Review: 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

The Denali nameplate has become synonymous with luxury. Every model in GMC’s lineup has this top Denali trim. It’s no surprise then that the all-new 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 was first introduced in its Denali trim before any other trim. But can a pickup truck be both a workhorse and a luxury vehicle?


Engine – There are a total of 5 engines to choose from but the Sierra 1500 Denali is only available with 3 of them. A 5.3L V8, a new 3.0L turbo-diesel, and a 6.2L V8 as equipped in this test truck. It’s essentially the same as the 6.2L V8 that was in the previous generation Sierra 1500 but with a change to the fuel management system. It uses Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) to actively shut off a varying amount of cylinders during light throttle applications. So it can run on as little as 2 cylinders to save as much fuel as possible.

As a result the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali can return up to 11.9 L/100km (19.8 mpg) of fuel efficiency on a highway. Officially. But unofficially, I did a quick highway only test and saw the numbers dip to as low as 9.7 L/100km (24.2 mpg). Impressive numbers for such a big truck with a big engine. In the city it’s more truck-like with 15.5 L/100km (15.2 mpg) of fuel efficiency.

Power remains the same as the previous generation with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. As equipped, it can tow up to 4,200 kg (9,300 lbs) but if you need more towing capability, drop down to the SLT trim with the same 6.2L V8 in double cab configuration and the maximum towing numbers climb to 5,500 kg (12,200 lbs).

Transmission – A new 10-speed automatic transmission gets mated to the 6.2L V8. It is smooth between gear changes and so long as you let the computer decide when to shift, it is quick as well.

Braking – The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 is available with front Brembo 6-piston calipers and massive 16.1-inch discs for $4,950 CAD. But this test vehicle unfortunately was not equipped with the Brembo option and instead has standard 4-piston fixed calipers up front. But even with the standard brakes, the Sierra Denali stops fairly quickly for a full-size truck. Forward collision alert & low speed automatic braking are available as part of the Driver Alert Package.

Handling – The new generation Sierra Denali is about 160 kg (360 lbs) lighter than the older model thanks to a redesigned frame, which is also stronger, and use of aluminum in the doors and bed. Paired with the new 10-speed automatic, the Sierra 1500 feels more agile than its predecessor. By no means is this a “sports truck” but it is more responsive when taking off from a stop or going around a corner.

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Ride Comfort – With the standard Adaptive Ride Control on the Denali, the ride comfort is relatively smooth but not perfect. Over bigger bumps, the suspension absorbs them quite easily but smaller bumps make the suspension feel firm. I’m sure the optional 22” wheels with their lower profile tires didn’t help either.

Interior Space – The crew cab configuration is larger than before by almost 3-inches and majority of the increased size can be seen in the back seats. I am 6’4” and yet I feel like a small child in the vastness of the back seats. The front seats offer just as much accommodation as the back. They are plush and have a wide range of positions for both tall and short drivers.

Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The cabin is fairly well insulated from outside noises. Some wind noise does intrude at highway speeds and the V8 soundtrack is almost like a soothing background noise… at least to us gearheads it is.

Interior Design – The interior sees a refreshed design but it’s not as radical as one would expect. If anything, it looks a bit bland. The new Ram 1500 set the bar very high with the tablet style infotainment screen which makes the 8” unit in the Sierra look microscopic. But I did get a chance to play around with the Ram’s touchscreen at the 2019 Vancouver Auto Show and while it is impressive to look at, it is also very distracting. Not something that you want while driving which is why the GMC Sierra has physical buttons to make it easy to change different settings like the climate temperature or seat heating/ventilation.

The materials used throughout the cabin are, for the most part, soft to the touch but they look a bit on the cheap side. Also I’m personally a big fan of the Dark Walnut coloured leather.


Odds and Ends

Gadgets – Compared with the competition from Ford and Ram, the GMC Sierra Denali is available with the same features. Surroundview cameras, heating and ventilating seats, a massive 15” head-up display, rearview mirror camera, blind spot sensors, lane keeping aid, and so on. The only thing that it does not have and some wish that it did, is a panoramic sunroof.

But when it comes to gadgets to show off to your friends, the 6-way MultiPro tailgate will amaze everyone. It can be a normal tailgate, a step into the bed, a work bench, a bed extender, and a dual level bed support. This really is the Swiss Army knife of tailgates. Just don’t open the inner part while towing something because it will hit the trailer hitch.

Exterior Design – Like its Silverado brother, the exterior of the Sierra is more of an evolution rather than a revolution of its previous generation design. The Denali trim adds LED headlights with C-shaped daytime running lights, unique Denali grille with chrome surround, power running boards, and dual exhaust. The rear bumper retains the corner steps but are now bigger. Overall exterior dimensions have increased in width, height, and length and which somewhat makes the new Sierra 1500 look more like a 2500 or 3500 truck. Overall it’s a handsome truck but if you don’t like the looks, there’s always the Silverado.


So can a pickup be both a work truck and a luxury vehicle? It’s a good attempt from GMC but it falls a bit short on the luxury side of things. The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 is a great truck but I don’t think that the Denali trim is worth the almost $80,000 CAD price. Opt for the SLT trim. You get the same 6.2L V8 and 10-speed auto, nearly all of the same equipment including the MultiPro tailgate, and you save about $9,000 CAD.

Thank you to GMC Canada for providing the vehicle.

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