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Quick Drive: 2015 GMC Sierra Denali 1500


William Maley

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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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      Running Boards - $345.00
      Cargo Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $269.00
      Door Edge Guard - $79.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Land Cruiser
      Trim: Heritage Edition
      Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve VVT-i V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/17/14
      Curb Weight: 5,715 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $87,645
      As Tested Price: $89,239 (Includes $1,295.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Glass Breakage Sensor - $299.00
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