It’s longer, wider and packed with way more technology than ever before — but is the new 2019 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Package that much better than the previous generation? Considering it’s named after the highest peak in North America and may cause similar symptoms to oxygen deprivation upon viewing its $67,540 window sticker, it had better be good. And while the new Sierra Denali certainly impresses, there weren’t many dramatic risks taken with this redesign.
It’s like General Motors is an old rock band that only plays their greatest hits — which, in many ways, is smart. Despite being fancily named the Ecotec3, the 6.2-liter V8 in the Sierra Denali is the dinosaur of the bunch, with its traditional V8 putting out the same 420 horsepower as in the previous generation. Meanwhile, the Ford F-150 has made more power for years with its twin-turbo ecoboost V6 — and even Ram has transformed its Hemi into a mild hybrid. Aside from some upgrades to their cylinder deactivation technology, General Motors seems determined to keep playing AC/DC’s "Thunderstruck" forever — but the thing is, truck buyers love "Thunderstruck." Many are still leery of hybrid systems and V6 engines.
These same owners almost never utilize their luxury trucks to their full capability — but big numbers in horsepower and towing still matters to them. While the Sierra Denali certainly delivers, with 420 hp and 7,100 pounds of towing capacity, those numbers match the previous model. Mechanically, the only major upgrade is the 10-speed transmission, along with the wider and longer proportions. Despite the size upgrade, the new Sierra actually weighs slightly less than its predecessor — but one thing that’s grown dramatically is the price tag.
Compared to my 2017 Sierra Denali Ultimate package, the base price of a 2019 Denali is $2,345 more. The cost of the Ultimate package on the 2019 is actually less than in my 2017 — but that’s because they unbundled the 6.2-liter V8, making it a standalone option. After deducting the engine cost, the Ultimate package is actually $900 more expensive than the 2017, making the sticker price of a new Denali over $3,000 more than the previous generation. That may seem like a dramatic jump — but there’s certainly enough upgrades to the Denali package to justify it.
Of course, the latest gadget that everybody is talking about — which comes standard with the Denali — is the crazy multi-pro tailgate system. This electric tailgate within a tailgate has several different configurations to make loading and hauling cargo much easier, but I have a hard time believing this system will prove reliable long-term if the truck is actually put to work. Still, it shouldn’t be hard to replace the tailgate with a standard one should it accidentally transform into an accordion.
Parked next to my old Sierra Denali, the 2019 does look larger — and I really like what GMC did with the styling. My only gripe is the fender badge to show off the larger engine size, but, overall, the truck is way more interesting to look at. The interior was nicely upgraded, too, with better textured leather and higher quality buttons and knobs, but the biggest gains with the new Sierra Denali are the technology.
The main gripe I have with my 2017 is the lack of features that are standard with GMC’s full-size SUV, the Yukon Denali. Until now, the Sierra was never offered with a keyless access system — a feature that’s been standard in the Toyota Prius for 15 years. My 2017 also lacks some fun items found in the Yukon, like a heads up display system, as well as some important bits like air conditioning vents for the rear passengers. All of those complaints are gone with the 2019 Denali — and, finally, there’s some technology found inside that’s actually impressive.
While the instrument cluster and infotainment system in my 2017 doesn’t look much different from the Denali of 10 years ago, this new system in 2019 finally joins the modern era — with my favorite bit being the camera system. The new Sierra Denali now has a camera on every side, giving a bunch of different camera angles available to help you navigate this giant truck around tight spaces. Just like my old truck, the proximity sensors still beep and vibrate the seat when you’re about to hit something — but with this camera system, the booty shakers are no longer necessary. The entire rearview mirror is also an LCD screen showing a live image from the tailgate mounted camera.
The new Denali is supposed to have a smoother ride than its predecessor, but I couldn’t tell the difference. The 10-speed transmission does feel smoother — but hard acceleration felt about the same, even when I adjusted the unmarked dial above the transfer case knob to "Sport" mode.
I’ll be curious to see how heavy the discounts are with this 2019, as it didn’t take much work with the previous generation to get $10,000 off the sticker price — but clearly there are enough improvements that demand should be pretty high. Since I’ve only had my Sierra Denali for a year, I’m not going to upgrade yet — and, plus, there are hints of more autonomous driving systems being rolled out in the next few years. If this Sierra Denali gets a system similar to the Super Cruise system that’s offered in the Cadillac CT6, my name would be on an order sheet pretty quickly.