Back in 1955, GMC introduced the Suburban pickup, a companion to the luxurious Chevy Cameo fleetside that was essentially a show truck for the streets, stoked with GM’s new small block V8 engine. It was the Cadillac of pickups. Sixty-four years later, GMC launches the redesigned 2019 Sierra Denali.
Sierra Denali embraces the look of luxury with a cliff of a chrome grille, 22” alloy wheels, power running boards, and formal chrome-ringed windowline. LEDs gleam from the headlamps, running lights, foglamps, and taillights. Out back, the new Multi Pro tailgate features a “tailgate within a tailgate” that separates to form a step for hopping into the bed or a comfortable footrest for tailgating. Much of the inner structure of the Sierra’s bed is crafted from carbon fiber to reduce weight.
The concept of luxury in pickups has changed dramatically over the decades. Two-tone paint, radio, and air-conditioning would have challenged Cadillac in the ‘50s, but today’s GMC aims much higher. Climb inside where you’ll be pampered with sweet-smelling leather seats – heated/cooled in front, heated in rear – that face a dash and console with real aluminum and wood. Dual-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, Bose audio, and household outlet are but a start.
Embedded in the center of the industrial looking control stack is an easy-to-use swipescreen with icons for audio, phone, navigation, and climate. Phones connect via Bluetooth or USBs and are wirelessly charged in the front console. There’s also 4G Wi-Fi if you want to use your tablet or laptop on the go. A wide-view color head-up display shows speed, speed limits, navigation, and safety systems.
And, speaking of, safety is top-flight given forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, low-speed auto brake, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection systems. Select multiple views for the rearview camera that focus directly behind, 360-degrees from above, or trailer hitch for backing.
Upscale truck buyers in the 1950s could choose the 155 horsepower Pontiac-derived V8, connected to a four-speed Hydra-matic transmission, but the Denali packs a 6.2-liter V8 delivering 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. It routes all of that power to the electronic four-wheel-drive system through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Auto stop/start, which pauses the engine at rest, and variable displacement, which shuts down cylinders under lighter loads, contributes to fuel economy ratings of 15/20-MPG city/highway. You’ll get less pulling up to 9,300 lbs.
Driving the big truck involves far more than an amply smooth powertrain. Continuously adjusting adaptive suspension control can be adjusted, along with the throttle, for drive modes ranging from comfortable Touring to more aggressive Sport. Off-road mode configures the suspension and powertrain for, well, off-roading. The big truck just floats along on the highway, or hauls through the rough, while retaining the ability to plunge down curvy mountain roads.
GMC maintains its role in offering luxury pickups. From glitzy style to comfy cabins, advanced infotainment, cutting-edge safety, and smooth performance, the 2019 Sierra Denali is a sweet way to roll – provided you can afford a base price of $54,700 or $67,735 as-tested. GM fans will appreciate it’s built in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Competitors include the Ford F-150 Platinum, Ram Laramie Long Horn, Chevy Silverado High Country, and Toyota Tundra Platinum.
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2019 GMC Sierra Denali
Five-passenger, 4WD Pickup
Powertrain: 6.2-literV8, 10-spd auto trans
Output: 420hp/460 lb.-ft. torque
Towing: 9,300 lbs
Suspension f/r: Ind/Solid axle
Wheels f/r: 22”/22” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Luxury, Performance
Fuel economy: 15/20 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Fort Wayne, IN
Base/As-tested price: $54,700/$67,735