You can talk about the latest Camaro or the award-winning Bolt electric car, but there’s still only one indispensable vehicle to General Motors in 2018. That would be the truck platform on which the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are based.
For the 2019 model year, these trucks got a full redesign, and certain trims have already begun arriving in dealerships from the automaker’s factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In the case of the GMC Sierra, you will have a hard time calling it just a fancier Silverado these days, and that was the automaker’s goal.
That sentiment goes double for the 2019 Sierra Denali. Following our general rundown of the Sierra redesign, we had a chance to get inside a new Denali and see what the model offers to truck buyers. Here’s what we learned, including impressions from a day driving a 2019 Denali 1500 Crew Cab with four-wheel drive.
1. Exterior changes and new dimensions
First of all, the new Sierra is longer (3.9 inches), taller (1.3 inches), and wider (1.2 inches) than the outgoing model. While you notice the changes standing next to the 2019 edition, most of the added length went to the back seats.
Exterior changes include the more prominent grille, chrome badging ahead of the side mirrors, and the new fog lights. All-terrain tires and 20-inch wheels are standard on four-wheel-drive Denalis.
2. Cabin comfort and infotainment
You’ll find Denali’s premium interior updated as well. Returning are the heated and ventilated leather seats, and you’ll find 10-way power controls in the front as well as lumbar support. It’s a comfortable cabin by any estimation, and we felt fine after several hours in the driver’s seat.
Denali trims offer heated leather seats in the back bench as well. The big upgrade there is an extra 3 inches of legroom courtesy of the stretched wheelbase.
On the tech/control front, this model features GM’s premium infotainment system that debuted in the 2019 GMC Terrain and a few Cadillac models. It can remember the settings of different drivers (which can go with you to other GM vehicles) and do other advanced things, but its biggest plus is how easy it is to use. Using it is more like operating a smartphone than other systems we’ve tried.
3. The 6.2-liter V8, 10-speed automatic, and drive tech
The 2019 Denali gets a standard 5.3-liter V8 engine with eight-speed automatic transmission. As it did in the previous model, the update 5.3 brings 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.
Denali’s powerful 6.2-liter V8 (460 horsepower) gets a 10-speed automatic transmission, and this is the model we tried. It features the truck’s first Dynamic Fuel Management system, giving it the ability to run on 17 different types of cylinder activation, GMC said.
In our day of driving, this powertrain shifted up and down smoothly and effortlessly, whether on our own or with a full back seat and loaded bed.
With the Denali Ultimate Package ($5,710), you get some useful technology at the wheel. The new Rear Camera Mirror and 3-inch by 7-inch head-up display (HUD) are the two major highlights.
You barely have to take your eyes off the road or wonder in the slightest what’s behind you. Our favorite feature of the HUD is the speed limit recognition — it shows the sign on the display as you pass between zones.
4. The standard MultiPro Tailgate
Debuting for 2019 and coming standard in the Sierra Denali is the MultiPro Tailgate. While we’ve written at length about this feature elsewhere, it bears repeating that it offers owners six different functions, including second-tier loading and a cab-extending feature.
When all the way down, it offers a easy step to hop into the truck, which makes loading easy. You can even add a stereo to the tailgate if you spend the day working out of the back and want some music powered by your truck.
5. Payload and trailering capacities/apps
You get an all-new ProGrade Trailering System with an in-vehicle trailering app in this Denali. That brings a trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, Hill Start Assist, side-view mirrors, Hitch View with Hitch Guidance, and a pre-departure checklist (among other things). AutoTrac two-speed transfer case (another standard feature) makes low-traction maneuvering with a trailer more secure.
With a 5-foot, 8-inch box, a 2019 Sierra Denali can handle up to 1,610 lbs. and tow up to 9,300 lbs. Those numbers drop to 1,540 lbs. and 9,100 lbs., respectively, with a 6-foot, 6-inch box.
Meanwhile, the short-box Sierra offers the most cargo space (62.9 cubic feet) in the industry. Twelve cargo tie-downs come with this model, and you can store them inside the rear seat on the driver’s side.
6. Carbon fiber box, other options
GMC is producing Sierra Denali and SLT models with the standard box first. In 2019, dealers will start offering the industry’s first carbon-fiver box (CarbonPro) as an option. The automaker claims it has unprecedented dent-proof and scratch-resistant qualities.
Sierra Denali comes standard with front and rear park assist, lane-change alert, cross-traffic alert, and a rear-view camera. With the Ultimate Package in the model we tested ($67,200 total), auto-braking and front-collision alert are a few more safety technologies.
You’ll notice these alerts vibrating your seat when the vehicle senses danger. The safety tech suite definitely came in handy on our drive.
7. Fuel economy and pricing
You can start configuring the Sierra Denali now. Base Crew Cab models with two-wheel drive start at $56,195. For four-wheel drive, the price bumps to $59,495. The 6.2-liter model ($61,990) is only available with four-wheel drive.
Despite the weight drop and new cylinder deactivation technology in the 2019 model, fuel economy did not improve for 2019. Sierra Denali gets 17 mpg combined with both engines. In the 5.3-liter model, there is a slightly better highway economy (21 mpg) than in the 6.2 (20 mpg).
Disclaimer: The Cheat Sheet reporter had round-trip airfare, accommodations, and meals covered by GMC over a 48-hour period in order to bring this first-person report to readers.