Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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GMC gives Sierra truck a carlike feel

The 2014 GMC Sierra Denali is the most luxurious, lavishly equipped version of the Sierra pickup. GMC uses the Denali sub-brand to denote the top models of all its vehicles. ( GMC/MCT)
The 2014 GMC Sierra Denali is the most luxurious, lavishly equipped version of the Sierra pickup. GMC uses the Denali sub-brand to denote the top models of all its vehicles. ( GMC/MCT)
The 2014 GMC Sierra Denali is the most luxurious, lavishly equipped version of the Sierra pickup. GMC uses the Denali sub-brand to denote the top models of all its vehicles. ( GMC/MCT) Gallery: GMC gives Sierra truck a carlike feel

GMC's Sierra 1500 pickup has been completely redesigned for 2014, offering an array of model and engine choices, just like its Chevrolet Silverado sibling.

The regular cab model, with two doors and only a front seat, begins at $26,075, while crew cab prices begin at $34,200 for the rear-wheel-drive base version. Double cab models, which have slightly smaller cabins but still carry up to six, start at $30,100.

But the fanciest version is the Denali crew cab, our test vehicle for a week, whose prices begin at $48,315 for the two-wheel-drive, short-box version and range as high as $51,765 for the four-wheel-drive standard-box model.

And for 2014, the Double Cab comes with four regular doors, replacing the previous-generation's Extended Cab model.

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  • Three engines are offered: a 4.3-liter V-6, 5.3-liter V-8, and 6.2-liter V-8. EPA ratings for the 5.3-liter engine are the best in the segment at 16 mpg city/23 highway with rear-wheel drive, and 16/22 with four-wheel drive.

    Standard in the four-wheel-drive short-box Denali, such as the one I tested for this report, is the 5.3-liter engine. But the test vehicle came with the upgraded 6.2-liter engine.

    In keeping with its carlike, fancy qualities, it came with the optional power sunroof, and also had the Driver Alert package and trailer brake controller.

    Just like the Chevy Silverado LTZ Crew Cab I tested recently, the Sierra Denali had a full four-wheel-drive system that includes low-range gearing through a two-speed transfer case, and an automatic-locking rear differential.

    That made the truck suitable for almost any terrain. But as fancy as the Denali is, it's not likely that many buyers would relegate it to serious trail-driving much of the time – if any.

    So instead of exploring the wild, the Sierra Denali is intended more as a truck version of the traditional luxury sedan, giving its owner premium carlike amenities in a vehicle that's a whole lot more versatile than the typical car.

    With the front bucket seats and rear bench, the Denali can carry five passengers in leather-upholstered comfort, but it also can haul whatever you can load in the cargo bed, and can pull a trailer weighing up to 9,800 pounds (9,600 pounds for four-wheel-drive versions).

    That makes it practical for a variety of personal and business applications, whether it be to take the family on a trip or haul a crew to a work site. As with the Silverado High Country model, the Chevy equivalent of the Sierra Denali 1500, this vehicle is a bit fancy to dedicate to crew hauling, but a rancher or business owner could easily use it as a combined personal and work vehicle.

    Of course, crew cab models can be bought for a lot less if you can do without all the premium amenities found on the Denali. Sierra two-wheel-drive crew cab base models at about $35,000 can do most of what the Denali can do, just without the premium touches like the heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch chrome wheels, chrome body side moldings and grille, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped/heated steering wheel (quite unusual for a truck), standard navigation system with premium Bose audio, universal garage/gate opener, power-adjustable pedals, and a power-sliding rear window with defroster.

    Riding in the Denali isn't very trucklike, either, even on a rough road. The suspension is smoother than you might expect, and the cabin is nearly as quiet as that of a nice sedan.

    I found the 6.2-liter engine, with 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque, to have plenty of power, coupled with the six-speed automatic transmission and the 3.42 rear axle. The four-wheel drive is activated by a rotary switch on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. EPA ratings are 15 mpg city/21 highway with two-wheel drive, and 14/20 with four-wheel drive.

    There are full-size rear doors that open to the rear, allowing for easy passenger or cargo access to the rear seating area. The rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding arrangement so it can be moved out of the way to accommodate cargo that you might want to carry inside, out of the weather (such as your groceries, or the box carrying your new big-screen TV).

