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
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)
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