The Denali is the luxurious range-topping variant of GMC's Sierra 1500 pickup, which was redesigned for the latest model year. It's rougher, tougher and more powerful before, although it also possesses the posh cabin and high-tech accouterments that buyers have come to expect from Denali-branded vehicles.
For the latest model year, the GMC Sierra Denali gains an available eight-speed automatic transmission that improves performance and fuel economy. It also features magnetic ride control as well as OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in wi-fi hotspot.
Like the standard Sierra 1500, the new-generation Denali features subtle, evolutionary styling changes such as a reshaped hood, fresh taillights and oversized square fender flares. A chrome grille, 20-inch chrome wheels, stainless steel exhaust and body-color bumpers distinguish the Denali from the rest of the Sierra 1500 lineup and give it a sophisticated, upmarket look.
Beneath the exterior lies a stiffened frame, a retuned suspension and a new electric power steering system. Thanks to these revisions, the Denali possesses a better-controlled and more comfortable ride along with more predictable handling than before.
The Denali's cabin is marked by a contemporary new design and a host of premium amenities like heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system and a Bose audio system. GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system is fitted as standard; accessed through an eight-inch touchscreen in the center stack, it integrates all entertainment and navigation functions and offers access to smartphone-based apps like Pandora radio and Stitcher radio.
The system can be controlled through dashboard knobs, steering wheel buttons or the eight-inch touchscreen, and there's also a voice recognition system for hands-free calls, destination entering, song selection and more. Its "natural language" functioning can recognize a staggering number of phrases - effectively eliminating the need for the clunky and cumbersome memorized commands.
A number of key revisions ensure that the cabin is sufficiently quiet for even whispered voice commands. These include triple-sealed doors, acoustic-laminated glass, lined front wheel wheels and smaller exterior mirrors, while shear-style body mounts help to quell noise and mellow out the ride.
In order to set the Denali apart from the standard Sierra, the truck comes equipped with an exclusive eight-inch Customizable Driver Display that can show things like audio or navigation information right in the instrument cluster.
The Denali is offered with the choice of two strong V8 motors, both of which blend an old-school pushrod design with modern technologies like direct injection, variable valve timing and a cylinder deactivation system.
The entry-level mill is a 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. For power-hungry types, there's the optional, Corvette-derived 6.2-liter V8 that churns out 420 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque.
The 5.3-liter engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, while the 6.2-liter benefits from a Hydra-Matic eight-speed automatic. Both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations are available.
Fuel economy for the 5.3-liter Sierra is rated at 16/23 city/highway mpg with RWD, while 4WD variants fare one mpg worse on the open road. The 6.2-liter truck is good for 15/21 mpg with RWD and 14/20 mpg with 4WD.
Unlike the standard Sierra 1500, which is available in numerous different bed and cab combinations, the Denali is offered only as a four-door Crew Cab with a 5'8' bed.
When properly equipped, towing capacity ranges from a maximum of 11,400 lbs. with the 5.3-liter to 12,000 lbs. with the 6.2-liter.
The Denali offers a number of clever, practical touches, including steps mounted in the rear bumper that make getting into the bed a cinch, LED bed lights and an easy open/close feature allows the tailgate to be accessed using just a pair of fingers.
Standard and Optional Features
The Denali comes lavishly equipped with leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, an eight-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, a seven-speaker AM/FM/CD Bose audio system with two USB ports and an AUX input, Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM and HD radio, a rear vision camera, an eight-inch driver info screen mounted in the instrument panel, an EZ lift tailgate, LED running lights, cargo box LED lighting, power-adjustable heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, real aluminum cabin trim and 20-inch chrome wheels.
Two extra-cost packages are available. The Z71 off-road package adds specially-tuned chassis monotube Rancho shocks, hill descent control and a transfer case shield. The Driver Assist Package brings Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Assist (detailed below).
All Sierra models are equipped with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a tire pressure monitoring system and traction and stability control systems.
Several new optional safety features are also available. The Lane Departure Warning system alerts the driver should the Sierra begin to drift into an adjacent lane, and the Forward Collision Alert system provides a warning if it detects an imminent collision with a vehicle or object up ahead. Notably, warnings can be conveyed via audible alarms or, more subtly, by a vibrating driver's seat.
Potential buyers can cross-shop the Denali against luxed-up, leather-lined pickups like the Ford F-150 King Ranch and the Ram 1500 Laramie Limited.