Review: GMC Sierra 1500 Limited Denali

Three years ago GM loaned their new, at the time, Silverado 1500 pickup truck. It was a rather base LT Double Cab 4×4 model. It featured the new 2.7-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine – a first for such a big truck. I wanted to like it, especially since the LT trim is a popular choice, unlike the loaded models that automakers usually loan to us.

The big red truck had issues, however. The first issue was the new engine. The four-banger had a lower EPA gas-mileage than the base V8. While it was a smooth cruiser, it was rather slow. Its towing capacity of the four was almost half of what the V8s could tow. Finally, it developed an intermittent CEL while in my possession, which further cut the power. All of that was far from ideal.

The Big V8

This time GM sent Silverado’s corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra. Still a 1500 but this one was decked out Crew Cab in the Denali trim. This 4×4 was powered by a very healthy 6.2-liter V8 which sent its power through a ten-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfercase. This EcoTec3 makes 420 horsepower at 5600rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4100rpm. Tow capacity for this combination, with a 3.42 axle ratio, is 8900 pounds. The maximum payload is 2000 pounds.

The powertrain made for excellent driving characteristics. It is smooth, quiet, with a solid reserve of power, and relatively efficient given the size of this vehicle. Depending on the model, this engine is approximately a $4000 upgrade and it sure seems worth it. In between the 2.7 and the 6.2 are 5.3-liter V8 and 3.0-liter Duramax diesel options, neither of which I have experienced. Trusted sources tell me the diesel is excellent.  

The Limited

Astute readers will notice the word “limited” in this truck’s name. What it means is basically “old”. For 2022 model year, GM trucks received an update. However, due to various reasons, those updated trucks are not readily available. This is why the un-updated 2021-like “limited” model exists. The non-limited (unlimited?) Silverado and Sierra get a minor facelift and a new, much nicer, interior. They also get a higher sticker price.

The interior of the then all-new 2019 Chevy Silverado was rather disappointing. At the time I did a double-take because it was almost identical to the one in the previous generation truck. This “Limited” retains that interior but with more bell and whistles. In all, there are approximately fifty switches or buttons on the dash and seven knobs. The screen itself is small by modern standards and the graphics seem aged.

The Cabin

Dash aside, the cabin is huge and very comfortable. The seats in the Denali are cooled and ventilated. They also vibrate as a warning when reversing. There is storage everywhere and enough power points to charge all your electronics. The column mounted shifter is a love/hate thing. It saves console space but changing gears manually is not easy.

The rear seat is a little more confusing. The rear seatback does not fold but instead has two little cubbies in that seemed designed to hold nothing bigger than a light snack or a weapon. The bottom cushion raises up, revealing a narrow and long storage bin. The floor is flat but the bin is mounted permanently. Interestingly, a heated rear seat, even on this top model, is not available.

The Big Seeing Issue

Aside from the above mentioned quirks, this is a rather solid pickup truck. It does all the half-ton pickup things well. But there is one issue that has recently got a lot of coverage in the news and it was really bothering me on this truck. The visibility is quite bad.

I understand that this is a big vehicle because it sort of has to be. But that does not excuse the poor visibility. Looking forward, the dashes raises high, the hood is flat (as opposed to sloped), and it unnecessarily bulges up. The grill is tall and vertical, making seeing what’s directly in front of the truck difficult. Further obstructing vision are thick A-pillars with grab handles mounted to them.

The beltline is high, too. While turning right, for instance, it’s not easy to see where the curb line is, even for me, a tall person with a seat adjusted high. The same goes for side vision in mirrors; they’re just higher than they should be. The side windows on Ford’s large pickups drop lower and I didn’t realize how handy that is until I didn’t have it. While a gentle rake forward is unpopular among buyers, I think this truck could benefit from it.

Conclusion

The half-ton pickup truck market is red hot. The big three and two big Japanese brands are giving it their best. Cab sizes, engines, drivelines, features, and options vary substantially. There are hybrid engines, air suspensions, diesel engines, vinyl floors and massaging seats. Get yours anyway you want to. The issue for Chevy and GMC is that their models don’t really offer anything that any other maker doesn’t.

East Coast Editor. Races crappy cars and has an unhealthy obsession with Eastern Bloc cars. Current fleet: 4Runner, Integra, Regal, Lada

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