Also, where was Quadrasteer, a feature that makes driving fullsize trucks in urban settings so much easier? It was standard on the first Sierra Denali, and we miss it.
Such an advanced, high-tech pickup with all these goodies would promote GMC as an industry innovator and undisputed truck leader. But GMC chose to play it safe, and guess who is now coming out with a pickup that offers multi-link rear suspension and electronic stability control? Honda.
Our test truck had a base price of just under $42,000. Only two options—XM satellite radio and DVD rear-seat entertainment—and a $850 destination charge brought the final MSRP up to $44,205. That’s the same range as the Dodge Ram SRT-10. Add the specialty suspension hardware and Quadrasteer, and the Sierra Denali price could approach $50,000. Truckmakers are probably afraid of trying to market a half-ton pickup at that price. They even get nervous when fully loaded, diesel-powered 1-ton trucks tread near the mark. Remember the last time a pickup cost 50 grand? It was the Lincoln Blackwood, and it didn’t last very long.
Despite the timid approach on the high-tech suspension, GMC has built a truly wonderful pickup to drive on the highway. I took my test truck up the Pacific coast for a long weekend. The standard Z71 suspension does not disappoint in delivering a balanced ride that is very firm in the canyons and mostly well-behaved on rough surfaces. Much of the pleasure comes from the comfy leather seats and commanding driving position. Long treks are completed with hardly any backache or cramped legs. The Sierra Denali comes with power recirculating ball steering, not the rack-and-pinion setup on 2-wheel-drive 1500 models. Still, we found the steering to be responsive enough for our relaxed cruising assignment. While other 2005 Sierra models switched to a front disc/rear drum brake arrangement, the Sierra Denali retains 4-wheel antilock disc brakes. GMC employs Dynamic Rear Proportioning to maintain stability under heavy braking, regardless of the cargo load in the bed. The brake boost system was also upgraded to improve pedal feel, a longtime complaint from GM truck owners.
What would the high-tech suspension equipment do for the Sierra Denali? Enhance driver confidence and improve towing. StabiliTrak helps the driver maintain control of the vehicle in sudden maneuvers, especially in low-traction situations or during avoidance moves such as quick lane changes. StabiliTrak can reduce engine power and automatically apply pressure at either of the front brakes to slow the vehicle and help the driver bring the truck back to its intended path. The Autoride system regulates shock dampening and includes an air-assisted load-leveling system in the rear to adjust ride height as weight is added or removed. As mentioned before, these features are already available on the Yukon and could easily be adapted to the pickup. It’s just a matter of judging consumer demand. There might some engineering challenges in mating Quadrasteer to the coil suspension, but it’s a full-featured truck worth considering.