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1996 GMC K3500

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1996 GMC K3500 Review

Sturdy and capable workhorse.

Reviewed by Automotive on


GMC has worked hard to provide solid work trucks, and the four-wheel drive 1996 GMC K3500 continues to support that ideal. Strong engines underneath the hood give the trucks great hauling and towing capacity. The design inside and out looks average at best, with the interior being slightly complex for a truck meant for hard work. Handling endures a bit of a struggle, and the truck sometimes needs a bit of effort to work in tight spaces. The four-wheel drive works beautifully and proves perfect for rugged work sites, exactly what GMC makes the heavy-duty K3500 for.

The Range

Body Styles: pickup
Engines: 5.7-liter V-8, 7.4-liter V-8, 6.5-liter V-8 diesel
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: GMC K3500 SL, GMC K3500 SL Crew Cab, GMC K3500 SL Extended Cab, GMC K3500 SLE, GMC K3500 SLE Crew Cab, GMC K3500 SLE Extended Cab, GMC K3500 SLT, GMC K3500 SLT Crew Cab, GMC K3500 SLT Extended Cab

What's New

The heavy-duty 1996 GMC K3500 doesn’t get as many upgrades as its 1500 and 2500 counterparts. It shows no changes to the transmission or engine. Inside the cab, it offers illuminated entry, an electrochromatic rear-view mirror to compensate for headlights from other drivers, and height-adjustable front seat belts. Rear-seat heating ducts start new in the crew cab body style only. Outside, it adds daytime running lamps.


The big GMC K3500 has a simple, squared-off exterior design that serves the model line well. It does not win any awards for the most attractive design in the world, but it looks durable with clean lines, and drivers have an easy time getting the dirt off of it. GMC continues to avoid giving its work trucks any curves.


For a truck aimed at the heavy-duty working crowd, the inside of the 1996 GMC K3500 looks overdone. The dash appears well laid-out, but it has far too many gadgets and too much design for something that lives on work sites. The choice of leather or cloth for the interior upholstery seems welcome, and it offers more than enough leg and head room. Visibility remains good as well with plenty of glass and thin pillars. The ride feels extremely comfortable for a truck.

Performance & Handling

All three engine choices in the GMC K3500 offer quality with plenty of work hours behind them. The standard 5.7-liter proves strong enough for most jobs by being a torque-heavy power plant. The 7.4-liter offers a little bit too much for many uses, and the poor fuel economy that comes with it does not help its case. It does produce the greatest horsepower and torque of all the available engines however. While many drivers do not favor diesel engines, the 6.5-liter provides an incredible amount of torque and seems perfect for the industrial workhorse.

Handling in the 1996 GMC K3500 feels stiff and slightly unwieldy, but thanks to the heavy-duty suspension, the handling does not suffer further underweight or stress. The long wheelbase hampers the maneuverability slightly, but no more than on any other pickup. Handling seems mildly pushy and imprecise when it comes to turns, but that comes along with the standard four-wheel drive. Standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes on all models bring the trucks and any loads to a stop fairly well.


The 1996GMC K3500 features standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes across the model line as well as daytime running lights. The lack of airbags disappoints many. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration gives the K3500 high marks, with five stars for driver protection and four out of five for passenger protection.

EPA Fuel Economy

GMC K3500, 5.7-liter V-8, four-speed automatic: 12/16 mpg city/highway
GMC K3500, 5.7-liter V-8, five-speed manual: 12/17 mpg city/highway
GMC K3500, 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

You Won't Like

  • Somewhat dated exterior design
  • Over styled interior
  • No third door on extended cab

Sum Up

Sturdy and capable workhorse.

If You Like This Vehicle

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

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