Top 5 Sierra 1500 Mods: Building a Budget AT4x AEV!

Updated on Jan 27, 2024

In 2005, Dodge released the RAM Power Wagon: an off-road-centric Ram 2500 outfitted with model-specific suspension, accessories, and tech. This chassis dominated on the dirt, finding new limits of an off-the-shelf pickup’s capabilities off-road. Nearly two decades later, several other manufacturers are following similar blueprints. Models like the RAM 1500 TRX and Rebel, Ford F-150 Raptor and F-Series Tremor, and the Toyota TRD Pro and GM ZR2 lineups deliver some of the best off-road tech and performance the market has ever seen! 

While some models, like the RAM TRX, Ford Raptor, and Colorado ZR2, are geared toward high-speed desert wheeling, others, like the RAM Power Wagon, F-Series Tremor, and Sierra AT4x, deliver outstanding low-speed performance, excelling over rocky terrain and technical trail sections.

Unfortunately, these capable packages come at a price. While the base Sierra 1500 comes in at an already steep $38,000, opting into the AT4x AEV package tacks on an additional forty grand, totaling just under $80,000! Luckily, our experts are here to offer a more cost-effective solution: building your own AT4x AEV package out of an entry-level Sierra! 

In this guide, we’re covering the steps to build your own off-road-centric Sierra. While the result may not feature all of the bells and whistles of a fully loaded AT4x AEV, it’ll be more than capable for most off-road enthusiasts at a fraction of the price!

What is the GMC Sierra AT4x AEV Package?

GM is no stranger to off-road-centric trim packages. Models like the Silverado Z71 and Sierra All-Terrain have long existed in the manufacturer’s catalog, adding four-wheel-drive, skid plates, a locking rear differential, and an oversized air cleaner to filter our dust and debris. While offering superior performance compared to base 2WD and 4WD packages, the Z71 and All-Terrain still fell short of other higher-end offerings from competitors; queue 2019’s release of the AT4, short for “All Terrain 4WD.” This package sported: 

  • A factory 2-inch lift

  • Rancho performance dampers

  • Hill Descent Control

  • Traction Select System

  • Locking rear differential

  • Underbody skid plates

And several other model-specific features that, while impressive, still didn’t measure up to the performance of models like the Ford Raptor and RAM TRX. Luckily, GM had one more trick up its sleeve: the 2022 AT4x. 

In addition to the features of the base AT4, the AT4x added a 6.2L Vortec V8, front and rear E-lockers, and multimatic DSSV dampers, significantly improving the Sierra’s off-road performance. With class-leading features, GMC finally found the recipe for success in the off-road market. 

Fast forward to the 2024 model year, and GMC has yet again improved on the Sierra 1500 AT4x, pairing with AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) for the AT4x AEV Edition. This new model is the most capable and aggressively styled AT4x yet, with standard features including: 

  • 3.0L Duramax Turbo Diesel making 305 HP and 495 lb-ft of TQ

  • Optional 6.2L Vortec V8 making 420 HP and 460 lb-ft of TQ

  • 10-speed automatic transmission

  • Driver-selectable front and rear electronic-locking differentials

  • Hill Descent Control

  • 2-speed Autotrac transfer case

  • 2-inch factory lift with Multimatic DSSV dampers

  • AEV stamped-steel winch-compatible front and rear bumper 

  • Integrated rocker panel protectors

  • AEV hot-stamped boron steel skid plates (5)

  • AEV Salta alloy wheels

  • 33-inch Goodyear Duratrac M/T tires

For a more in-depth look at the model, check out our 2024 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4x Review!

Now that we understand what the Sierra AT4x offers, it’s time to put together a build sheet!

Plan of Attack: Upgrade Areas

For starters, we’ll need a platform. If you need the additional cabin space of a crew cab, you’re dealing with a base price of just shy of 49 grand, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room for upgrades. However, if you can manage with a single cab standard box or single cab long box, that price drops to just under $40,000! 

