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Full Test: 2007 Sierra Denali

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http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drive...icleId=120718#8

Road Tests

Full Test: 2007 GMC Sierra Denali

The luxury truck you didn't know you wanted

By John Pearley Huffman, Contributor

Date posted: 05-14-2007

At this moment, the 2007 GMC Sierra Denali is the most powerful pickup in regular production that money can buy.

Dodge let the insane Ram SRT-10 fade away last year, Ford hasn't built the beloved F-150 Lightning since 2003 and the newly muscular Toyota Tundra is more than 20 horsepower behind. In fact the only open-bed contraption that matches the Sierra Denali pony-for-pony is the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which shares GM's 403-horsepower, 6.2-liter OHV V8 and six-speed automatic transmission.

But the short-bed Escalade EXT with its coil-spring live axle might as well be a wimpy sport-utility, while the GMC Sierra Denali has a separate 5-foot-9-inch cargo bed behind its four-door crew cab, plus a pair of beefy leaf springs supporting its rear axle. And while the Cadillac is rated for just a 1,362-pound payload and can tow only 7,600 pounds, the Sierra Denali can handle up to 1,719 pounds and tow 8,500 pounds.

The 2007 GMC Sierra Denali is GM's top-of-the-line luxury pickup, but it emphasizes the truck part of the equation as much as the luxury part. It's for well-heeled buyers with an indulgent sense of comfort and convenience who nevertheless insist that a truck retain its ability to do hard physical labor.

Think of it as the perfect truck for the contractor who actually loves his job and happens to have hit the Lotto. And just bought a boat.

Familiar Pieces, Not So Familiar Quality

Most of what makes up the Sierra Denali's substance has been seen before on other GMC trucks and SUVs. The basic frame, body and cargo box all come from the regular Sierra Crew Cab. The interior is practically a direct lift from the front two-thirds of the Yukon XL Denali's cabin. And the engine and transmission come straight out of the Yukon Denali. It's all familiar stuff, but it's also all the best stuff GM installs in any truck.

At first glance, the Sierra Denali's only unique elements are the massive, plastic front grille done in blindingly bright fake chrome, the deep, front bumper cover incorporating large circular driving lamps, and the unique 18-inch wheels. (Optional 20-inch wheels were fitted to this test vehicle.) Previous editions of the Sierra Denali came only with all-wheel drive, but the new 2008 model is offered with either two- or four-wheel drive. And to maximize confusion (at least through 2007), GMC is also selling the previous-generation, all-wheel-drive Sierra Denali alongside this new one — one name, two very different trucks.

All these good pieces are put together with noticeable care in the new-generation Sierra Denali. Every body seam on the test truck appeared perfectly aligned; the doors shut with authoritative thuds and fit closely and evenly to the body; the plastic surfaces in the interior were well textured, neatly shaped and there was no sign of casting flash; the leather upholstery was both supple and neatly stitched; and nothing fell or broke off. While the reliability of GM's new trucks and cars is yet to be proven, it's obvious that the company has recently taken a massive step forward in the precision of its assembly practices. Hallelujah.

The Luxury of Power

The GMC Sierra Denali is the only pickup available with GM's 6.2-liter Vortec V8, and you'll understand its personality as soon as it starts and settles into an idle with a delicious burble.

This isn't a hard-edged performance machine like a Lightning or Ram SRT-10, but instead a truck with a sophisticated, sweetly composed drivetrain. The engine pulls seamlessly from just off idle to its 6,000-rpm redline and is perfectly matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts with velveteen smoothness. There's a small switch on the column-mounted shift lever for manual shifts, but left to its own devices, this 5,309-pound two-wheel-drive truck hauls to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds and rips through the quarter-mile in 15.0 seconds at 92.1 mph.

This is much quicker than the Lincoln Mark LT, which takes 9.6 seconds to get to 60 mph and then reaches the quarter-mile in 17.1 seconds at 80.9 mph. It's even noticeably quicker than the Cadillac Escalade EXT that gets to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 90.6 mph.

But the GMC Sierra Denali is not the quickest truck on the market. That title is held by the new Toyota Tundra with its 381-hp, 5.7-liter V8. In our testing, the four-wheel-drive Tundra Double Cab pounds to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 93.7 mph, even though it weighs 328 pounds more than the Sierra Denali.

Sometimes power isn't enough to guarantee dominance. Or maybe either GMC or Toyota or both are wrong about the power numbers they're publishing.

