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    Quick Drive: 2015 GMC Sierra Denali 1500


    • What Does It Mean To Be Denali?

    The idea of the luxury pickup has only come into spotlight during the last decade thanks to GMC. In the early-oughts, the truck manufacturer introduced the Sierra C3 which offered a number of luxury appointments never really seen on a truck - leather, premium audio system, power everything, new wheels, and a more potent V8. The C3 and the Denali which took its place a couple years later became big sellers and created a market for luxury pickups. Now most of truck players offer two luxury variants - one for those who dream of being a cowboy and one for those believe in up-town luxury. So how has the father of the luxury pickup compare to the new competitors? I spent a week in the Sierra 1500 Denali to find out.

     

    Compared to the standard Sierra 1500, the Denali gets minor changes such as a mesh grille insert, chrome trim pieces, Denali badges, and 20-inch aluminum wheels. These small changes make the Denali quite the standout in the Sierra lineup. It looks more at home at an upscale restaurant than a work site. The interior is somewhat lacking though for a luxury pickup. Yes, there are swaths of leather for the seats and dash, along with nicer looking plastic wood trim and Bose sound system. But compared to the likes of the Ford F-150 Platinum and Ram 1500 Laramie Limited which boast better leather and trim choces, the Denali just feels like a pretender. Tech-wise, the 1500 Denali gets the large screen from the heavy duty trucks to provide trip, infotainment, navigation, and powertrain information. There’s also GMC’s Intellilink infotainment system which seems to be getting worse everytime I use it. Case in point was the constant crashing of my iPod Classic and the disappearance of the map when using the navigation system.

     

    Like other Sierras, the Denali has a choice of engines. Base is the 5.3L V8, while optional is the 6.2L V8. I had the latter engine which produced 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with a new eight-speed automatic. As I wrote in my Escalade review, the engine has power available throughout the rev range and sounds more like a Corvette. That pretty much carries over to Sierra Denali except for one key item. The 6.2 feels slightly more potent in the truck thanks to a lower curb weight. If you are not careful with the accelerator you will cause the rear wheels to chirp. The eight-speed automatic kept the truck going with smooth shifts and a noticeable improvement in fuel economy. My average for the week in the Sierra Denali was 16 MPG. Not bad considering the EPA ratings of 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined.

     

    One item that surprised me when driving the Sierra Denali was how bouncy the ride was when compared to the last Sierra 1500 I drove. Despite the truck featuring GM’s Magnaride shocks, the Sierra 1500 Denali was bouncy and choppy thanks to the 20-inch wheels. If you have a load in the bed, the choppy ride goes away. Also expect a fair amount of wind and road noise due to the large tires and boxy shape.

     

    While the current-generation GMC Sierra Denali 1500 is a step forward from its predecessor, it falls way behind the competition in terms of luxuries and ride. The 6.2L V8 and eight-speed combination do claw back some good points. But I think its time for GMC to step back and figure out what Denali means to the Sierra.

     

    Disclaimer: GMC Provided the Sierra Denali 1500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

     

    Year: 2015
    Make: GMC
    Model: Sierra 1500
    Trim: Denali 4X4
    Engine: 6.2L EcoTec3 V8
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5600
    Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4100
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17
    Curb Weight: 5,434 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Silao, GJ Mexico
    Base Price: $52,155
    As Tested Price: $57,820 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    6.2L V8 EcoTec3 - $2,495
    Power Sunroof - $995.00
    Driver Alert Package - $450.00
    20" Polished Aluminum Wheels - $300.00
    Trailer Brake Controller - $230.00

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    I love the looks of the GMCs, especially in Denali trim, at least for being a truck.  I don't get to drive those competitors so much, so it's a little disappointing to see how it stacks up there.  I thought the GMC was pretty nice, but without that frame of reference I was clearly not realizing what I was missing out on.  Clearly GM needs to work a little on the infotainment systems.  Though I don't think it's the majority of buyers' experiences (at least I haven't heard any complaints form my own customers), clearly it is effecting enough people that something isn't quite right and needs to be fixed.  On the plus side, hey, there's available 4G LTE wifi, right?

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    I own a Laramie Longhorn, so I can say with a fair bit of confidence that the Denali's interior can't measure up to it. The leather in the seats and open-pore wood trim are amazing, and on models with the eight-speed the aluminum shifter knob's knurled surface and real aluminum make it feel like a million bucks. The touchscreen and nav are also really good, but the nav itself does tend to send you down backroads an awful lot out in the prairies. Also, some of the plastic is a bit hard and not convincing as aluminum trim.

    However, there's more to life than dashboard fondling, and having seen what the 6.2/8-speed can do in an Escalade I'll admit to being a bit envious. My Hemi is adequate, but no more than that at this stage. As for the ride, it looks like GM decided to ditch the automotive style AWD in favor of a more truckish setting for the underpinnings. It makes sense, but again I'm left wondering why no airbag springs, like the Longhorn. Nice review overall, thanks for posting it.

