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2014 GMC Sierra Denali: First Drive Review

GMC invited us to Austin, Texas, for some quality time behind the wheel of the new 2014 GMC Sierra Denali. Not only is this truck more powerful than before, it’s a lot more comfortable, too.


The Sierra Denali is a bold truck. Everything from the oversized grill and LED headlamps to the chrome 20-inch wheels screams Denali. The Denali’s exterior has the same sharp lines as its Silverado cousin, but the chrome accents, painted bumpers and Denali-branded wheels can’t be missed. The differences between the Silverado and Denali are even more prevalent once you open the driver’s door. You’re immediately greeted by Denali-branded strike plates, headrests and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, not to mention a rich leather interior. The color touchscreen navigation is the same as the unit you’ll find in the Silverado, and the voice commands were still unusable.

One of the most exciting changes for the Sierra Denali comes in the form of an oversized integrated driver information system. Having such a large display between the speedometer and tachometer really came in handy when towing or looking for vehicle information while on the road. The charging options are abundant, with multiple USB and 110-v connections located in the center console. It’s clear from early on that technology was as much of a focus for the Sierra Denali as performance and appearance.

Initial Observations

We tested the truck on a healthy mix of curvy, country roads on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. We also tested it with a 1,200-lb payload in the bed and towing a 7,200-lb RV. GMC offers its 5.3-liter V8 as the entry V8, but the new 6.2-liter V8 offers the largest power package any GMC truck has ever received. The miles per gallon numbers haven’t been released, but we saw a max of 17 miles per gallon city/24 mpg hwy.

With the larger powerplant, we expected the front end to feel slightly heavier, or even sluggish, when confronting the ever-winding hill country of Texas. The Sierra felt planted, surefooted and flat through all the switchbacks and uneven roads. Body roll was minimal, and the chassis rode exceptionally well for a truck in this class. One of the most noticeable improvements for the Denali over its Chevy brethren comes in the form of peace and quiet. The Denali has to be one of the best-insulated vehicles on the road, and it’s only when you push the 6.2-liter V8 that you remember you’re not inside of a high-end luxury car. Braking was firm and on point, and the Sierra Denali handled more like a car than a truck on the windy roads.


We drove the Sierra Denali with the EcoTec3 6.2 V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft. It has the Hydra-Matic 6-speed Automatic Transmission. With 460 lb-ft of torque, the Sierra Denali was built to tow, and we were pleasantly surprised with what we saw. The rearview camera made backing up to a trailer extremely easy, and the 4- and 8-pin connector options built into the bumper were a welcome sight as we switched between trailers.

Towing Capacity: 9,500 pounds

Max Payload: 1,805

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 7,200

Regardless of the payload size, the truck never struggled to accelerate, stop or maneuver under speed. All of this is a true testament to the Denali’s refined chassis. Even when under heavy braking, the suspension stayed planted, and the 20-in tires had more than enough grip to slow a 7,200-lb RV. We did notice the transmission was inconsistent when we used Tow/Haul mode with varying throttle inputs over an extended period. It would have been nice to feel firmer shift points when we were really putting the truck to the test.

AutoTrader Says

The 2014 GMC Sierra Denali leaves little to be desired in a half-ton truck. With integrated technology, a supple leather interior and more power than ever before, it’s tough to go wrong. If you’re looking for a truck that’s big on both comfort and power, the Sierra Denali may be just right for you.


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