A True Luxury Interior, a True Truck Ride

With its dash, front seats and door panels all taken straight out of the Yukon XL Denali, the Sierra Denali's interior is easily the most comfortable and luxurious GM has ever put into a pickup truck. Those front seats are relatively flat, but almost infinitely adjustable, exceptionally well upholstered, and heat up with Toastmaster-brand efficiency on cold mornings. Also, the bin between those seats can swallow armfuls of cargo and is elegantly capped with leather to form the center armrest.

As in the Yukon Denali, the dashboard itself looks as if it has been lifted from a luxury sedan. The center stack is topped by GM's relatively straightforward navigation system and below that are the occasionally frustrating dual-zone ventilation controls. The fake wood is so good that you can get away with telling your passengers that it's real.

In short, the comprehensively equipped Sierra Denali offers an excellent driving environment. And the backseat is roomy enough so that if the kids can't get comfortable back there, they should have moved out of the house and signed contracts with the Denver Nuggets long ago.

But a luxury environment isn't the same thing as luxury manners. The Sierra Denali rides like the pickup truck it is, and there's significant impact harshness from the rear suspension when you drive over bumps and divots, while the steering feels numb and uninteresting.

With massive P275/55R20 Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires at each corner, there's plenty of adhesion to keep the truck balanced in the slalom even with the StabiliTrak stability control system turned off, and the truck's admirable 57.9-mph performance shows it. At the same time, the mix of low-profile tires and a heavy-duty truck suspension is always an uneasy one. This is particularly apparent on California's concrete freeways where the rear end can bounce along with the undulations to produce an agonizing harmonic that makes it impossible to have a conversation inside the cab.

Bring Your Own Bedliner

With a base price just five bucks shy of $40K and an as-tested price of $45,370, the Sierra Denali ought to come with everything and then some. After all, any truck that costs $45 grand ought to be two trucks.

But among the equipment that should be aboard, but isn't, is a bedliner of any sort, a chrome exhaust tip of some sort and a sort of opening rear window. GMC lets its dealers grab some additional profits by fitting the bedliner and exhaust tips themselves, but GM's engineers should be clever enough to engineer a sliding rear window that also includes an in-glass defroster.

Ultimately, however, the GMC Sierra Denali is a confident, muscular and yet sweet-natured luxury machine that rides and works like the pickup truck it is. It's not the only pickup truck GMC sells, but it might be the best one.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Notice what I bolded and italicized. How did the Tundra manage a .2 second quicker 0-60 with less published hp but more published weight?

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Also, GM needs this amount of attention to detail everywhere.

Posted Image

Leather-wrapped grasp on the column shifter? Last place I would have expected that.

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Notice what I bolded and italicized. How did the Tundra manage a .2 second quicker 0-60 with less published hp but more published weight?

Who knows. The Yukon Denali did 0-60 in 6.2s, and I don't know but I'm guessing it's at least as heavy as the Sierra. Depends on the tires, too.

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Also, GM needs this amount of attention to detail everywhere.

Posted Image

Leather-wrapped grasp on the column shifter? Last place I would have expected that.

Didn't the old pre-GMT-800 (99 I believe?) Escanalis have a leather wrapped knob on the shifter as well?
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Didn't the old pre-GMT-800 (99 I believe?) Escanalis have a leather wrapped knob on the shifter as well?

if i remember correctly all GMT900 SUV's have leather wrapped handle...

and all Allyson transmissions trucks did too... not sure about pre99

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My '04 Allison 2500HD LS does not have a leather-wrapped shifter.

Good thing too- not long-term cleaning-friendly in the least.

One strong possibility in the toyt vs. GMC acceleration question is gears.

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My '04 Allison 2500HD LS does not have a leather-wrapped shifter.

Good thing too- not long-term cleaning-friendly in the least.

One strong possibility in the toyt vs. GMC acceleration question is gears.

lol i totally forgot... neither does my allison...

but the 6 speeds got them...

haha my allison in the Hemtt i drive at work doesnt have a leather wrapped... anything

minus the rear axel...

post-195-1179537474_thumb.jpg

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Notice what I bolded and italicized. How did the Tundra manage a .2 second quicker 0-60 with less published hp but more published weight?

Shame on Edmonds. The Toyota has 4.10 gears, the GMC has 3.42's. They should have figured that out.

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