Len Ingrassia: GMC Sierra all about power

The 2020 GMC Sierra is offered in numerous trim levels from workhorse to elegant and functional interiors.Photo courtesy Len Ingrassia

In the world of big trucks, there is plenty to choose from, and this is one area where domestics dominate the playing field.

On the one hand, the Chevrolet Silverado can be had for thousands less and is mechanically similar, but cosmetically, the GMC Sierra has more to offer with its carbon pro edition, well-clad interiors and ride quality.

• Pros: commanding view, powerful engines, comfortable cabin.

• Cons: pricey, staid interior layout, rougher ride than rivals.

GMC towing capacity, like Silverado is nearly 12,500 pounds, but both are less than major rivals’ Ram 1500 and Ford F-150.

The Sierra is all about making choices with bed size, trim level, engine and transmission selections as well as rear- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from just under $30,000 to just over $70,000. For comparison, the Chevy Silverado tops out around $55,000.

Our tester for a week, the top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive crew cab Denali, was propelled by a rugged 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower. Mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission, the Denali trim and cabin amenities boosted the price to nearly $72,000 before tax.

Trim levels include the Base with a 285-horsepower V6; SLE and Elevation with a turbo four-cylinder — 310 horsepower; 355-horsepower V8 available on all trim levels and the 6.2-liter V8 available on upper trim levels.

On the highway, we were impressed with the Denali performance. It is surprisingly quiet for such a large truck fitted with 22-inch high gloss black wheels. Its optional ecotec3 engine technology includes cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing with direct injection for $2,495.

Passing acceleration is immediate with thrust to move through traffic as needed. Although the Denali is equipped with sensors all around and blind spot monitors for side views, we noticed front and side vision obscured at times because of its height.

Handling such a large pickup was simple and well composed because of limited body roll, responsive steering, adaptive ride control and a full suite of available safety equipment including lane-keeping assist, emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

There is plenty of cool gear to embrace with the Denali, including power running boards for easy entry and exit to cabin and bed, 12 fixed cargo tie downs, LED cargo lighting, chrome recovery hooks, remote start, heads-up display and full engine vitals graphically displayed in the instrument panel.

In addition to a Bose sound system inside the pickup, tailgating parties are a cinch with an available Kicker audio system built into the exterior six-position tailgate. The GMC exclusive features a tailgate extension to nearly 8 feet, office workstation with all essential plug-ins, a table and large steps for loading and unloading with a pullout grab bar for lift assist.

Another feature that makes the Denali expensive is the optional carbon fiber composite bed and badging, part of an $8,965 option package that includes most of the onboard safety gear, upgraded wheels, bed view and trailer cameras.

At 7,100 pounds, the Denali is a classy set of wheels for multi-use.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

What was reviewed

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab Denali

Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 420 horsepower.

EPA mileage: 15 city, 20 highway, 17 combined.

Assembled: The GMC Sierra is assembled in Roanoke, Ind.

Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the GMC Sierra four stars out of a possible five for overall front star rating for driver and passenger, five stars for side barrier and pole ratings protection (the Side Barrier test simulates an intersection collision between a standing vehicle and moving barrier at 38.5 mph; the Side Pole Barrier test simulates a crash into a fixed object like a tree or utility pole) and four stars for rollover star rating.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the GMC Sierra a "Good" rating, its highest, in driver side small and moderate front overlap, side impact, roof strength protection and for head restraints and seats in rear-end collision. Headlight illumination received a "Poor" rating. Front crash protection received a "Superior" rating when equipped with optional equipment.

Warranty: three-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper; five-year/60,000-mile powertrain. First maintenance visit free.

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