more efficient.


The 1997 GMC C3500 has a simple, squared-off exterior design that has served the model line well over the years. It’s not the most attractive design in the world, but it is durable with clean lines, and it’s easy to get the dirt off. GMC continues to avoid giving its work trucks any curves.


The 1997 GMC 3500 is overdone for a truck aimed at the heavy-duty working crowd. The dash is laid out well, but there are far too many gadgets and too much design for something that is supposed to live on work sites. The choice of leather or cloth for the interior upholstery is welcome, and there is more than enough leg and head room. Visibility is good as well with plenty of glass and thin pillars. The ride is extremely comfortable for a truck.

Performance & Handling

All three engine choices in the 1997 GMC 3500 are quality engines with plenty of work hours behind them. The standard 5.7-liter is beefy enough for most jobs, providing 355 lb-ft of torque. The 7.4-liter is a little bit too much for many uses, and the poor fuel economy that comes with it does not help its case. It does have the greatest horsepower and torque outputs of all the available engines, however. While diesels are not the most favored engines, the 6.5-liter provides an incredible amount of torque and is perfect for industrial workhorse vehicles. The handling is stiff and slightly unwieldy, but thanks to the heavy-duty suspension, the handling does not suffer further under-weight stress. The long wheelbase hampers the maneuverability slightly, but no more than on any other pickup. Handling is responsive except in the case of four-wheel-drive equipped vehicles, which definitely are pushy and imprecise when it comes to turns. Standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes on all models bring the trucks and any loads to a stop fairly well.


The 1997 GMC C3500 has standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes across the model line as well as daytime running lights. The lack of airbags is disappointing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave high marks with five stars for driver protection and four out of five for passenger protection.

EPA Fuel Economy

GMC C3500, 5.7-liter V-8, four-speed automatic: 14/17 mpg city/highway
GMC C3500, 5.7-liter V-8, five-speed manual: 13/18 mpg city/highway
GMC C3500, 7.4-liter V-8, four-speed automatic: 10/14 mpg city/highway
GMC C3500, 6.5-liter V-8 diesel, four-speed automatic: 14/17 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Powerful engines
  • Proven reliability
  • Standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes on all models

You Won't Like

  • Exterior design is getting a bit old
  • Interior is over-styled
  • No third door on extended cab models

Sum Up

A sturdy and capable workhorse.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Chevrolet C3500
  • Dodge Ram 3500
  • Ford F-350

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