I recently had the chance to drive a 2019 GMC Sierra Denali, which is a full-size pickup truck that costs up to $70,000 when fully equipped. Yes, that’s right: You can now get a full-size, light-duty truck for seventy grand. And not just any truck, but the Denali — the king of the luxury truck segment.
A little history to back up that claim: Back in the 1990s, when pickup trucks were still just heavy-duty haulers, GMC came out with a luxury truck it called the "Sierra C3." The following year, they switched to Denali, and a brand was born — and now "Denali" is probably just as well-known as GMC itself.
This latest Sierra Denali has been fully redesigned, and the update couldn’t come at a better time, as the pickup is now taking on brand-new rivals like the new Ram 1500 and the Nissan Titan, along with sister brand Chevrolet’s new Silverado. The Denali has several new features, and it uses a muscular 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque that provides it with strong, brawny power — both for passing and for towing or hauling.
So what’s it like? On the road, it’s like a nice luxury truck, with soft leather upholstery and an excellent ride. Steering is vague, but that’s sort of the point of a truck like this; light steering actually contributes to an overall atmosphere of relaxed luxury. And so does the rest of the pickup, with features everywhere and a big V8 ready to move the truck quickly at your command — or, alternatively, ready to cruise along in utter relaxation at highway speeds.
With that said, I do find the Sierra Denali’s interior to have a few drawbacks — most notably in terms of quality. This truck has every last feature I could ever want, but the interior in the new 2019 Ram Limited simply look nicer, with better stitching and leather and detail work — along with a massively larger screen. The Sierra Denali has a little more plastic than I would expect on the inside, and not quite enough leather and high-end trimmings.
Then again, this is the reigning king — and people will surely flock to it for the name alone. And it’s not just the name: The Sierra Denali also has amazing equipment levels, including ventilated seats, a big sunroof and just about every single modern piece of safety equipment you could ask for. There’s also a huge head-up display, a multi-color screen in the gauge cluster and more.
And then there’s the tailgate. The tailgate has been a big selling point for the new Sierra, largely because it’s sort of a Swiss Army Knife of tailgates, giving you the ability to use it as a step ladder, load in bulky cargo that wouldn’t fit in the bed otherwise and more. Ford invented the configurable tailgate with the latest F-150, but General Motors has taken it much further with the new Sierra Denali — and perfected it. For people who actually use their trucks for a lot of hauling in the bed, the tailgate will be a life saver.
As for the styling, I happen to think the new Sierra is handsome, with gorgeous lines. While its styling may seem a bit old-fashioned, it takes fewer risks than its Chevy Silverado rival, and I think shoppers will generally appreciate that. The Denali looks especially nice, with chrome trim all over the exterior and large chrome wheels — though I wouldn’t want to be hit by its massive front end, with a near-90-degree grille and hood design, as a pedestrian. Needless to say, I suspect this truck wouldn’t pass European "pedestrian safety" regulations.
Overall, the Sierra Denali is everything it’s always been — a handsome, well-equipped truck with lots of features and lots of power. It’s a continuation of the luxury truck that we’ve all come to know, and it does its job as it always has. The problem is that the luxury truck world is getting a bit more crowded, and the Sierra Denali doesn’t quite stand out like it once did — and I’d love to see a slightly nicer interior to adequately go toe-to-toe with rivals. Still, this is a great truck, and it easily deserves a place on your luxury pickup shopping list.