This week we are testing the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali. Our vehicle was assembled in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and has an MSRP of 86,289.00$.
Fun Factor: 7
Can it Family: 7
City Cruising: 3
American luxury is often defined by only a handful of products when it comes to the automotive industry. Executive sedans and big full-size SUVs such as the Lincoln Continental or Cadillac Escalade have been acting as front figures of American luxury vehicles for a few decades now. Over the last 15 years or so, though, a new name has been mumbling quite loudly on everyone’s mouth: Denali. Available on every vehicle offered in the GMC lineup, the Denali trim embodies what American luxury is all about: patriotism, refinement and opulence.
Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional 6.2L naturally aspirated V8 engine, which produces 420 horsepower and 460 pounds of torque. As expected, those numbers are inversely proportional to the fuel economy: we achieved a mere 14.5L/100km fuel consumption during our test week. This engine proved to be built for work, though, as it allows the Sierra to tow up to 12,100 pounds: our vehicle was not equipped with the Max Trailering Package and could only tow a maximum of 9,300 pounds. In terms of performance, the 6.2L engine combined with the 10-speed automatic gearbox helped our Sierra reach 100km/h from a stop in 5.5 seconds: don’t worry, wrapping our heads around this number was hard for us too.
On the outside, the Denali package adds a whole lot of chrome accents: front grille, door handles, window trims, massive 22-inch wheels, and so on. It also adds a defining feature that sets apart the Denali version of the Sierra from every other trim out there: the “Denali” badges chromed out, massive and numerous, will make sure, along with the chromed-out accents mentioned above, that you recognize a Denali Sierra from the other trims out there. It also screams patriotism, as Denali is the “highest mountain in America,” and the word is repeated about 15 times on the vehicle.
Granted, though, the Sierra Denali probably looks better than it drives. Not that it drives badly, so to speak, as it does everything a truck should be able to do perfectly, but it fails to impress on a few key aspects. For example, the suspension is quite harsh when the bed is empty. The transmission is clunky at lower speeds and hesitates when accelerating while already moving. Shifting from drive to reverse makes the whole car wobble, and the massive amount of torque is communicated too much through the gas pedal, so watch out when maneuvering the car in tight spaces.
The driving characteristics mentioned above are only noticeable when driving the Sierra and not having anything in the bed or towing anything. Adding weight or towing with our test vehicle will obviously make your time in the Sierra much more comfortable.
Spending time in the cabin is another aspect that will make you appreciate the Sierra Denali even more. If you recall the statement about what American luxury embodies, you know that some of it is about refinement. In fact, you can find most of this refinement on the interior of the vehicle. You can find brownish leather on most surfaces of the interior: seats, armrests, steering wheel, dashboard, door inserts and so on are all covered in this blend of walnut and ash grey high-end leather. Heated seats are present on all 4 seats, whereas the front ones also support cooled seats. Technology-wise, the Sierra Denali offers an 8-inch touch display that wirelessly supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also offers a 360-degree camera, a 15-inch heads-up display and a partly digital instrument cluster. While it sounds appealing, compared to its F-150 and RAM 1500 counterparts, the Sierra Denali is far behind in terms of technology.
In terms of practicality, the Sierra we had was in a Crew Cab format, meaning that it comes with a full-size cabin capable of accommodating 5 full-size adults. Legroom is simply immense, and the 2-meter width of the car speaks to how much room there is between the passengers. Fitting a booster or baby seat won’t be a hassle at all: heck, even fitting 2 baby seats might be easier in the Sierra than fitting only one in a compact sedan! That being said, though, the storage room within the cabin is quite limited. You get some space directly inside the rear seats (if you pull on the strap located where your lower back would be touching), you can also raise the backbench altogether. Still, if you plan on using the Sierra for road trips or similar activities, then we suggest that you acquire a tonneau cover allowing you to store items in the truck’s box safely.
The final verdict of the Sierra 1500 Denali 2021 is unsurprising yet informative. This truck screams loud and clear “look at me” while offering excellent working capabilities and providing great bang (for many bucks). If you’re looking for a truck that will do the work exactly the way you want it to, that will make head turns on the construction site (even on sidewalks, for that matter!), all the while offering the utmost comfort and luxury, then the Sierra Denali is for you. Just keep in mind that the competition is extremely fierce in that segment: so, make sure you know what you could get out there for your dollar.
GMC has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with GM Canada. The above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the car referred above.