For those of you who aren’t big into geography and/or trivia, Mount Denali is not just the highest peak in North America, it’s the embodiment GMC’s ability to make luxuriously designed trucks in a wide range of uncompromising performance grades. These top-of-the-line models feature GMC’s signature Denali chrome grille, ultra-premium interior materials, the latest safety systems, and cutting-edge infotainment technology. According to a press release by GM, to date “Denali models alone have outsold the entire product lines of some of the most aspirational marques, including Land Rover, Jaguar and Porsche, with almost 6% of all GMC Yukon/Yukon XL models and more than 45% of Sierra HD sold wearing the Denali badge.” Accounting for 25% of all GMC retail sales in 2015 alone, more than 850,000 Denalis have hit the streets since their introduction back in 1999, and now there are two new contenders to consider.
Starting at the top, GMC has announced that a 2016 Sierra Denali Ultimate edition will soon be heading our way, in an effort to “elevate its comfort, design, and capability in the growing premium niche of the full-size truck market.” Going on sale late in the first quarter of 2016, vice president of GMC Sales and Marketing, Duncan Aldred, says this truck is slated to be “The ultimate expression of the Sierra Denali with greater emphasis on the bold and refined presence and advanced features that make Denali models synonymous with precision and exclusivity.”
So what makes this “Ultimate” version of the Denali so spectacular? Well, you can only get it as a four-wheel drive 1500 crew cab, with either a 5-foot-8 or 6-foot-6 cargo beds, 22-inch wheels with chrome or black inserts, a sunroof, chrome tow hooks, tricked-out Tri-Mode Power Steps, lane keep assist, and IntelliBeam automatic headlamp controls. From there you can either opt for the 420 horsepower 6.2-liter V8, with noise canceling technology and 460 pound-feet of torque, or the smooth shifting 5.3-liter version, which is mated to GM’s new Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission.
An integrated trailer brake controller comes standard, allowing drivers to adjust the amount of output available to the electric trailer brake, as a segment-exclusive magnetic ride control setup keeps things in check at all four corners, much like what I discovered while driving the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V a while back. Naturally, the Denali is a different animal entirely, but the concept of precise handling and increased ride comfort remains, as the truck’s sensors monitor the road, continuously altering the truck’s electronically-controlled shocks every five milliseconds.
Styling-wise, paint-matched bumpers, chrome exhaust tips, unique interior decorative trim pieces, and a spray-on bed liner with three-dimensional Denali logo are all common fair here. The redesigned 2016 front-end now includes headlamps that feature GMC LED signature lighting, along with a redesigned Denali grille, and LED tail lamps out back. On the inside, an 8-inch, diagonally-mounted driver display is completely customizable (something we liked a lot in the 2016 Cadillac CTS), and upon startup Denali-themed screen graphics show relevant settings, audio, and navigation info all in the instrument panel. Meanwhile, the “Color Touch” navigation radio comes with IntelliLink, so Bluetooth-connected phones and portable devices can connect seamlessly via four standard USB ports.
Now featuring Apple CarPlay, IntelliLink is set to have Android Auto capabilities later in the model year, and naturally it features OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots just like all other new GM models. Other noteworthy upgrades include a Bose premium sound system, wireless phone charging, remote start, keyless entry with remote locking tailgate, power-adjustable pedals, a power-sliding rear window, rear-view camera, tons of soft-touch interior materials, a heated leather steering wheel, aluminum trim pieces, and 12-way adjustable heated/vented leather seats with custom stitching. It’s features like these that have garnered GMC a 15.5% share of the premium full-size truck segment, a huge contrast to 2013, when GMC had 0% of the market. But with pricing TBA on this ultra-premium version, time will tell how many people actually end-up buying one.
On the smaller side of the bandstand rolls forth the 2017 Canyon Denali, a truck that GMC recently announced is slated to go on sale in late 2016. “Canyon is the segment’s first and only premium midsize truck, offering unparalleled capability and efficiency matched with maneuverability and refinement,” says Aldred. “The all-new Canyon Denali builds on that award-winning combination with the distinctive styling, luxurious interior, and elevated content that has defined the Denali nameplate since its introduction nearly 17 years ago.”
Just like the aforementioned Sierra, and all other Denali models, the Canyon version brazenly boasts a unique chrome grille, 20-inch ultra-bright-machined aluminum alloys with painted accents, chrome fog lamp bezels, 5-inch chrome assist steps, a polished exhaust tip, and a standard spray-in bed liner. GMC says that buyers can get the Canyon Denali in six different colors, and its Jet Black interior features “Mulan” leather-appointed seats that are perforated, heated, and ventilated. Blend that with a one-off instrument panel, some unique console trim, and sill plates that rock Denali badging to match those floor mats, and you have a subtly upgraded pick-up that isn’t overly garish.
Hold the phone; GMC says that the Canyon’s standard safety set-up, which includes forward collision alert systems and lane departure warnings, is supposedly getting a bevy of “tech support” to make it even safer and swankier. We like this idea, especially when added to a list that includes a heated steering wheel, GMC IntelliLink and navigation, 8-inch color touchscreen with phone integration, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi, auto climate control, full-color MID, remote start, two USB charging ports in the rear part of the center console, with another USB port inside the console itself.
Offered as a crew cab model in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations, the basic version of the Canyon Denali remains powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that can tow up to 7,000 pounds, all while still getting an EPA estimated 26 miles-per gallon on the highway in 2WD trim. But instead of going this route we suggest saving up for the all-new 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel version, which will reportedly haul up to 7,700 pounds, gets an estimated 31 miles-per gallon on the highway in rear-wheel drive trim, and according to press releases is “the cleanest diesel truck engine ever produced by General Motors.” This final feat is achieved in part due to a cooled exhaust gas re-circulation system and a Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission, which utilizes a unique “Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber” in the torque converter to reduce powertrain noise and vibration, and give the Canyon even better efficiency gains.
Opting for the diesel model will also give buyers “smart diesel exhaust braking” along with an integrated trailer brake controller, which constantly varies the amount of braking needed for the vehicle based upon load and terrain grade. This system works in tandem with the anti-lock brake system in order to provide instantaneously measured brake force via an electronically controlled system.
Much like the Sierra, GMC still has yet to release pricing for the Denali version of the award-winning Canyon, and while many of us relish the idea of a clever turbo-diesel edition, our chief question remains an incredibly simplistic one: How much will a diesel Canyon Denali set buyers back? Americans have being buying the base and off-road models like no ones business because they are inexpensive and very well-made, but even GM’s prized, top-tier truck line could run into some issues with this swanky pick-up if it doesn’t appeal to its niche market’s pocketbook properly.