You can quit wondering why domestic automakers insist on building high-dollar trucks optioned up like 7-Series Bimmers. Buyers can't get enough of them.
According to GM, some 20 percent of GMC trucks roll off the lot with Denali badges, and the company says that trend isn't slowing down. The 2014 GMC Sierra
Denali takes the excellent new Sierra and adds more polish (literally and figuratively), her appointments, and the expected smattering of tech toys.
Throw in the new, optional 6.2-liter V8, and you've got a dashing workhorse.
At least, that's the notion.
What the Denali badging actually gets you is the easily identifiable bright mesh Denali grille, body color bumpers, and hefty 20-inch chrome wheels. Aside
from a polished stainless steel exhaust tip, there's little else to differentiate the Denali from the truck's less pricey siblings. Strangely, the Denali
surcharge doesn't save you from the truck's less-than-premium plastic fender flares.
Inside, the front buckets are properly comfortable, but the hides aren't quite up to snuff compared to what's available from the Ford F-150 King Ranch or
the Ram 1500 Laramie Long Horn. Both of those trucks offer buyers the kind of thick, soft leather you'd expect to find on a cigar-parlor armchair. The
Sierra Denali, meanwhile, makes due with seat covers that seem to have been robbed from Buick's pre-bankruptcy stock. To GMC's credit, the Denali forgoes
the trying-too-hard Conway Twitty barbed wire and boots motif found in the aforementioned high-buck Ford and Ram.
The instrument cluster is very well executed. The Sierra Denali gets a 4.2-inch driver-configurable display that can display a wide variety of pertinent
information. It's handy, responsive and easy to use. I wish I could say the same for the Intellilink infotainment system. While the display's
high-resolution graphics are gorgeous, response times are on the slow side, which can be unnecessarily distracting. It's light years better than the Ford's
touchscreen rig, but Ram's Uconnect system still wins the day.
The best news is hidden underhood. GM's new, optional 6.2-liter V8 engine cranks out a heady 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, and is bolted to a
six-speed automatic gearbox. Despite being two-gears short of the Ram 1500, the transmission helps the big V8 in the GMC yield an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city
and 21 mpg highway in two-wheel-drive guise. Expect those numbers to take a dip with 4WD, though.
Curiously, the the new 6.2 doesn't feel as quick as the 5.7-liter V8 in the Ram 1500 or the 5.0-liter V8 in the Ford F-150, but it's considerably more
adept at towing. I lugged nearly 6,000 pounds worth of Airstream trailer behind the 2014 Sierra Denali, and the truck had no trouble accelerating or
stopping, even up and down significant grades. Integrated trailer brake controls also help make easy work of large loads. All said, GMC claims the new
truck is good to tow up to 12,000 lbs, though it's worth noting that the figure isn't derived from the new SAE J2807 towing standards.
Regardless, the 2014 Sierra Denali is fantastic to drive. Quiet and stable, the pickup feels more planted and confident than either of its main rivals on
the road, with or without a load behind it. Its body-on-frame bones are deftly hidden beneath a veil of clever tricks like triple door seals, hydraulic
engine mounts, and a valved exhaust system. There simply isn't a quieter truck on the road.
But that's true of both the 2014 Sierra and the Chevy Silverado. Denali trim starts at $47,910 for a two-wheel drive truck; four-wheel drive sets you back
$51,060, both including a $1,095 destination fee. For perspective, a Sierra SLT Crew Cab two-wheel drive starts at $43,055, and can be kitted up with most
of the amenities found behind the big bright grille of the Denali. That raises the question, is Denali trim worth the substantial premium? I was fortunate
enough to spend a week with the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ prior to taking the helm of the Sierra Denali. Check out our sidebar to see how GMC's rock star stacks up against the Chevrolet.
There are luxury truck buyers who will be inherently turned off by the over-the-top country-western theme used in trucks like the Ram 1500 Laramie Long
Horn and Ford F-150 King Ranch. The 2014 GMC Sierra Denali goes upscale with more restraint. Roll in the substantial model-wide updates for 2014, and the
truck makes an easy argument for itself. That is, so long as you can ignore the equally capable, well-outfitted, and less expensive trucks stuffing the GM
ranks at the moment.