GMC Sierra Denali: All you need to know
An all-new GMC Sierra Denali is headed our way with groundbreaking utility-based innovations
Full-size pickup trucks are proper workhorses in North America where they outsell mid-size sedans like the Camry and the Accord. In the Middle East, however, the story is a little different. These house-size wheeled vehicles are used mostly to impose one's presence on the roads. So when GMC called me to check out their all-new 2019 GMC Sierra, I puffed my chest, ready to strut my stuff. Then, I was told the drive event was far, far away in the beautiful countryside of Newfoundland, Canada. It was bit of a surprise, but it also granted me the opportunity to see what these big rigs were capable of. So I swapped my shoes for a pair of boots and delivered myself to GMC hospitality set up halfway across the globe.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
First off, no matter what GM wants you to believe, this is the twin of the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado. But that doesn't mean this twin doesn't have an edge. Secondly, these full-size trucks are huge. With the crew cab and a 6-ft 6-inch box, it has a footprint of about 136 sq ft - which is about twice the size of some hotel rooms and that of Eva Longoria's walk-in wardrobe, apparently.
The 2018 model was a looker and had enough winning machismo to carry forward a couple more years. But change was necessary, GM boffins felt. The new one, dare I say, is sportier. Up front, there's a massive chrome grille with floating elements that creates enough reflection to send out a 'Bat Signal' to call on the Dark Knight. The new Sierra has beveled edges incorporated into the grille and they show up at various other details too - including the new GMC and Denali insignia. The headlights, though, seem to take after the rival F-150 outlined by C-shaped LED DRLs.
The boxy silhouette remains, but the bodywork has been rejigged. The wheel arches protrude less, but have a distinct look, thanks to the squared-off wheel wells, with those beveled edges again. They've not forgotten to splash plenty of chrome all over those massive 22-inch wheels - upgradable from a 20-inch variety. In isolation, the gorgeous design looks like it's come off a Transformers alien bot.
The rear end is much the same, except for the light detailing and the addition of the dual faux chrome rectangular exhaust tips. But there is plenty of tech to uncover here. The most obvious change is the conventional handle and lock which has been replaced by buttons that electrically operate the new innovative MultiPro tail gate. It's got an electronically controllable stepped configuration with a 170kg load capacity on the lower end, allowing for easy climbs. It also comes with a damped opening, an assist handle that can be popped out to help while climbing on or off, and a highly-durable carbon composite box.
Scaling the heights to the cabin is made easy thanks to the runner board that pops out automatically, quicker than you can open the door. You enter a revised cabin, but without drastic changes. On the inside, it has more space than a luxury full-size sedan can ever afford - the S-class included. The seats are clad in large-pebbled grain leather, but the dual-tone mix of brown and grey are of similar shades and don't do the Denali any favours. While the cushioning wasn't the softest, especially for the bottom half, the slight discomfort we felt after a 1.5 hour drive was only as much as when I got in. The rear cabin is cavernous as ever.
Some of the soft leather surfaces and contrast stitching made it to the dashboard as well, which helps elevate the Sierra from pickup truck banality to a luxury vehicle feel. Plus, you have dark-finish aluminum and open-pore wood trim accents inspired by modern handcrafted furniture that add to the premium look the Denali deserves. The instrument layout has been retained with two analogue gauges separated by a colour customisable screen - all readable and colourful. The four-spoke steering has some sophisticated styling and its spokes have been developed to cater to a variety of hand positions, including the lazy grab which truckers use over long journeys with just a single hand at the bottom.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Motivation comes from large displacement engines as expected. Currently, the range starts with a 5.3-litre V8, which makes 355bhp and 519Nm. This should suffice for show boating priorities. But in case you need to really get work done, with the available Max Trailering Package on the optional 6.2-litre V8, you can tow up to 5,670 kg! At 5,600 rpm, it makes a commendable 420bhp and at 4,100, it delivers 623Nm of twist to help pull your load with ease. For 2019, the top trim also gets 10-speed automatic, co-developed with Ford.
You can certainly use it as a true-blue luxury vehicle. The cabin is well insulated from the chatter of the city, but there was some tyre noise creeping in. Perhaps GMC could consider the use of double-pane glass in the front windows at least. The ride, thanks to its aptly soft-sprung suspension and long wheelbase, creates a certain waftability over most road surfaces. It does get marginally choppy at times, especially when the box isn't loaded, but it's nothing that will spill your beverage.
New for 2019 is the HD-like projection of the rear view on the main mirror for better vision at the back and a 3x7-inch multi-colour HUD, which displays navigation outputs, speed etc in a clear and livid manner without interrupting your vision upfront. In our short stint, it did between 11 and 15L/100km, which is rather frugal. Some of it can be credited to the ability of the new V8 to run on just two cylinders. The best part is that the transition between the modes is almost seamless.
But for all the dirty work, one should opt for the new AT4: it has a factory-installed 2-inch suspension lift for better clearance and approach departure angles. It also comes with a 2-speed transfer case, Monotube Rancho shocks, locking rear differential etc, and a go-anywhere look and attitude.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Even with the short box, the Sierra offers best-in-class cargo volume of 1,781 litres. It has grooves incorporated into the surface to help fit dirt bikes or standard size planks easily.
Last generation's models had a whole suite of safety features like forward distance indicator, collision alert, front and rear sensors, lane keep alert and assist, and many more. Now, they have added rear cross traffic alert, front pedestrian braking and lane change alert with side blind zone alert to the new 2019 model.
The all-new in-vehicle app - one of the highlights of the 2019 model - helps ease the process of trailering during hitching and setup and while on the road. The incorporated custom profiles help keep tabs on type of trailer, mileage, tyre pressure and maintenance. The pre-departure checklist is a useful illustrated guide too. But the best parts are the trailer lighting sequence that confirms the connection without assistance from a second person and the trailer theft detection that triggers the lights and horn if someone disconnects your trailer from the truck. It even informs you by SMS or email, depending on how you set it up.
While full-size pickup trucks still serve as vehicles to strut your stuff, we have to state that for the functional purposes it was built for, the all-new 2019 GMC Sierra Denali is a remarkable machine. It's got a great-looking exterior, punctuated with bold American styling and all that chrome to go with. It has the space and amenities to serve a family, and a proper cargo box at the rear that will engulf anything you can throw into it - plus all the power to haul it. The trailering app and the innovative MultiPro tailgate make trucker tasks easy-peasy.