The 2021 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 Leaves a Weak Impression

The 2021 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 is, according to General Motors, the only premium light-duty truck available to consumers. In 2018, the first year for the current generation GMC Sierra, that may have been true, but other trucks in the segment have surpassed the GMC Sierra. For 2021, the term “premium” may no longer accurately describe the GMC Sierra Denali.

GMC Sierra Denali 1500 overview

The 2021 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 is a General Motors Corporation (GMC) product. As such, the GMC Sierra is designed and built to standards that have served light-duty truck buyers well.

In fact, GMC’s Sierra Denali webpage boasts several best in class and first in class claims with language such as “world’s first six-function” tailgate, “more cargo bed volume than any competitor,” most “light-duty diesel horsepower,” first “available head-up display & rear camera mirror,” “Industry-first available carbon-fiber composite bed,” “up to 15 camera views,” and “segment-exclusive standard adaptive ride control.”

Of course, language like that on an automobile brochure, whether in print or online, is nothing new and meant to be sensational, but that does not mean it is false.

Some other pertinent facts include a starting MSRP of $55,800, an available 6.2-liter V8 that produces up to 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, and up to 9,500 pounds of towing capacity when properly equipped.

Fuel economy with the available 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel is EPA rated up to 30 MPG and offers up to 660 miles of highway driving between fuel stops. In the crew-cab configuration, the Denali offers seating for up to 5 people and has a payload capacity ranging between 1,550 to 2,040 pounds.

Inside the truck, occupants will find a 15-inch multicolor head-up display sitting low on the interior windshield. The display is designed to keep the driver informed without requiring them to look down at the dash. Luxurious touches such as real wood, brushed aluminum trim, and leather seats are highlights of the GMC Sierra Denali interior.

The GMC Sierra Denali “CarbonPro” Edition introduces an inner truck bed constructed from carbon-fiber composite material. This material has been used for years in the aircraft industry and makes up the bulk of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner fuselage, and it is known to be strong and lightweight.

What the 2021 Sierra Denali 1500 does well

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In a review of the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali 1500, Motor1 used the words “brainier and brawnier” in their title and gave the truck an overall score of 6.9 out of 10. That grade would be 69 percent or just below average in school, but the Denali shined bright in some areas.

The reviewers at Motor1 made particular mention of the “CarbonPro” package, mostly for the innovative material usage but also for the stylish wheels that come with it.

The 2021 Denali scored 7 out of 10 in most Motor 1 review categories. Here are the highlights.

Comfort:

  • Ample passenger space
  • Leather seats
  • Front row seats heated and cooled
  • Sound deadening for a quiet ride
  • Likable on-road demeanor 

Technology and Connectivity:

  • Eleven-function head-up display
  • Improved rear-view camera
  • Standard bed-view camera

Performance and Handling:

  • Four engine options
  • Four different drive modes
  • Adaptive dampers 

Where did the GMC Sierra Denali go wrong?

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A minor complaint in the review was about the design of the truck. Motor 1 gave the GMC Sierra Denali a 4.0 out of 10 in this category for what appears to be an aversion to chrome more than anything else.

Admittedly, shiny material is abundant on the front of the Denali, but not everyone will hate that. Otherwise, things like a small infotainment screen, low-quality plastic materials, and a dated outward appearance combine to drag down the rating.

The truck’s price was the biggest hit to the overall rating, with Motor1 giving the Denali configuration a 2.0 out of 10. While they note that the base price of a Denali crew-cab equipped with four-wheel drive is $58,700, the truck they tested with additional options listed at $72,360.