For this build, we’d recommend a Pro, an entry-level package that offers all the basic amenities you’d need for an off-road rig, like power windows, power locks, a radio, and A/C. Additionally, we’d opt for a single cab long bed, as adding an 8-foot bed provides the option to upgrade from the entry-level V6 to the 5.3L Vortec, pumping out 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of naturally aspirated torque! And don’t forget the four-wheel-drive system!  

Next, let’s look at upgrades. We’re separating this section into five different categories, including: 

  • Suspension

  • Differentials

  • Wheels & Tires

  • Body Armor

  • Underhood Performance

These upgrades will make for a well-rounded pickup, seeing as the AT4x AEV is a powerhouse of on and off-road performance.


Let’s begin at arguably the most essential upgrade for our mock AT4x AEV build: suspension. The AT4x AEV comes with a factory 2-inch suspension lift with premium multimatic DSSV dampers. While it’ll be tough to find an off-the-shelf damper system that offers the control of premium DSSV technology, we can certainly get close! 

For suspension, we’d recommend a premium 2–3 inch lift kit, like the Superlift 3" Coilover Lift Kit or Eibach PRO-TRUCK 2"-3" Adjustable Lift Kits. Both offer sporty, off-road-tuned dampers and mild lifts, increasing ground clearance, fender clearance, and overall performance on the trail.


Next up, we have differential upgrades. The AT4x AEV comes standard with selectable locking differentials, which tie the axles together at the push of a button to ensure maximum traction off-road, no matter the terrain conditions. Unfortunately, the base-model Sierra Pro comes with open differentials–not ideal for heavy off-roading. Because of this, we’d recommend installing a locking differential into at least the rear end, though front and rear lockers are optimal. 

To alleviate the hassle of running wires and air lines, and mounting an onboard air compressor, we’d recommend the convenience of an auto-locking differential, which engages automatically as force is applied. Products like the Yukon Grizzly Locker Differential offer exceptional traction off-road while allowing for mild streetability on the pavement.

Wheel & Tires

Underneath the 2024 Sierra AT4x AEV sits premium AEV Salta cast aluminum wheels wrapped in 33-inch Goodyear M/T tires. Not only does this setup look rugged, but it also improves traction in the dirt, allowing your pickup to claw through challenging terrain. 

To match the performance of the AT4x, we’d recommend a 33 or 35-inch mud-terrain or hybrid-terrain tire, like the Nitto Ridge Grappler or Falken Wildpeak M/T. Both tires offer outstanding traction on and off-road, making for a capable pickup in any terrain! To reduce unsprung weight and improve aesthetics, we’d recommend wrapping your new tires around an off-road-proven aluminum wheel, like the Method Black 701 or Fifteen52 Matte Black Traverse HD.

Body Armor

What sets the AT4x AEV apart most from a conventional Sierra, at least visually, is its integrated body armor, including the AEV stamped steel front and rear bumpers and rocker protectors. Not only do these accessories add to the AT4x AEV’s rugged aesthetics, but they also bolster impact resistance, ground clearance, and accessory mounting! 

To make our mock AT4x AEV compare to its genuine counterpart, we’ll need premium bumpers and sliders to match. For bumpers, we’d recommend high-clearance steel solutions, like the Go Rhino BR11 Front Winch Bumper and Go Rhino BR20 Rear

For rocker protection, we’d recommend a heavy-duty, tubular steel selection, like the $100 RebateHavoc Offroad TrailCrawler Steps. These rugged sliders double as steps, allowing you to climb in and out of your newly lifted Sierra with ease!

Under Hood Performance

While the standard Turbomax V6 and 5.3L Vortec V8 power plants make plenty of power for our build, neither matches the peak numbers of the 6.2L Vortec or 3.0L Duramax available on the AT4x. Thankfully, RealTruck offers a wide selection of performance products for dyno-proven horsepower and torque gains! Both platforms, especially the tried-and-tested 5.3L, respond well to bolt-on modifications like air intakes, exhaust systems, and performance programmers.

Or, for a quick and easy upgrade, consider an all-inclusive power package like the Banks Stinger Power Bundle!

As always, shop our extensive catalog for any other upgrades and accessories! And for any inquiries, contact our knowledgeable support staff.

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