    The Driver Alert package added high-tech safety features such as lane-departure warning, forward collision alert, and a safety-alert seat that vibrates to warn of a potential forward collision.

    Standard on the Denali are the 6-inch oval chrome assist steps, moveable cargo tie-downs, and LED lights for the cargo box.

    We also had front fog lights, a chrome exhaust tip, an underbody shield to help protect components from rocks and other off-road obstacles, front tow hooks, power/heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, hill-start assist, front and rear body-color bumpers, and the new EZ-Lift locking tailgate.

    GM's new CornerStep bumper and built-in hand grips have been added to make it easier to step up into the bed. The tailgate is better balanced to make it easier to raise or lower.

    The standard Denali 5.3-liter Ecotec Flex-Fuel V-8 comes with an aluminum block, cylinder deactivation, and ratings of 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Cylinder deactivation cuts out four of the cylinders during level highway cruising to improve gas mileage.

    EPA ratings for the 5.3-liter engine are the best in the segment – even better than the F-150's EcoBoost V-6 engine – at 16 mpg city/23 highway with rear-wheel drive, and 16/22 with four-wheel drive.

    Among other standard features are four-wheel antilock brakes with GM's new DuraLife brake rotors; electric power steering; a fully boxed hydro-formed frame; electronic stability control; a 4.2-inch color driver-information screen and 8-inch touch screen for audio/navigation; rearview camera system; and GM's new Halogen projector-beam headlights. OnStar is standard and offers turn-by-turn navigation.

    The spacious center console between the front seats provided plenty of space for my various electronics, along with plenty of spots to plug them in for charging. At the front of the console, just under the center dash, is a big tray that includes three USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, and even a 115-volt outlet.

    There are cubbies and storage compartments throughout the cabin, along with two cupholders in the center console and bottle holders in the doors, front and rear.

    The driver's bucket seat was quite comfortable, and included a memory setting. The power adjustment for the pedals allowed me to get them in the perfect position. The rear seat had a pull-down center armrest with two cupholders.

    The front end is engineered to improve engine cooling, and the body's overall shape was tweaked using wind-tunnel testing to help reduce wind drag and improve fuel economy. Special attention was given to the roof and tailgate spoiler,

    Three cargo-box lengths are available: 5-foot-8, 6-foot-6, and 8-foot. The longer 6-foot-6 box is offered on the Crew Cab as an option over that model's usual 5-foot-8 box, which came on our truck. The 6-foot-6 box is standard on the extended-cab models, while the regular-cab versions, with no back seat or rear doors, can be fitted with the 6-foot-6 or 8-foot bed.

    Two-thirds of the cab is made of high-strength steel, and standard safety features include trailer-sway control, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags with rollover protection, and tire-pressure monitoring.

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    2014 GMC SIERRA 1500 DENALI CREW CAB

    –Rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).

    –Type of vehicle: Premium, full-size, five- or six-passenger, four-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, short- or long-box, V-8 powered, light-duty pickup truck.

    –Highlights: This is the newest generation of GMC's Sierra 1500 Denali high-end model. The truck is all-new for 2014, and is wider and more muscular than before, with a wide range of new features and options, including new safety and connectivity technologies.

    –Negatives: Can get quite pricey with all the options.

    –Engine: 5.3-liter V-8 (standard); 6.2-liter V-8

    –Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    –Power/torque: 355 horsepower/383 pound-feet (5.3-liter); 420 horsepower/460 pound-feet (6.2-liter)

    –Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock

    –Length: 229 inches (with short box); 239 inches (long box)

    –Curb weight: 5,042-5,370 pounds

    –Cargo capacity (payload): 1,883-1,957 pounds.

    –Electronic stability control: Standard.

    –Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain both rows

    –Towing capacity: 9,800 pounds (2WD); 9,600 pounds (4WD)

    –EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city/23 highway (5.3, 2WD); 16/22 (5.3, 4WD); 15/21 (6.2, 2WD); 14/20 (6.2, 4WD)

    –Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/regular unleaded.

    –Base price, base model: $26,075

    –Base price, model tested: $51,465

    –Price as tested, including destination charge: $56,230

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    ABOUT THE WRITER

    G. Chambers Williams III has been an automotive columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1994. He can be reached at chambers@star-telegram.com.

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    Distributed by MCT Information Services

    G. Chambers Williams III Fort Worth Star-Telegram (MCT)