“The big thing here is the packaging of the interior,” says Mr. Leach. “You sit inside the car and the console and belt lines are quite high. It’s like a sports car's seating position but it’s sport truck, done from the ground up. We haven’t taken a pure commercial vehicle and tarted it up with skirts and semi-big wheels. It’s a car for active lifestyles done in an active way.”
The Denali XT’s instrument panel is reminiscent of the twin cluster in the Chevrolet Camaro concept and in recent spy photos of 2009 Camaro test cars. Yes, the General is already thinking ahead about interior parts sharing.
Using two layers of plastic in the gauges, the numbers for the tach and speedometer appear to float above the hash marks below. A huge multi-function infotainment and navigation display is housed to the left side of the gauges and meters. And running between the two front seats is a thick center console trimmed in aluminum with temperature control knobs for driver and passenger.
There’s a Midgate that allows for pass-through access from the cab to the 55-inch long bed. Unlike the Midgate in the Chevrolet Avalanche, the XT’s design team doesn’t allow the top glass to be removed. Only the bottom folds down to create a 7-foot long load floor. This reduces build complexity and improves overall torsional rigidity in the body. Think of it as a 'Halfgate'.
Designer Leach is proud of the Denali XT’s tailgate too.
“In trucks you normally associate tailgates with rectangles. For this sport truck, the end gate has a more sculpted look that gives it a three-dimensional quality. It’s faceted with curves and forms to give it style,” says Mr. Leach.
With all the focus on the XT’s unibody construction, exterior looks, and sports car interior, it’s not lacking powertrain innovation either. GM’s well conceived and executed two-mode hybrid transmission has been paired with a brand new 326-horsepower 4.9-liter direct injected small block V8 engine. No torque figures were provided.
It uses active fuel management to further improve fuel economy and can run on E85 ethanol to save gasoline. Batteries for the hybrid system are tucked away behind the rear seats above the fuel tank. It’s the first time they’ve been packaged in such a way in a GM vehicle.
GM claims the advanced propulsion system in the XT will return a remarkable 50% improvement in fuel economy over comparable midsize trucks on sale today. We estimate that puts the XT's mpg-rating around 28 to 32 miles-per-gallon.
But a solution like this can't be cheap, considering a two-mode Hybrid GMC Yukon has a window sticker in the mid-$40s. A production XT would probably offer a trio or quartet of conventional V6 and V8 powertrains to reach a greater share of the market.
The 4.5-liter 'baby' Duramax V8 diesel would be perfect. We speculate the compact oil burner could fit in the XT since the hoodline has been raised several inches compared to the Holden Commodore and Ute. The Duramax would likely raise towing figures too for the vehicle - probably close to 5,000-lbs.