Review: 2019 GMC Sierra Denali has all that and a nifty tailgate too
GMC has fully redesigned the Sierra 1500 pickup truck for the 2019 model year. Changes are from the ground up with a new body design, improved underpinnings, and a multi-phase tailgate gimmick. We spent a week in the truck and found all of these to be good things.
General Motors' GMC brand is known for trucks, exclusively marketing pickups and sport utilities. Aimed to be slightly premium but not quite luxurious, the GMC brand has cornered the near-luxury pickup truck niche, and its Denali brand has become a force of its own. The new GMC Sierra Denali truck is very well done, though not without its flaws. Our greatest surprise, though, was in finding that the tailgate gimmick which made headlines when the Sierra debuted turned out to be innovative and useful engineering instead of just another patented sales pitch.
Indeed, the whole 2019 GMC Sierra Denali pickup is a very well-done package. The work ethic of the GMC nameplate remains intact with this new truck, as does its expected upgrades to match that premium nameplate. We definitely like the new body design, which ditches the "square-on-square" motif of the previous generation for a lower-key, movement-oriented design. This is done without sacrificing the strong, bulky overall feel of the pickup, which promises muscular capability and sturdy reliability.
On the inside, roominess in the new 2019 Sierra Denali improves, as do ergonomics. The interior feels a bit dated, though, despite being brand new, with a blocky design and less-than-accommodating small item storage. The shift lever is oddly-sized and has a mismatched, delicate feel to it compared to the rest of the truck. Controls placement for the driver is otherwise a high point, with everything being accessible and familiar.
Seating in the 2019 GMC Sierra is well-done as well, with good comfort and accommodation. We like the adjustment options and excellent amounts of headroom, legroom, and shoulder room in the front of the Sierra. Heated and ventilated seats are standard up there too. The rear seats' sizing will depend upon cab style chosen, but the King and Crew cabs offer plenty of room for three across on the back bench. Even adults. The added legroom (about 3 inches/7.6 cm) of the Crew is an upside as well, as are the easily-accessed child safety seat restraints and the nifty rear seatback storage cubbies.
For technology, this new Sierra offers a lot of USB plugs for phones and gadgets, and great infotainment. The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali package includes the infotainment upgrade to an 8-inch screen with GM's latest IntelliLink user interface. We like the menu system's fast responses and easy layout. The learning curve for this infotainment is relatively small, and navigation is a standard inclusion. We like the app suite and that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well. An in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot is standard (subscription required) and a total of four USB ports are found throughout the cabin.
For the driver, an expanded driver information screen is standard in the Denali package. It has several options for information display, including off-road inputs, expanded truck system information, and a digital speedometer. An optional head-up display can be added, which places a full-color quick information display at the bottom of the windscreen directly ahead of the driver. This display is fully configurable as well and shows not only current speed and driver control information, but turn-by-turn navigation too.
The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali comes standard with a backup camera, but a 360-degree camera system is also available. We like the ProGrade trailering system, standard on the Denali, which allows the user to input trailer information into the system for trailers owned or often towed. The system then tracks trailer maintenance, giving reminders for needs, and includes a trailer lighting test sequence for one-man light continuity checks. Equipped trailers can have their tire pressure monitoring sent to the ProGrade system, and a trailer theft detection system can note a disconnected trailer and alert the driver via their smartphone. An enhanced backing camera with trailer hookup indicators also comes with the ProGrade system. Towing capability for the Sierra depends upon drivetrain configuration.
The cargo bed of the 2019 Sierra Denali comes in two sizes, depending on the cab configuration chosen. Regardless, there are a good array of standard tie-down points available (12 in all) and a spray-in bedliner is standard in the Denali package. We like the available smart rearview mirror option, which allows the rearview mirror to work normally until its tilt switch is activated, which then turns the mirror into an LCD display for the rearview camera. This lets the driver see past rear passengers or tall, view-obstructing cargo to see what's behind the truck.
Speaking of the cargo space, the new MultiPro tailgate on the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali has been the truck's headlining photo op since its introduction. That tailgate has an extra set of hinges to allow the top third of it to open separately. This extra hinge point is augmented by a flip-up (or down, depending on perspective) piece. These two changes to the tailgate create a multitude of added usefulness options to the GMC's tailgate.
With the press of the upper tailgate release button, the tailgate opens as any other would, the whole thing dropping down (softly) to allow access to the rear cargo bed. The center portion hinges down separately when the other release button is pressed, though, dropping that top third of the tailgate. This by itself creates a way to gain easier access to the cargo bed's contents without climbing in. We also noticed that the (standard) built-in corner steps on the GMC Sierra's bumper are now wider and easier to use when climbing into the bed is necessary.
When the GMC's MultiPro tailgate is open and the center portion is down, another press of a physical latch release at its center will drop a step for climbing in from the tailgate itself. It's a beautifully simple and elegant way of allowing access to the bed without fuss. A handle pulls out quickly from the left side of the truck's bed and locks into place. It folds away just as easily.
The MultiPro tailgate has other tricks up its sleeve. With the tailgate down but the center portion left up for a flat surface, the aforementioned step can be lifted up to create a bed stop for holding cargo in place. Imagine putting 8-foot boards into the bed of the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali crew cab and having the flip-up bed stop hold them from sliding out. Genius. Finally, closing the tailgate and then dropping only the top third on the MultiPro system leaves a little "desk" or workbench opening that can be used as just that – or as a way for long items to protrude from the truck bed. The MultiPro tailgate is standard on the Denali package and we think it's genius-level thinking.
The 2019 Sierra Denali has three engine options, starting with a 5.3-liter V8 that outputs 355 horsepower (265 kW) and 383 pound-feet (519 Nm) of torque. This engine can be upgraded to include GMC's Dynamic Fuel Management cylinder deactivation system to improve fuel economy. Our GMC Sierra Denali test truck was equipped with the powerful 6.2-liter V8 that outputs 420 hp (313 kW) and 460 lb-ft (624 Nm). GMC promises a 3.0-liter turbodiesel option is coming soon.
The 6.2L engine pairs to a well-done 10-speed automatic transmission (as will the diesel option). Our 6.2L engine, which includes Dynamic Fuel Management as standard, was EPA-rated at 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (15.6 and 11.8 l/100km). Our average for the week, including some towing and off-road use, averaged 16 mpg overall. With the Max Trailer package, the 6.2-liter powertrain can tow up to 12,200 pounds (5,534 kg).
On the road, the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali is a smooth ride, though not as smooth as some rivals we've driven. It rides better when under a load or when towing, we noted. The 6.2L engine offers a lot of power and brings it earlier than expected, making the Sierra Denali a sporty-feeling drive out of the gate. Off the road, the Sierra did very well for itself in medium-duty terrain crawling and did very well on washboard and dirt roadways. We credit the adaptive ride control suspension setup (Denali exclusive) for the latter.
The full-sized pickup truck segment has heated up with some major players bringing new offerings in the last couple of years. The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali is the only premium-level branded offering in the segment, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any competition. We were impressed with the intelligent design that has gone into the Sierra, though, and it's very impressive as a new offering.
The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali has a base price of US$58,000 and was priced at $67,340 as we drove it.
Product Page: 2019 GMC Sierra Denali