One of the biggest hassles of driving a full-size pickup truck is parking. Swinging into parking lot spaces, or parallel parking, is a bit of a challenge because the long wheelbase compromises the turning radius.
GMC’s luxurious Denali pickup, however, is now standard with Quadrasteer, a four-wheel steering system that gives this truck carlike maneuverability and enhanced towing safety.
At walking speeds, it turns the back wheels opposite to the front, and that tightens the turning circle by 21 percent. This big truck turns as tightly as a Saturn coupe.
At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn the same direction as the fronts, enhancing stability in crosswinds and lane-change maneuvers. Four-wheel steering also improves trailer towing. GMC says that the truck and trailer “move as if they were one.”
In normal driving, the Denali with Quadrasteer feels as nimble as a sedan. Whipping around corners or changing lanes does not have the awkwardness one feels in most long trucks.
The all-wheel-drive 2002 Denali, GMC’s luxury/sport pickup, was formerly known as the Sierra C3. The name has been changed to match the Denali SUV. The Vortec 6.0-liter, 325-horsepower V-8 is an absolute gem. It has the muscles of a weightlifter and the speed of a sprinter. Even though it lacks multiple valves and overhead cams, this engine is strong, smooth and stout. It swigs gas at a considerable rate, 11 miles per gallon in the city and 14 on the highway, but that is comparable to other trucks in this segment.
The automatic transmission’s tow-haul setting changes the transmission’s shift points for optimum response when climbing hills or pulling a trailer. Denali can tow an 8,000-pound trailer. All-wheel drive gives the Denali excellent over-the-road manners, plus it can tackle winter weather or moderate off-roading with equal aplomb. Seventeen-inch wheels house heavy-duty disc brakes, borrowed from the three-quarter-ton Sierra, on all four wheels.
The interior is quite cozy. Wood trim abounds, and the quality of the two-tone leather that adorns seats, console and door panels is on par with the best of any luxury sedans. The widely adjustable seats cradle their occupants with ample side and lumbar padding. The large center console can accommodate sizable objects, plus it has its own power outlet inside. The underside of the lid has a handy place for carrying a cell phone or note pad.
The steering-wheel controls for the audio system look like afterthoughts.
Access to the back seat is through side-opening rear doors that are not as roomy as a full four-door truck. The back seat is big enough for kids, and it can be folded to create storage space. Rear-seat audio controls and cupholders are built into the back of the center console.
OnStar, GM’s GPS-based wireless communication system, is also a part of the Denali package. OnStar advisers communicate with the driver to provide a wide range of services, from checking routes to arrang ing accommodations. The system notifies an adviser in case of an airbag activation, and emergency help can be automatically dispatched.
The addition of Quadrasteer to the Denali pickup makes this one of the more agile and easy-to-drive trucks. Expect this feature to be optional on other models in the near future.
The base price of the test truck was $43,385. There were no options, so the sticker price was $44,105 with delivery.
Three years or 36,000 miles.
Point: Four-wheel steering was the hot ticket on a few cars in the early 1990s, but it fell out of favor. Using it on a truck, however, is brilliant because it enhances maneuverability and stability, especially for towing. The Denali truck is loaded with luxury, all-wheel drive and 325 horsepower.
Counterpoint: A bigger back seat and full-size back doors would make this truck an even more useful vehicle for families. Even though it is luxurious, i is quite expensive. Gas mileage is also an issue, and fingertip controls on the steering wheel look like an afterthought.
Engine: 6.0-liter, 325 hp V-8
Transmission: automatic All-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,478 lbs.
Base price: $43,385
As driven: $44,105
Mpg rating: 11 city, 14 hwy.