    Edited by El Kabong
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    I tested the GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab back in 2010 and found it to ride great.... they must have stiffened up the suspension a lot. 

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    • By William Maley
      Last fall, I had the chance to drive a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack for a week and fell in love. It was basically an SRT Charger, minus a few items for just under $40,000. This fall, another high-performance Charger came in a week’s stay and it was packing more heat. 707 horsepower to be exact. Yes, I finally got my hands on a Hellcat. What was it like? It was fast, but you want more information than that.
      That 707 horsepower figure comes courtesy from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8. Torque is rated at 650 pound-feet.This is backed up by an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, then you’ll need to get the Challenger Hellcat. Trying to explain just how fast the Charger Hellcat is difficult. This is a car that you need to drive or sit in to experience the ferocity of the V8 engine. The best way I can use to describe the Hellcat’s power delivery is engaging warp drive. Step on the accelerator and the supercharger whirrs into life and the V8 produces a roar very few vehicles can dream. Blink and you’ll be at an illegal speed before you know it. Taking turns in the Hellcat is somewhat difficult because of the accelerator. You need to roll on it if you want to do it smoothly. If you step on the accelerator pedal like you would on a standard vehicle, the back will become very loose and the stability control will kick on to get the vehicle straightened out. This is especially important due to the tires fitted to Hellcat, a set of Pirelli P-Zeros. These tires need to be warmed up before they begin to bite the road. The Hellcat will be a regular at the fuel pump with fuel economy figures of 13 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. I got about 14.3 mpg during my week in mostly city driving. Handling? That’s the surprising part as the Charger Hellcat doesn’t embarrass itself. Fitted with an adaptive suspension system, the Charger Hellcat shows little body roll when put into Sport and provides a smooth ride when in comfort. The steering system provides the right amount of feel and heft you want in a performance vehicle.  Bringing a 707 horsepower vehicle to a stop is no easy task, but a set of massive Brembo brakes is up to the task. It brings the Charger Hellcat to a quick halt. The Charger Hellcat looks like your standard SRT Charger with a new front clip and lowered stance. There are some slight differences such as a new hood, 20-inch wheels finished in a dark bronze color, and the requisite Hellcat emblems on the front fenders. Inside, the Hellcat isn’t that much different from the standard Charger aside from the speedometer going 200 mph. It would have been nice if Dodge could have done some sprucing of the interior to not make it feel so dank and dark. A little bit more color on the dash would not be a bad thing. The front seats have extra bolstering to hold you in when you decide to let loose all 707 horsepower or take a turn a bit too fast. As I mentioned in my Ram 1500 Quick Drive last week, the Charger’s UConnect system is beginning to show its age. The interface is still easy to use but is beginning to show signs of aging. Performance isn’t as snappy either as in previous FCA models. Hopefully, the 2017 model is able to get the updated UConnect system that debuted in the Pacifica. The UConnect system in the Charger Hellcat does come with SRT Pages. This allows you to record 0-60, quarter-mile, and reaction times. It also allows you to change various performance settings such as gear changes, suspension, and whether you want the full 707 horsepower or 500. The last one pertains if you happen to have the red key. In terms of pricing, the Charger Hellcat kicks off at $65,495. With options and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, our tester came to $72,820. Compared to other high-performance sedans, the Hellcat is quite the steal. If it was my money on the line, I would go for the Charger R/T Scat Pack. I get most of the enjoyment of the Hellcat, minus the supercharger whine. But I would have a fair chunk of change that I could spend on hopping it up. But I understand why someone would go for the Charger Hellcat. It is a four-door sedan that provides explosive acceleration and engine note that no other vehicle can dare match. There’s something magical about stepping on the accelerator, being flung back into the seat due to power on tap, and then laughing like a four-year old after what happened. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger Hellcat, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      (Author’s Note: That’s a wrap for the 2016 review season. We’ll be back with the first batch of 2017 model year vehicles after New Years. But I will be picking my favorite vehicles I drove this year. Expect to see that before the year comes to a close.)
      Year: 2016
      Make: Dodge
      Model: Charger
      Trim: SRT Hellcat
      Engine: Supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8
      Driveline: Eight-speed automatic, Rear-wheel drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 707 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 650 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/22/16
      Curb Weight: 4,570 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
      Base Price: $65,945
      As Tested Price: $72,820 (Includes $995 Destination Charge and $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax)
      Options:
      Customer Preferred Package 23T - $1,995.00
      20-inch x 9.5-inch Brass Monkey SRT Forged Wheels - $995.00
      275/40ZR20 P Zero Summer Tires - $595.00
      Redline Red Tri-coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $595.00
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