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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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      Depending on the trim, you can order the Pacifica with seating for seven or eight people. Our Touring L featured the eight-seat layout with a removable middle seat for the third row. It will take you a few moments to figure out how to remove the seat, but once you do, it is quite easy to remove and install the seat. The rest of the seats feature Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go folding system where the seats can fold into compartments in the floor to provide a flat load area. Cargo area is in line with the current crop of minivans with 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 140.5 cubic feet with both rows folded. As for passengers, both rows of rear seats provide an excellent amount of head and legroom. Getting into the third row is much easier thanks to second-row seats offering a tilt function.
      FCA has equipped the Pacifica with the newest version of their UConnect system. The interface may look similar to the older UConnect system, but there are a number of changes that help catapult this new version towards the top of the infotainment system list. First, the new system is much sharper thanks to the new fonts and an updated screen that provides improved brightness levels. FCA has also improved the overall performance of the system, meaning no slow downs when going between various functions. One item we cannot comment on is navigation as our test Pacifica didn’t come with it.
      Power for the Pacifica comes from the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front-wheels only. It might not be the fastest van on the road (that honor falls to the Toyota Sienna), but Pacifica comes very close. Power comes on a smooth and steady rate. You’ll find yourself not wanting more power when merging onto a freeway or trying to make a pass. FCA has seemed to get its act together with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Issues with clunky shifts and gear hunting have been mostly ironed out. The transmission now features smooth and quick upshifts. The only item we would want FCA to work on is the transmission’s hesitation to downshift in certain situations such as making a pass.
      EPA fuel economy for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is rated at 18 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. Our week mostly spent in the city returned 23.2 mpg.
      The primary concern when it comes to a van’s ride and handling characteristics is providing maximum comfort and the Pacifica delivers. The suspension delivers a smooth ride even on some of the rough roads on offer from Metro Detroit area. An added bonus is how well the Pacifica isolates road and wind noise from coming inside. At highway speeds, only a whisper of wind noise makes it inside. But the Pacifica becomes a bit of a surprise when it comes to handling. Despite its large size, FCA’s engineers made the Pacifica feel quite nimble. The steering might not give that impression as it feels somewhat light when turning. But go around a corner and the van feels more like a midsize sedan than a van. 
      It has been a long time coming for a new minivan from FCA and the good news is that they haven’t dropped the ball. The Pacifica may not have ripped up the rulebook when it comes to minivans, but it sure has expanded or rewritten bits of it. From a surprising balance of ride and handling characteristics to the best interior in the class, it is clear that FCA wants to reclaim the crown of the best minivan. But there one thing that we need to address and that is FCA’s poor reliability history. No matter which survey or study look at, more often than not, FCA’s core brands are towards the bottom. What does this mean for the Pacifica? We can’t say for right now, but this could be the one thing that makes or breaks Chrysler’s new van.
      For right now, the Pacifica is at the top of the class.
      Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica
      Trim: Touring L
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
      Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $34,495
      As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Audio Group - $895.00
      8 Passenger Seating - $495.00
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