What Makes GMC's Denali Trim So Great?


Today's pickup truck segment offers more luxury pickups than ever before, and these trucks come with a hefty price tag. While truck purists bemoan their many luxury touches and correspondingly higher price tag, these trucks continue to be hot sellers for all manufacturers including GMC's Denali trim, which has almost taken on a life of its own. We recently got our hands on a 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali 4×4 crew cab to see what all the fuss is about.

What Is So Special About the Denali?

Riding in top-dollar trucks is one of the perks of our job, yet we can't deny there is something about the Denali (our tester came in at $57,820 including destination). We counted 15 places inside and outside of the cabin where GMC placed the name Denali. From the head restraints to the bed to the tailgate, GMC wants you to know there is something special about this pickup.

The list of features for this trim level is extensive. GMC takes the base 2015 GMC Sierra crew cab starting at $36,585, including destination, and adds a host of luxury features. From the chrome 20-inch wheels, chrome-laden mirrors and side steps to real aluminum trim throughout the cabin along with soft-touch surfaces and luxurious leather seats, this truck has it all. While many truck fans and buyers may wish their truck had this feature or that, with the Denali you get it all.

We're told customers want these features and are paying top dollar for them. The Denali vehicle lineup made up 21 percent of all GMC vehicles sold in February 2015 (up 3 percent versus January). Nearly 12 percent of all light-duty Sierra trucks sold have the Denali trim, and this number is rising according to GMC truck spokesman Brian Goebel. On the heavy-duty side, 44 percent of all trucks sold have the Denali trim package. Goebel said these luxury trim packages have helped the Sierra reach the highest transaction price of any pickup line in the industry.

How Does It Drive and Tow?

Speaking of having it all, our test model included the 6.2-liter V-8 with the eight-speed transmission, which will likely be found throughout the . With this powertrain, our test truck was one of the smoothest and quietest models we have driven in quite a while. While the engine responded immediately and powerfully to the pedal, it was much more refined in everyday driving. It moved so smoothly and quietly you could be forgiven for thinking you were driving a Cadillac and not a pickup.

While the large engine had absolutely no trouble when towing our 16-foot camper weighing approximately 3,000 pounds, we found it quickly went into and out of four-cylinder mode with GM's active fuel management system. In fact, unless we had the display screen open with the "V4" indicator, we could not feel a difference. This system helps the 6.2-liter engine return EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined. We were able to easily hit the combined number, and we wouldn't be surprised if other owners could get better than that since we tend to have a heavy throttle foot.

Polished Interior

Inside the cabin, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is not anything like a traditional pickup and is actually probably closer to a luxury car. From the fit and finish to the multitude of little details wrapped in premium soft-touch materials, you are immediately immersed in luxury. It is clear from the moment you open the doors that this isn't your typical work truck.

Many details stood out while driving the truck, including how comfortable the interior and ride quality truly are. The triple-sealed doors may sound like a marketing gimmick to critics, but it really makes a difference. We repeatedly found that while cruising at highway speeds we could easily hold conversations with our passengers and use the Bluetooth phone feature. The cabin was so quiet we never felt like we needed to raise our voice whether we were speaking to passengers or using the Bluetooth phone. In fact, we used the phone feature more than we typically do since it was so easy to hear and be heard.

The only real issue we had with the 2015 GMC Sierra is a personal preference item. Compared to other trucks we have driven, we found the front viewing area of the Sierra to be narrower than other trucks. This is likely due to the slope of the windshield. The GMC simply feels a bit boxier with this somewhat limited viewing angle versus other trucks.

In the end, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is a really nice truck with lots of great interior finishes combined with a powerful yet fuel-efficient powertrain. This truck makes traveling a lot more comfortable, and given how much it costs, it should.

To see this Denali's price sheet, click the icon below. photos by Tim Esterdahl




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