GMC unveiled the new Sierra Denali in March. The company set out with two clear intents. GMC wanted the Sierra Denali to be more than a rebadged Silverado. They wanted to do that by building a commanding, opulent, and tech-savvy truck that would “win the battle in the Home Depot parking lot.” I can’t vouch for the power dynamics at your local Home Depot. But, after sampling the redesigned truck at a media drive in Newfoundland, I can assert that GM largely succeded on both counts.
The Good: The truck incorporates clever engineering. The MultiPro tailgate performs six different functions, including a step rated to 375 pounds, two different load stop setups and a work surface. The CarbonPro box cuts 62 pounds (not that you would notice) and GM asserts it is virtually indestructible. There’s a multi-color Head Up Display that can show the speedometer, navigation and other data on the windshield.
The ProGrade Trailering System integrates with third-party trailers, making the process easier, safer and more secure. It has the retracting and rear articulating MultiPro Power Step from previous models. There are a myriad of camera views and Bluetooth features to accommodate multiple phones I did not have time to play with.
Despite all the tech, the Sierra Denali seldom feels over-engineered. Nothing feels more complicated than it need be. There are some decidedly low-tech features. The PRND shifter, blessedly, is a traditional stalk. GMC incorporated boot-sized footholds into the rear corners of the bumper for bed access.
Who It’s For: This is for the premium truck buyer. This person is affluent (starting MSRP: $58,000). He or she wants luxury SUV comfort with truck utility for yard work, home improvement projects or boat towing. Two rows of seats are plenty with the kids out of the house.
Watch Out For: The Sierra Denali’s “tall, proud stance” sacrifices visibility. The driver struggles seeing over the front end or off the passenger side. Parking and turning on an uphill gradient were tricky. When the tailgate is in load stop mode, the trusty rear backup camera faces the ground. We had to pull over my tester, turn off the car and remove the key fob to reset the blank information screen behind the steering wheel. I noticed that happen to at least one other truck.
Value and Alternatives: The truck I drove with the 6.2L V8 and the Denali Ultimate package priced out to $67,200. That’s on par with loaded versions of the rival Limited trims for the F150 and the Ram 1500. As in the mid-level market, marginal differences in price and features won’t overcome ingrained preferences. A luxed out Silverado High Country, with a discounted High Country Deluxe package, can be had for under $60,000, though you miss out on some fanciness.
Driving Impressions: The Sierra Denali adds the sumptuousness absent from the Chevy Silverado lineup. The leather, per GMC, is the finest available that met their durability constraints. The seats are cushy and supportive. The crew cab is notably spacious with a ton of storage. You may find yourself caressing that textural open-pore wood or unconsciously checking for that Cuban cigar that must be stashed in the glove box.
This truck does no masquerading. It’s large and in charge. That’s how it feels behind the wheel. While the Silverado got significantly lighter, the Sierra Denali still checks in at a robust 5,443 pounds with the short bed. You feel it in the corners, plentiful in Newfoundland. You feel it chugging up a hill, also plentiful in Newfoundland. Sport mode tightens the steering and permits more engine response. It does not morph the Sierra Denali into a GTI.
The 420hp 6.2L V8 felt adequate to the demands placed on it, which weren’t too taxing. Newfoundland speed limits off the freeway are a blistering 30mph. The 10-speed shifts were smooth, almost imperceptible. Highway overtakes were no trouble. The suspension damping performed decently on smooth (compared to Detroit) tarmac. I was not offered the base 5.3L V8 but suspect it would feel underpowered with this weight.
There are cars and trucks built for aggressive driving. The Sierra Denali is a cruiser. It’s built for traversing relatively straight highways between your primary and secondary residences. For most in this market, it will more than suffice.
Verdict: The Sierra Denali makes the statement you pay for. I would definitely upgrade to the 6.2L V8. The Denali Ultimate package is steep at $5,710. But, the HUD, the additional safety features, the power step and 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, if you’re into that sort of thing, may make it worth it.
2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 Key Specs
Engine: 6.2L V-8 with Dynamic Fuel Management
Transmission: 10-speed automatic; 4WD
Torque: 460 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 5,443 pounds
Payload Capacity: 1,610 pounds
Trailering Capcity: 9,300 pounds
Price: $67,200 (as tested)
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