Road Test: 2019 GMC Sierra Denali

GMC has taken its most popular pickup truck, the Sierra Denali, to the next level with a complete redesign for 2019. Distinguished by bold design and innovative technologies, the 2019 Sierra Denali redefines the premium pickup, while advancing Denali’s legacy as the pinnacle of GMC design, capability and refinement.

Powerful proportions and distinctive Denali design help define the Sierra’s unmistakable exterior, while the driver-focused cabin strengthens the brand’s reputation for refinement with premium materials, improved interior space and innovative storage solutions.

Sierra Denali debuts a new GMC design. A taller, more confident stance gives Sierra Denali powerful proportions complemented by hallmark details like the chrome grille with a sharp, precise dimensional pattern that epitomizes the truck’s attention to detail. Refinement and strength appear through a larger, more-dominant upright grille, a taller hood, and a bolder, more pronounced take on GMC’s C-shaped lighting signature.

Advanced lighting technology distinguishes the Sierra Denali from every other truck on the road. GMC’s front lighting signature is conveyed through a prominent “light blade” that delivers uniform LED illumination for the daytime running lamps. LEDs are also used for the headlamps, taillamps, fog lamps and other illuminative elements, with lenses constructed from durable polycarbonate with an almost crystalline quality.

The 2019 Sierra Denali is larger than the previous Sierra Denali in virtually every dimension, and the larger grille and dramatic lighting accentuate its broad-shouldered stance. The wheels are pushed closer to the corners and wear larger diameter tires. Our Denali wore 22-inch rubber on Ultra Bright aluminum wheels.

New, more prominent badging includes a bold DENALI nameplate on the tailgate —expressed in a new block-style typeface that echoes the truck’s strong proportions.

Inside, the Sierra Denali’s interior builds on the refinement and sophistication that have become synonymous with Denali, with an incredible amount of room all around and a driver-centric environment finished with premium materials.

A higher seating position offers a confident view behind the wheel and all the ergonomics mean every switch and button related to the trucks technologies is easily accessible. The Head-Up Display (HUD), the first of any pickup, is the best we’ve ever seen in a vehicle. The font and symbols are sharp, sized right, and fits the truck perfectly.

The front seats are incredibly comfortable, even after a 7-hour drive from Western NY to Northern NJ, with leather seats, authentic open-pore wood trim all around, and dark-finish aluminum decor. Several storage cubbies, a massive center console storage area, dual glove boxes, and wireless phone charging all make the interior very practical.

When it comes to the space and storage, our crew cab has nearly 3 inches of additional rear-seat legroom compared to the old model. The outboard rear seat backs open to reveal rectangular storage spaces large enough for storing tablets or laptops, tie-down cords, umbrellas, and more.

Where the Sierra Denali is truly tested is capability. The 2019 Sierra debuts a GMC-exclusive MultiPro Tailgate that is the most innovative tailgate ever. It features six unique functions and positions, offering enhanced second-tier loading and load-stop solutions, a standing workstation mode and easier access to items in the box.

The MultiPro Tailgate incorporates a step entry and egress mode that, when paired with the assist handle, offers both step and seated functionality, with a maximum weight capacity of 375 pounds. Ease of use is enhanced with two buttons on the tailgate handle that allow convenient inner gate release.

According to GM, the tailgate has gone through more testing and validation than any tailgate in GM’s history. That helps build confidence in anyone who questions the long-term durability of this innovation.

The cargo boxes also offer best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cubic feet on the short box, with tie-downs and a new 110-volt power outlet. The bed continues to be made of roll-formed, high-strength steel, yet a revised alloy offers 50 percent more strength than the previous model.

Later in the model year, a carbon fiber box called CarbonPro will be available, and was developed to increase durability, efficiency and functionality of the truck. It replaces the standard steel inner panels and floor with a lightweight, purpose-designed carbon fiber composite that offers the highest level of dent, scratch and corrosion resistance.

The new CarbonPro box is 62 pounds lighter than the steel version. The strategy to reduce weight also translates to aluminum for the doors, hood and tailgate, while relying on steel for the fenders, roof and standard cargo box to shave up to 360 pounds over the old Sierra.

Tow regularly? Like to use apps? Well, app lovers can rejoice as there’s now an app for that. The 2019 Sierra offers a more confident towing experience thanks to GMC’s new ProGrade Trailering System that includes a Trailering App featuring a Pre-Departure checklist, Maintenance Reminders, Trailer Light Test, Trailer Electrical Diagnostics and Trailer Tire Pressure and Temperature Monitoring.

Many of the Trailering App’s functions, including the lighting test and pre-departure checklist, are also available with the MyGMC app on compatible Android and iOS smartphones, a feature that offers great convenience when outside the truck or trailer.

Sierra also offers Hitch Guidance with Hitch View and auto Electric Park Brake to help with perfect positioning when hitching. The side view cameras and a trailer-mounted HD camera provide additional assistance when driving down the road or in reverse. And with Trailer Theft Detection, Sierra owners can receive text and mobile alerts from OnStar when the trailer has been detached from the truck without permission.

The 8″ infotainment system is far superior to the system it replaces, with an intuitive interface, faster response and improved voice recognition. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are ready to roll and worked well in our experience.

The rearview mirror is another innovation that really pays off when used for backing up with a trailer. The dual-function mirror offers an optimized camera view with a greater field of vision. This is the next gen system with a higher resolution camera, a higher resolution display and the ability to tilt or zoom the view. Those wanting to stay old-school can keep it switched off and retain the conventional mirror view.

Surround Vision is highly necessary for a bird’s-eye view of the truck, and the parking sensors in the front and rear give a quantitative indicator of how close something is to the truck.

Our tester came with Side Blind Zone Alert, Pedestrian Detection and Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, but we’re surprised that adaptive cruise didn’t make it to the new truck. Expect it for 2020.

Lastly, the engineering team was hard at work under the hood of the new Sierra Denali too. A new version of the 6.2L V-8 engine features stop/start technology and new Dynamic Fuel Management that enables the engine to operate on two to eight cylinders, depending on demand, to optimize power and efficiency.

The 10-speed automatic is buttery smooth and acceleration feels effortless, churning out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg city, 20 highway, 17 combined, and we averaged 20 in mixed driving.

Those who do a lot of highway driving will benefit from the 3.0L inline-six turbo-diesel engine coming later in 2019. The new diesel builds on GMC’s expertise with Duramax turbo-diesels offered in Sierra HD and Canyon models.

Sierra Denali features an exclusive Adaptive Ride Control suspension system using sophisticated sensors to monitor road conditions and chassis responses in real time, enabling adjustments to active dampers every 2 milliseconds. The result was a very car-like ride that felt stable, supportive, comfortable, and wonderful on the highway.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 9
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 9
Noise 9
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 9
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 9
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 8
Total Score 91

Make: GMC
Model: Sierra
Trim Level: Denali
Engine: 6.2L V8
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Options: Denali Ultimate Pkg, 6.2L Engine, Dark Sky paint

Base Price: $58,000
As-Tested Price: $67,735

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