Of course, there’s more to the 2007 GMC Sierra Denali than off-the-line, road-eating performance from its 403-hp V8. On the highway it’s an ideal sports touring truck that potently blends high capacity hauling capabilities with full attention to driver and passenger comfort.
Speeds of 65 to 75 miles an hour roll by effortlessly and quietly in the vehicle. Improved aerodynamics and tighter body panel gaps work to considerably dampen the intrusion of wind noise into the cabin over the previous generation Sierra. Only the tenor of the truck’s throaty exhaust consistently entered the interior, aurally reinforcing the perception of the readily available power contained in the right pedal.
If you’re shopping for a near $50K luxury pickup, then gasoline sipping frugality probably isn’t in your top ten list of buying criteria, but if you’re interested the Denali carries EPA ratings of 13-mpg around town and 19-mpg on the highway. These figures aligned fairly close with my own hydrocarbon usage. Daily driving to and from relatives' homes, grocery stores, strip malls, and train stations over stoplight controlled tarmac yielded a 13.4-mpg rating according to the Denali’s trip computer.
I zeroed out the trip computer on the Jersey Turnpike, when the truck was doing about 70, to see if I could hit the max highway mpg for a consistent period in the real world. This avoided any mileage penalty accelerating the near 3-ton Sierra from a stop. But even with two overdrive gears at the top of its six speed gearbox, the best I could attain was 18.7-mpg before the fuel economy meter began spiraling downward to 17.9-mpg, as long as the speed was held within a tight band of 65 to 70. Want to pass slower traffic and still maintain good gas numbers? Fuhgedaboutit. Dab the accelerator the least bit aggressively and the numbers quickly decline to the 15s and 16s. But keep the speed steady, and the numbers will slowly climb upward. Overall, this truck did better than past Denali’s I’ve driven, which only attained numbers in the low 12s. The entire trip returned a 13.9-mpg average score.
Other GM full size pickups should see their mileage numbers improve once the six speed transmission rolls out to the rest of the light duty haulers, but this won’t occur until the 2009 model year at the earliest – a fact confirmed during and after the New York International Auto Show by GM’s product and communications staff.
There was no opportunity to test the truck with a trailer or heavy payload, though you could count the three overpacked suitcases I threw in the Sierra’s bed containing the full wardrobes of my wife and kids for this one week trip eastward from California. If any of this luggage could have held more mass we would have had a singularity on our hands.
Manufacturers and buyers both want their limited edition trucks to sport visual cues that set them apart from standard workday pickups. Otherwise, what good is paying a premium of several thousand dollars if others don’t know you’re driving a special model? And when it comes to looks I divide these trucks into two classes – professional and professional wrestling. For example: Lincoln Mark LT – professional. Dodge Ram SRT-10 – professional wrestling. The Sierra Denali falls in the MBA camp, with looks that are way more Donald Trump than Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Craig Bierley, GMC product director, walked me around the Sierra Denali that was stationed on the show floor at the New York International Auto Show to point out the major upgrades and differences between this and a standard Sierra.
“Where it differs most from the regular Sierra is the signature Denali chrome billet grille. It’s the most prominent in the Denali line (which also includes the Yukon and Envoy Denali SUVs). The front fascia and foglamps are also unique, with a lower grille that accents the upper. The Denali also gets body colored mirrors and chromed door handles. 20-inch chrome wheels are optional,” described Bierley.
Buyers have a choice of three exterior colors: black, white, or silver. Personally, I think the truck looks best in black. The chromed grille, door handles and molding, stacked headlamps, and amber reflectors are nicely offset by the truck’s deep ebony surfaces. Squared shoulders above the front and rear wheels also help balance out the brightwork.
Yes, you’ll attract attention in this truck but it’s like the difference between seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger as the ‘Governator’ instead of as Conan the Barbarian. Prominent but professional.