Untethered: 10 Features Your Vehicle Needs So You Can Work From Anywhere
Working from home has become commonplace, especially after a global pandemic forced workers to retreat to their home during a national lockdown.
Cars stayed parked, freeways were eerily vacant and even the smog over the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex cleared. While Internet bandwidth turned into a commodity and laptops became lifelines, Zoom calls made it possible to host corporate meetings in sweatpants.
As the world slowly opens and long summer days invite us outside, isolate workers should escape the blue light and hit the road—without taking a vacation day. Most new vehicles now offer many of the amenities one needs to work from anywhere. Whether it be the beach, the park, the mountains or the campsite (as long as it’s not Big Sur because even cell service is nonexistent).
I took a 2021 GMC Sierra to San Onofre, a state beach in California just south of San Clemente, for the day to hit the surf and check some boxes on my work to-do list. Its beefy 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine is the embodiment of work and play. Its power and torque will take you far off the beaten path, and its range is generous enough to get there and back without major urgency to refill (be sure to check for diesel availability at nearby stations, however). The truck’s spacious cabin and near-6-foot bed offers multiple places to work or hang out, and its configurable tailgate simplifies access to gear and supplies. It also bends outward to doubles as a stand-up desk.
No matter your adventure, your here are 10 things to looks for in a vehicle if you want to work from anywhere, inspired by a truck that can work and play at the same time.
For adventurers that like to wander toward the desert or mountains, or for those who live in regions that see heavy rain or snowfall, a vehicle that sends power through all four wheels is a no brainer. All-wheel drive is meant more for on-pavement stability but can have the same reliable effect if you stick to flatter grades and loose gravel (versus boulders). The GMC Sierra AT4 has more than enough for off the grid excursions, including automatic locking rear differential, a two-speed transfer case, off-road suspension and a 2-inch lift with monotube shocks. It also has a skid plate and Hill Descent Control for extra rowdy fun.
What is telematics anyway? A vehicle’s telematics system is the back-end telecommunications equipment that connects it with the outside world, for GPS, wireless internet services and other cloud or remote systems. The most important part of telematics for a successful mobile office is a Wi-Fi connection. If the vehicle acts as a live hotspot, then all phones and laptops can stay connected.
GPS also is a key feature to have, however, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now so ubiquitous that a smartphone can do just as good of a job pinpointing and navigating, and doesn’t have a steep learning curve like some native vehicle platforms. General Motors’ OnStar system is highly intuitive to use, and is mostly uniform across all four of its brands: GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac. The Sierra AT4 is equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen that enables a wireless connection of both systems as well as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection.
Multiple USB Ports
Drivers and passengers alike now expect access to onboard USB ports in inside all modern vehicles. Some automakers are going so far as to make sure every passenger has two. The GMC Sierra has two in the front and two in the rear as well as a wireless charging pad. The generous mix of ports takes the strain out of charging multiple devices.
In addition to USB ports, a 120-volt “home style” AC outlet will power campsite or tailgating essentials like a slow cooker or an inflatable mattress. In the case of a productive work day, a laptop can be kept charged as well as an iPod, which will free up one of the onboard USBs. Photographers also will find this type of power source handy for charging camera equipment. These plugs have limits, however, so be sure to check what the outlet can handle. The Sierra AT4 has a 120-volt plug in the instrument panel and the cargo bed.
Lots of Legroom
Not all cabins are created equal. For a cushy workspace, check to see the available legroom in both the front and back seats of your vehicle. The Sierra AT4 offers 44.5 inches of legroom in the front row, which is quite spacious, even for a tall adult. The back row is equally impressive with 43 inches of legroom.
Adjustable Front Seats
Also, if your front seats are power adjustable, you might be able to find a more agronomic position that is offered by your stiff office chair. If your lower back is lucky the vehicle will have lumbar support too. The front seats in the Sierra AT4 are configurable 10 different ways, and include lumbar. Every seat but the middle in the rear also offers heat and ventilation.
Easy Access to The Bed
This is a truck-specific feature, but sometimes traveling with gear like surfboards or bikes is best done with a pickup. And when the cargo is unloaded, the bed can be used for a makeshift desk or sitting area–just spread out a blanket or a cushion. (Some large SUVs also have giant cargo areas that can accommodate big toys and double as a sitting area with the liftgate open). GMC’s Sierra has a distinct tailgate that splits six different ways, aptly named the MultiPro tailgate.
The primary gate can be lowered (quite softly) all the way down using a release on the key fob, from inside the truck or from a power button on the gate. When down, a secondary gate can be folded out to create a step. The gate also can be lowered halfway and a panel inside of it will flip up to create a border that will secure long cargo (thing long wood planks or giant dirt bikes). When all the way up, the secondary gate can be flipped out to create a desk or to provide easy access when a tonneau cover is installed. There is nothing gimmicky about this tailgate—it’s completely intuitive to use and one wonders why GMC didn’t come up with it sooner.
Power Rear Window
This is another truck-specific feature, but a power-lowering rear window is so key when you’re sitting in the front seat and need to let in a little air. It’s especially clutch if you’re on a conference call and want some under-the-radar breeze. Crawling into the back to crack the rear window manually will undoubtedly create distraction. Some SUVs offer lowering rear windows too—Toyota’s 4Runner has one. Power button aside, the rear window itself is a nice shortcut to the cabin if you’re in the bed and need to grab something from the back seat; or maybe put something inside for safe storage. It might be a superhero feat to comfortably grab something from the front row, but feel free to try.
A Giant Center Console
As a mom, giant center consoles are a ray of light. The Sierra’s is especially cavernous and can swallow my whole tote without flinching. On a work escape, it serves as an ideal surface to keep loose items organized and within reach. It also makes a useful desk for a laptop, and it’s covered in heat-resistant leather so it isn’t bothered when the battery warms up.
Music is an essential tool in life. It can serve as soothing background sound while stressed and under a deadline, or can act as a centerpiece during a break. Every vehicle has some sound system, but the Sierra AT4 adds Bose premium audio that reverberates inside and outside of the cabin. It’s also crystal clear for podcast listening. And if you’re sitting in the bed, or just want sound in the distance, the AT4 “Carbonpro” package layers on a dealer-installed Kicker Bluetooth speaker into the gate. It’s protected by the panel that flips out to create the step. I’ve heard of this speaker before but have never tested it. Not only does it look cool, but it’s also easy to sync to and produces great sound. It would garner many likes at a tailgate.
In the spirit of working from anywhere, GMC is offering existing customers with certain vehicles 30-days of free Wi-Fi when they register here.