High-styling Sierra A Posh Brute

January 19, 2019
High-styling Sierra A Posh Brute

My, how the Great American Pickup Truck has grown, both in dimensions and in luxury. The latest case in point — the completely redesigned GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab — spent a recent week parked in our driveway, perched like a handsome, massive and shiny beast, awaiting its next mission Forget for a moment that said “missions” around the Cole hacienda usually amount to little more than dropping the kids off at school, making the weekly Wegmans run or heading to work in dear old Scranton. The point is that if necessary, I could hook up a trailer of Clydesdales and go confidently on my way, knowing the Sierra has the goods where they matter. To be honest, I’m largely agnostic regarding full-size pickups. How many buyers — and there are lots of them in the U.S. market — actually need or will ever exploit the full potential of a V-8-powered heavy hauler? Is it worth the fuel bill, or the bother of finding a spot in a crowded parking lot? Certainly, it’s great to have the cargo and towing capability when needed, but is it worth the trade-off? But tastes and needs are relative, and the sales-driven evolution of the U.S. automotive industry from four-door sedans to crossovers and trucks proves that we Americans like our front cabs and open cargo beds. And, like competing models from Ford and Ram, GMC offers the new Sierra in a mix-and-match assortment of cabin sizes (regular, double cab and crew cab), bed lengths (5’9”, 6’7” and 8’), drivetrains (rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive), transmission gearings (all automatic) and engines (4.3-liter V-6, turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four, 5.3-liter V-8 and 6.2-liter V-8) that’s too long to list in this space. In addition, there are no fewer than six trim levels — base, SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4 and Denali — that are matched to particular cab/bed and engine configurations. Prices start at a budget-minded $29,600 for the regular-cab base model and soar to nearly 60 grand for an all-the-way Denali. Our test sample, a glistening-gray Crew Cab Denali AWD, impressed us with its sense of presence (the brutally handsome front fascia is almost as imposing as the old Globe storefront), its tasteful design touches (just the right amount of exterior chromed bling) and luxury-level cabin bristling with dials and buttons controlling everything from a multiangle exterior camera array to transmission and AWD settings, climate, audio, trailering, heated seats and steering wheel, and so forth. It was a little bewildering at first, but after a couple of days we got the hang of it. Our Denali’s $58,000 base price spiraled upward to $67,735 with the addition of the $5,850 Denali Ultimate Package (exterior camera array, multicolor heads-up display, forward collision alert, lane-keeping and departure sensors, power sunroof, pedestrian sensors, auto-deploy side steps and lots more), $2,495 premium for upgraded 6.2-liter engine, $395 for metallic gray paint job, and $1,495 delivery tab (there’s also a $500 Denali Package discount in there, for those keeping count). The top-of-the-line 6.2-liter V-8’s 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque feels well-mated to the 10-speed automatic transmission, and gives the Denali an amusing level of acceleration. There are four selectable driving modes — Tour, Sport, Tow and Off-Road — that control gear selections for the most suitable engine speeds; even in the default, economy-friendly Tour mode, the big Denali surges from 0-to-60 mph in a little under seven seconds, by my guesstimate. With precise and predictable handling, strong brakes and a relatively tight turn radius, the Sierra is easy to live with as a daily driver. Parking spots frequently require an extra turn of the wheel or two, but the aforementioned multiangle exterior camera array is a big help in tight quarters. The double cab feels roomy as a handball court, with plenty of passenger space both up front and in the rear bench area. It’s something of a climb to access the cabin, though, which makes the optional auto-deploying side steps very useful. Cup holders, cubbies and USB ports abound, complemented by a 120-volt outlet located in the lower center console. While I didn’t have a chance to fully try it out, the split-folding tailgate (essentially a smaller tailgate within the main gate) is a neat piece of work. Designed to keep longer items secured in the short bed, both it and the main gate easily deploy with the touch of a button. And while I didn’t put it to the acid test, the carbon-fiber truck bed handled a load of old furniture for a quick dumpster run without so much as a scratch. Properly equipped, the 6.2-liter, V-8-powered Sierra can tow up to 6 tons. 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 AWD Crew Cab Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger full-size all-wheel-drive pickup truck. Engine and transmission: 6.2-liter V-8 (420 horsepower, 460 foot-pounds torque), 10-speed automatic transmission. Base/as-tested prices: $58,000/$67,735. EPA estimates: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, 17 mpg combined. The good: Complete redesign yields a posh and powerful truck offering that looks and feels like more than an expensive Chevy; wide range of body, cab, engine and drivetrain configurations to choose from; powerful and smooth-spinning 6.2-liter V-8 hustles this big rig down the road with surprising alacrity; optional auto-deploying side-steps make access and egress a snap; quiet and comfortable ride quality for a pickup; attractive and well-appointed cabin bristling with controls and instrumentation; reasonably easy to maneuver in tight spaces thanks to multiangle exterior camera system; trick split-folding tailgate a neat addition; durable carbon-fiber cargo bed resists scratches and dings better than traditional metals. The bad: Thirsty for regular gas; array of tiny dashboard and console buttons and dials a little bewildering at first; sticky right-turn signal; premium pricing in higher trim; how many buyers will actually ever exploit the potential on tap here? Bottom line: The Great American Pickup Truck has evolved far from its proletarian roots to become an object of luxury and desire, and the newest Sierra is no exception.

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