The GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado have been about as close in recent years as two full-size pickups can be as different brands. But for 2019, the GMC Sierra has a new identity that differentiates the near-twins while still maintaining family ties.
As the start of the fourth generation for the now 21-year-old truck, the GMC Sierra 1500 is available in six trims, including the top-line Denali. Multiple beds and cab configurations and four-wheel drive are offered on all trims.
The Denali moniker began 20 years for the upscale models of many of manufacturer’s vehicles. It’s derived from the native name of the tallest mountain in North America as well as the surrounding state and national parks in Alaska.
Besides most of the equipment from other trims, the Denali edition also features head-up display, a 360-degree view camera system, 22-inch wheels, a rear-view camera, a carbon fiber bed and adaptive ride control. It’s powered by a 6.2-liter V8, producing 420 horsepower and propelled by a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The multi-configurable tailgate and retractable side steps are only available on the GMC. But it still has the same frame, powertrain and much of the same interior as the Chevy Silverado. The MSRP is $58,000. There’s a $5,800 Ultimate package option and a $2,495 surcharge for the optional 6.2-liter Ecotec 3 V8 engine with its “dynamic fuel management” feature. It allows the truck to operate in multiple cylinder patterns to optimize power and fuel efficiency. With several other single item charges, the total price is $67,735.
The Sierra Denali has a split driving personality. It accelerates with a throaty growl and the side steps open and retract with a noticeable mechanical grind. But on the freeway, the truck is quiet and smooth with no wind rush. It’s a small, serene crew cab apartment on wheels — at least when compared to other full-size trucks.
Front and rear passengers sit high in the comfortable cabin. It’s chock-full of small bins, cupholders, a huge center console and a comprehensive but simple dash. Power switches and buttons abound as do cargo box tie downs.
Heated and cooled front seats, keyless open and start, power heated and folding side mirrors and front and rear park assist are also highlights on the long, varied features list.
The navigation system is intuitive with a crisp screen. The driver’s seat vibrates when the backup camera detects a close vehicle. Technology advancements include a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot as well as Bluetooth audio streaming, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
For truck newbies, the GMC Sierra is heavy and long. There’s a learning curve to parallel park and braking sooner is wiser, particularly with a heavy load.
The cab has plenty of room for five adults. Entrance and exit are satisfactory, with an assist from the side steps. But there’s a gap between the side steps and the side of the truck, presenting the possibility of twisting a foot.
The Sierra Denali 1500 offers more than previous editions in several other areas. There’s more hauling capacity and more small storage bins, a bigger back seat and an increased towing capacity, now 9,400 to 12,500 pounds, depending upon trim. The EPA gas mileage averages are 15 miles per gallon in city driving, 20 miles per gallon on the freeway.
An ideal motorhome hauler, GMC hopes to increase the truck’s popularity among RVers. Its ProGrade Trailing system features a rear vision camera, auto electronic brake assist, hitch area lighting and an integrated trailer brake control.
The new 2019 GMC Sierra is all masculinity. The front grille is huge, the tires raised, the cargo bed rugged. It’s big, bold and ready for challenges — and with its own personality.
James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, is editor and publisher of the www.weeklydriver.com and its corresponding podcast. Contact him via email: [email protected]