2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali review update: The tailgate you want, the interior you don't

January 25, 2019

In the arms race that is full-size pickup trucks, the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali takes a right turn with a new tactic: tech instead of brawn.

For 2019, the GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500 are new and the reigning sales champ Ford F-150 recently received an update. At a time when dino juice is cheap and consumers want trucks to haul their lifestyles around, it's a great moment to build a solid truck.

With a TCC Rating of 5.6 out of 10, the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 scores with straightforward style, upsized interior, and easy-to-use infotainment system. Where it misses is in gas mileage, lack of features, and it is outpointed in max towing.

I recently spent a week with 2019 GMC Sierra Denali to see if this new truck is as professional grade as the marketing says it is. Here's where the chromed-out truck hit, and where it missed:

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Hit: All the torque. My Denali tester had the optional 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V-8 with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, an engine that used to be standard on the Denali. Power was  sent to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. The only engine more powerful in a full-size pickup truck is Ford's twin-turbo V-6, which has plenty of grunt but doesn't sound as good. The 6.2 V-8 has a well of torque to draw from, and it seems never ending as it builds smoothly through the rev range.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Miss: This is a new interior? Look quickly and you'll be forgiven if it's hard to notice the interior of the 2019 Sierra 1500 Denali is new. It looks like a warmed over version of the last-generation truck, which dates back to 2014. There are a handful of real wood trim pieces inside, but it's easy to miss them given each sits at or below the driver's waistline. The infotainment screen measures merely 8.0 inches, which is fine, but it's the same as the last GMC truck, and the new Ram 1500 has an available 12.0-inch screen.The leather isn't soft, and there's a lot of plastic throughout the cabin. This is a luxury truck?

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Hit: Sit in the truck, not on it. The seating position in the 2019 Sierra 1500 is low inside the cabin, which makes it feel more like a car than a truck from behind the wheel. The low seating position doesn't hinder visibility, and all the tall glass around the cabin makes it feel larger and more airy than the competition. It's a mind trick that works.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Miss: Luxury truck tires, not work truck tires. My 2019 Sierra 1500 Denali's 22-inch polished aluminum wheels were wrapped in Bridgestone Alenza tires. While rated as an all-season tire, the slightest bit of snow, slush, or ice posed a challenge. Four-wheel drive is great, but doesn't help you stop. Tires matter. The subpar grip the Alenza tires provided in winter weather—and it was far from blizzard conditions during my test week—made it clear these aren't tires that are meant to be put to work doing truck things. They made to provide a quiet, luxurious ride on the freeway, which they did, when the freeways were bare and clear of any form of wintry mix.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Hit: There's some real innovation. The optional power running boards on my tester move positions at the touch of the foot. This gives easy access to the cab or the front of the bed, depending which is needed. That's a nifty feature that helps them stand out compared to rivals. The six-way folding tailgate is the definition of creativities. It allowed me to access groceries and other items in the bed with ease by dropping the middle section down.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Miss: It can't adapt while cruising. My tester rang in at a whopping $67,735 and didn't have adaptive cruise control. No amount of money can get a buyer adaptive cruise control on a new 2019 GMC Sierra 1500, which is a new truck with a new platform, a new cab, a new wiring harness, and new electronics. Subcompact cars costing a fraction the Sierra Denali's price can be had with adaptive cruise control, too. 

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Hit: It's massive inside. The interior of the Sierra's cab is truly huge thanks to several additional inches of length compared to the previous generation Sierra 1500. No one will complain about not having enough leg room regardless of which seat they are in. The inside of the bed is also bigger than ever, too. GMC says it can hold up to 20 percent more cargo than in past versions due to a more compact bed wall with up to 7 inches more space between the bed sides. One look at the bed and it's clear it has more volume than previous models.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Miss: Still thirsty as ever. Despite a new 10-speed automatic transmission, a weight loss of about 350 pounds, and a new system which can conserve fuel by shutting off the supply of gas to various cylinders in 17 different combinations, the new Sierra isn't any more efficient than it was before. My tester's EPA ratings were 15 mpg city, 20 highway, 17 combined, but the trip computer said I mustered an average of just over 13 mpg. It's puzzling how there's no improvement given all the updates.

 

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali

Hit: Information where you want it. The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 is the only full-size pickup truck on the market to offer a head-up display, and it's fantastic. The large display projects information onto a 15-inch section of the windshield. The information is displayed is clear, crisp, and best of all worked with polarized sunglasses (a rare feat).

At $67,735 as tested my 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 had an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED head, tail, and fog lights, surround-view camera, trailer tire pressure monitoring system, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, and wireless phone charging pad.

The new 2019 Sierra 1500 Denali is capable and well designed with some real cool engineering baked into it. The issue is that it's marketed as professional grade, and it's missing some features that come standard on a Toyota Corolla and the interior doesn't live up to the Denali's luxury positioning and price.

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2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab

Base Price: $34,995

Price as tested: $67,735

EPA fuel economy: 15/20/17

The hits: Powerful engine, upsized interior, great tech, cool engineering

The misses: Ho-hum interior, missing safety tech, luxury tires on a truck, poor gas mileage

2019
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