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The VE cars are based on GM’s new global rear-wheel-drive Zeta platform. It’s the same RWD platform underneath the upcoming Chevy Camaro and Pontiac G8 sedan. We’re also expecting to see it underpinning the Pontiac G8 ST (Sport Truck) when that’s introduced at the New York Auto Show in March.

The XT also uses the Zeta platform but this car, er, truck has a much tougher and more commercial profile than the discontinued Crewman or new Holden Ute.

Design

“The proportions are different and there’s no shared sheetmetal with the (two-door) Ute. We didn’t want this to be another variation of the (Holden) Commodore or Ute, even though it’s a variation of the architecture,” says Warrack Leach, the XT’s lead designer.

Mr. Leach has been with GM for eight years. He was responsible for penning the business end of the Holden VE Ute, from the B-pillar back, before designing the XT. He's very modest, yet proud, when he speaks about the XT in his native Aussie accent.

I call the XT’s style and proportions New Age Gangster Pickup. It looks like Al Capone’s 21st century getaway car with its low roofline, high beltline, and gun slit windows. Pull up to a bank, toss money bags in the back, and make a clean getaway in the direct injection V8 powered two-mode hybrid.

It’s not too hard to see Chrysler 300C swagger in its proportions and Audi R8 DNA around the exterior lighting. 23-inch wheels, strong wheel arches, a thick sweeping c-pillar and a massive Denali hole-punch grille have turned this Crewman’s character from domesticated pack animal into predatory beast (see comparison picture).

You get more than aggressive looks from the unibody architecture. It has lower body mass versus traditional body-on-frame construction, helping save fuel by cutting out weight. It’s stiffer, improving noise, vibration, and harshness. And it serves as the mounting point for a four-wheel independent suspension that gives the vehicle a performance feel on the road, even when the cargo box is empty.

“The styling is truck-like. The functionality is truck-like. But the ride and handling is what you’d expect from a car-based architecture,” Mr. Leach proudly boasts.

See? I told you the XT is segment-blurring.

You pay for the on-road performance (and make no mistake, this is just an on-road vehicle) and improved fuel economy with lower payload and towing figures than a comparable GMC Canyon (see comparison picture). The Denali XT has an estimated payload capacity of 1,100 pounds and a towing capacity of an estimated 3,500 pounds. But, again, this is a car, er, truck for people who don’t need a true truck with high end hauling capability.

The design philosophy inside the Denali XT is similar to the exterior. It has strong structures in the doors and dashboard with exposed metal details, but that cockpit is warmed up with tan saddle leather and gray suede that blankets many surfaces and the seats. It can comfortably seat four people with a surprising amount of hip space.

Page: [1] [2] [3] [4] [Comparison Chart] [B-Roll Video]