Bold and brash might be a good way to describe the 2018 Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab we were sent by GM, other words I could use are enormous, surprisingly fast and a super smooth ride, which pretty much sums up GM’s luxury pickup truck. It was so big I couldn’t fit it in my garage even when I moved the bikes out of the way, so it had to slum it in the drive for a week. That didn’t seem to take any of the shine off the Dark Slate Metallic paint which prompted a fellow customer at the gas station to say that it looks like I keep that truck garaged. Little did they know….
My tester came with the Ultimate Denali Package ($7,450) which includes a 6.2-liter Ecotec engine, 22-inch wheels, a power sunroof, power steps and a trailer brake controller. The 6.2-liter V8 puts out 420 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm, through an 8-speed automatic. This combo makes for a rapid truck indeed, with 0-60 coming up in 5.6 seconds, one of the fastest full-size trucks I’ve driven.
Of course, with speed comes fuel usage and those with a heavy right foot, like me, will average around 15.7 mpg. The good news is GM uses cylinder deactivation technology, in both the V-6 and V-8 small block engines. The system works by using electrically controlled valve lifters to turn off half the cylinders in the V-8 and two cylinders in the V-6 engine. It offers up to a 5 percent fuel economy gain. If you toggle to the fuel range indicator section between the driver gauges you can see when you are in V8 or V4 mode. On a longer trip (65 miles) I averaged 17 mpg so it works, but it will never be an economy vehicle.
What did we do with it ?
Firstly, to prove that the Denali has some off-road chops I ventured out to Tecate, CA a small town in southeastern San Diego County next to the Mexican city of Tecate, Baja California. The area is best known for the border crossing, Tecate beer and Tecate Mountain. The mountain, which sits on the US side of the border, has a truck trail that winds its way to the top and is frequented heavily by the border patrol. Technically you can’t drive to the top so after an open gate you park up and it’s a 4.5-mile hike to the top.
The Denali irons out all but the worst ruts, it’s Magnetic Ride Control system, standard on all Denali’s, reads the road every millisecond, triggering damping changes in as little as five milliseconds in the electronically controlled shock absorbers that replace conventional mechanical-valve shocks. In short, the ride is great no matter the surface.
Steering is decent off and on road with the effort building as you increase speed in the corners. The chassis is petty capable for such a big vehicle and the 4WD system can be put in 2WD (wheel spin will happen) or in Automatic mode, which will default to 2WD but engage the front wheels as needed. You can also select a conventional high-range 4WD with diff-lock engaged or choose low range gears if needed.
The interior is very well put together, plastic surfaces are soft touch, seats are nice quality leather and are heated and cooled. Both seats and pedals are power adjustable so all shapes can be accommodated. The driver’s seat is slightly off center, much like the Tahoe RST I drove recently, it just takes a moment to get used to it. There plenty of room for rear seat passengers and you can lift the seats for cargo space, a dog or whatever else you need to carry. I wish there were some storage space under the seats though. There is plenty of storage up front, a large center console bin holds many things and ahead of the cup holders will fit a medium sized bag of groceries.
My tester came with 8-inch touchscreen with GPS navigation, AM/FM/Satellite radio, Bluetooth, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The touchscreen system works well I just wish the screen was angled more towards the driver. I do like the 4G data plan although I’m not sure I would continue to pay for it after the 3 months free ends.
The Denali is more of a sub brand than a trim level and it shows, this truck stands out with its huge grille and chrome 22-inch rims and overall ostentatiousness, it’s in your face but in a good way. The 6.2 l V8 is a gem, tuned for maximum torque and towing capacity but faster to sixty than many hot hatches. For $64,345 you get a whole lot of truck and whole lot of goodies, I was sad to see this one go.
2018 Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab
|VEHICLE TYPE:||Front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door truck|
|PRICE AS TESTED:||$64,345|
|ENGINE TYPE:||6.2 L pushrod 16-valve V-8|
|POWER:||420 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|TORQUE:||460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION:||8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode|
|ZERO TO 60 mph:||5.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED: (governor limited):||99 mph|
|CURB WEIGHT:||5,486 lb (mfr)|
|EPA city/highway/combined:||15/17/20 mpg|
|OUR OBSERVED:||15.7 mpg|
|PROS:||Stonking power, Smooth ride