Versus the competiton:
The 2003 GMC Sierra Denali AWD four-door pickup may be the world’s most expensive work truck, with an as-tested price of $45,370.
While such features as four-wheel steering, a roomy rear cabin and a whopping 6.0-liter V-8 make it quite capable, this top-of-the-line pickup does not display world-class quality — certainly not befitting its luxury-car price tag, according to Paul.
On the other hand, Anita thinks the Sierra Denali is the best truck money can buy, and gives it her highest rating.
She: Here’s how I spent my weekend in the Sierra Denali. I went to every nursery in town, loaded up on mulch, topsoil and flats of impatiens. Every single person who waited on me would say, ‘Hold on a minute while I get some newspaper to protect your vehicle.’ And I’d always tell them, ‘No, I have a truck.’ But that’s only half of the story. Not only do you get the traditional truck benefits of haulability and hoseability, you get a vehicle with state-of-the-art steering — all four wheels turn when you’re cornering or parking — and you get a luxury cabin. Why is this not a five-star vehicle to you? Is it because you were laying on the couch while I was working?
He: OK, Farmer Anita, you’ve demonstrated your agricultural credentials. Now let’s talk nuts and bolts. You’ll get no argument from me about the capability of the Sierra Denali. The four-wheel steering is a truly remarkable innovation. Anybody who’s ever tried to back up a boat or horse trailer will be simply amazed at how easy that chore is with this new system. And that big 325-horsepower V-8, which makes 370 pounds-feet of torque, gives this truck more muscle than most of its competitors. I also think the exterior look is just about perfect — not tacky like the Chevrolet Avalanche or grotesque like the Cadillac Escalade EXT. It’s inside the cabin where the Sierra Denali starts to fall apart.
She: To call four-wheel steering a remarkable innovation is an understatement. It’s one of the seven wonders of the world, right up there with the Cuisinart. If this truck only had four-wheel steering and nothing else, it would still be worth five stars. I actually got emotional in parking structures. I was able to whip this 20-foot-long, 5,800-pound vehicle in and out of tight spaces as if it were a compact car.
He: Again, no argument. General Motors Corp. deserves major credit for that feature. I just wish the designers and engineers would have paid more attention to the cabin, where you spend an awful lot of your time. Granted, with the sole exception of Toyota vehicles, the interiors of GMC’s major competitors in the full-size truck segment have been equally weak. But that’s no excuse, especially on a vehicle that’s priced like a BMW 5-Series. I know you liked that gray woodgrain material; I thought it looked artificial and cheap. And there were other pretty noticeable flaws that would be unacceptable to anyone spending this kind of money on a luxury sedan. For instance, the plastic housing was pulling away from the outside edge of the driver’s seat. There were exposed screw heads in the rear armrests, and ripples in some plastic trim and rubber moldings. Sorry, but that’s just not acceptable.
She: My only problem was with the gigantic pickup bed and the overly heavy tailgate. The brainiac engineers at GM didn’t account for couch-potato husbands when they designed this truck. Surely, there’s an easier way to shut the tailgate than getting underneath it and heaving your shoulder against it or asking your lazy husband for help. And did I really need to crawl up under the fixed tonneau cover to retrieve my flats of flowers? I would like to see a cargo storage system that used the last third of the truck bed, so if you don’t have a full load, everything doesn’t slide too far forward and out of reach. I should also mention that, while the Sierra Denali is easy to park, that long bed makes it difficult to see when backing up.
He: When Ford brings its new F-150 trucks out this summer, with all the money and attention to detail they’ve spent on the interiors, I think the cabin in the Sierra Denali will look even cheaper than it does now. GM needs to spend some money and give its designers free reign to give this fine truck the equally high-quality cabin it deserves. Then the Sierra Denali will truly merit a five-star rating.
2003 GMC Sierra Denali AWD
Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door pickup
Price (Includes $790 destination charge.): Base, $44,255; as tested, $45,370
Engine: 6.0-liter V-8; 325-hp; 370 lb-ft torque
EPA fuel economy: 12 mpg city/16 mpg highway
Where built: Oshawa, Ontario
Key competitors: Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra
12-month insurance cost (Estimated by AAA Michigan. Rates may vary depending on coverage and driving record.): $1,492
Paul’s rating: Acceptable
Likes: Same monster 6.0L V-8 as Hummer H2. Big-time towing capacity. Lots of room in rear bench seat.
Dislikes: World’s most expensive work truck unfortunately does not have world-class quality. Fake wood looks cheap, inferior. Lousy fuel economy. Plastic housing pulling away from outside edge of driver’s seat. Exposed screw heads in rear armrests. Ripples in some plastic trim and rubber moldings.
Anita’s rating: World Class
Likes: Classy-looking gray woodgrain material in cabin. Best of both worlds — a true workhorse with the interior of a luxury SUV. Nicely equipped rear compartment, with cupholders, vents, audio controls. Four-wheel steering makes parking amazingly easy. Love the no-nonsense truck styling.
Dislikes: No adjustable pedals. Tailgate is too heavy. Difficult to see when backing up. Had to crawl up under fixed tonneau cover to retrieve flats of flowers.