2014 GMC Sierra Denali pickup to be tow monster with finesse

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The truck media grumbled for months (me included) as GMC dribbled out details on the 2014 Sierra Denali, scheduled to arrive in dealerships this fall.  Nonetheless, when you spoke with a GMC person there was more than a hint of a smile whenever the subject of the new truck came up.

GMC Sierra Denali in big-bucks Santa Barbara rather than big-trucks Texas

Now we are getting a far bigger view of the Sierra and its capabilities as the vehicles are being rolled out.  I have not had a chance to drive the GMC, but have driven its GM stablemate, the 2014 Silverado. Early this month. GMC did a launch event in, of course, California — towing and camping in Airstreams and putting the vehicles through their paces. I also don’t know of any other truck writers from Texas who were invited so, perhaps, GMC should be reminded that one-in-five trucks in the US are sold in Texas, and most of us tow.  We select the highly-desirable Truck of Texas in the fall and the more seat time we have in their vehicles, the more we have to evaluate.  Maybe they have a comparable program in mind for us Texans, as the truck is launched; we can only hope.

2014 GMC Sierra Denali with upgraded exterior

That said, I do like what I have seen thus far.  When this great looking luxury truck hits dealerships, the SLT model Sierra will offer the option of a 6.2L EcoTec3 V-8 with 420-horsepower and 450-lb.-ft. of torque.  Tow capacity is expected to have a class-leading 12,000-lbs., and there are good numbers thus far on the other engines available.  Other 6.2L numbers from GM give horsepower of 403 with 417 lb.-ft. of torque and tow capacity of 9,400 lbs. so I suspect this latest round of stats is for the 6.2L with the max tow package that is offered as an option.

Here in Texas, we live, work and play in trailer country, and anything that can differentiate one truck from another gets our attention.  Tony DiSalle, VP of GMC marketing agrees, noting that trailering is a fundamental capability that customers invest in and depend on when they purchase a truck.

Upgraded new interior looks like a winner

Coming later this year, the 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8 produces 355hp with an EPA-estimated fuel economy (23 mpg on the 2WD models) than any other V-8 or turbocharged pickup out there.  In testing, the new 4.3L is said to top standard V-6 torque.  For those who might need a refresher or aren’t sure how it affects a vehicle, torque is the turning force that generates acceleration from a stop as well as good trailering performance.  If you are going to trailer, it is as important as tow capacity.

The new V-6 on the Sierra is boasting trailer numbers of 7,200 lbs. for the regular cab, short bed, 4-WD model (wonder what numbers on the crew cab are?), 500-lbs. better than the F-150 3.7L and 700-lbs. more than the Ram 1500 3.6L.  I must say that I am always cynical about tow numbers no matter who makes the truck — they suffer from the same problem that mpg had prior to standardized testing for all brands.  Every manufacturer has their own tests and they do their utmost to squeak out a pound or two extra for bragging rights.  If you are so close in weight that even 700-lbs. more capacity makes your buying decision, then you need to go to the next engine up the chain. (After all, you might win the lottery and get that bigger boat next year.)

Back to the Sierra Denali: GMC pickups are the #4 stalwart in the marketplace today behind market leader Ford F-Series, Silverado (which also got a redesign for 2014) and RAM which has been fully redesigned over the last couple of years and now boasts a diesel version for 2014.  About one-fifth of GMC truck buyers opted for Denali editions in 2012.  In Texas, these numbers also hold true.

On the exterior, there has been terrific progress without sacrificing GMC DNA; the truck has an exclusive Denali chrome grille, 20-inch chrome wheels, polished stainless steel exhaust outlet and body-color front and rear bumpers.  There are also projector-style headlamps with LED daytime running lights.

Also dramatically upgraded, the interior, this Denali will compete with any luxury pickup out there in the marketplace.  All materials have been improved.  Fit and Finish is measurably better.  Design details include first-class interior trim.  Much attention has been given to badging, with script lettering on the real aluminum door sills and embossed into the seat backs in the first row.  Heated and cooled leather front bucket seats and heated steering wheel, front and rear park assist, and a power sliding rear window with defogger are park of the package.

For the tech savvy and not so savvy there is an exclusive 8-inch customizable driver display which shows relevant settings, audio and navigation information on the instrument panel.  A standard 8-inch Color Touch infotainment system with Intellilink is located avobe the center console is the primary hub for Bluetooth-connections through five standard USB ports. ( I had a chance to sample this screen placement at the first drive for the Silverado and was impressed at the difference it makes.  I expect the Denali to equal the experience.)

There will be two available option packages, a Z71 off-road package for 4WD vehicles only, with monotube Rancho shocks, Hill Descent Control and transfer case shield, and a driver alert package that includes Lake Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and patented buzz-your-butt Safety Alert Seat Technology.

There is also an optional Max Trailering Package available for the 6.2L on both 2WD and 4WD models, with crew cab or double cab.  It includes:

  • Trailering package with seven-pin and four-pin connector
  • Enhanced cooling
  • Automatic locking rear differential
  • Heavy-duty 9.75″ rear axle wit 3.73 ratio
  • Increased-capacity rear leaf springs
  • Revised shock tuning for increased control
  • Integrated trailer brake control

So if like Richard Dryfuss (as Hooper)  in Jaws, you are thinking, “…I think we’re going to need a bigger boat”, then this might just be the vehicle for you.

You know that my policy is to never drive review a truck that I have not experienced enough to get a feel for, so I won’t draw any conclusions until I have that opportunity, preferably with a large trailer attached.


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