Timing Is Everything: The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab
The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab.
The pickup truck business, like the pickup truck itself, used to be so simple:  A box up front to hold the engine, a box in the middle to hold three people on a flat bench seat and an open box in the back to haul stuff.  It needed to be fixable with farm tools, rugged enough to withstand abuse for a decade or two and that was pretty much it.

The times, they have a-changed.  Pickup trucks now occupy the space where American luxury cars were when pickups were simple.  They are the Cadillac Fleetwood, Lincoln Continental and Chrysler Imperial of today---judged on their flash, their levels of equipment and creature comforts, their power and their prestige, they are (along with big SUVs based on them like the Suburban, Yukon XL, Expedition, Navigator and Escalade), the only vehicles American manufacturers can ask and get premium prices for.

It is a fickle space, where what was good enough last year might not cut it this year.

The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali certainly has the flash quotient down.  That massive chromed grille, is, if anything, more imposing in real life than the picture above can convey.  And it brings an interesting innovation to the game with a multi-function tailgate called the GMC Multipro:

The top half of the tailgate can fold down to provide a work surface...

...fold down and pull out to provide a load stop....

...and the full tailgate can fold down and a retractable piece can provide a load stop for longer loads.

That top half can also fold down to provide easy access with a shorter tailgate to slide things across when loading.

And it can open out to create a full-width step for climbing up into the bed of the truck.

And yes, it can function just like a normal tailgate, too.

This kind of functional wizardry is in keeping with GMC's "Professional Grade" brand image, though one wonders how much serious work buyers of a pickup that starts at $58,000 will actually subject their truck to.

That base price for the Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab, by the way, is $1,720 more than the base price of the Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Platinum that we drove last year.  Not an outrageous difference, considering that GMC has always positioned itself as a step up from Ford, Chevy and RAM.

Interior view of 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD
2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab.
The problem comes when you open the door to the cab.  Where the Ford---and especially the new 2019 RAM (which we'll be reviewing next month) overwhelm you with color, contrast, texture and premium materials, the Denali is dark.  There are two interior options---ours was Jet Black.  But even the Cocoa/Dark Sand combination seems flat.

Instrument Panel of 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD
2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Instrument Panel.
The problem continues with the instrument panel---the switchgear looks and feels like holdovers from the previous generation.  Again, especially against the new RAM, it's unfortunate.

GMC also got bitten by an out-of-sync supply situation.  The new adaptive cruise control module for this truck wasn't ready by the introduction date.  Rather than change the grille to use the old module, GMC chose to simply make adaptive cruise control---which maintains a pre-set distance between you and the car ahead of you---unavailable in 2019.  At a time when cars with price tags in the 20-thousands have that feature, asking a year's worth of buyers of a top-of-the-line pickup truck to live without it is a big gamble.

And then, there's fuel economy.  Our tester had the optional 6.2 Liter EcoTec3 V8 with a 10-speed transmission.  The EPA estimates 15 city/20 highway and we managed 14.1 in a 50/50 mix of city streets and urban freeways.  Ford and RAM, admittedly with smaller engines, are well into the upper teens.

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab
2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab.

Five years ago, we would have raved about this pickup truck.  In fact, we did.  But the big-buck truck world is a rapidly changing place and the competition is tough.  GMC is in the uneviable position of needing to play catch-up.

2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab

Base Price: $58,000

Standard equipment:

  • Two-speed Autotrac transfer case
  • Heavy-duty locking rear differential
  • Adaptive ride control
  • Prograde trailering system
  • Trailer brake controller
  • Stabilitrak with trailer sway control and hill start assist
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Remote vehicle start
  • OnStar
  • HD rear vision camera
  • Front and rear park assist
  • Lane change alert with side blind zone alert
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Safety alert seat
  • GMC Multipro tailgate
  • Power heated folding outside mirrors with perimeter lighting and puddle lamps with memory settings
  • High-intensity LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights
  • LED front fog lamps
  • LED taillamps
  • All-season tires
  • Chrome front recovery hooks
  • Cornerstep rear bumper
  • Integrated dual exhaust
  • Rear wheelhouse liners
  • 12 fixed cargo box tiedowns
  • Box-mounted 120V electrical outlet
  • Spray-on bedliner
  • Heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls
  • Heated and ventilated leather-appointed front bucket seats with 10-way power assist including lumbar support
  • Keyless open and start
  • Memory settings for driver's seat and outside mirrors
  • Heated, leather-appointed 60/40 folding rear bench seat with seatback and underseat storage
  • Front and rear carpeted floormats
  • Real wood and aluminum trim
  • Wireless charging and USB ports
  • Power windows
  • Power sliding rear window
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Rear vents
  • 120V power outlet
  • Eight-inch digital driver information center
  • Tilt and telescoping steering column
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • GMC premium infotainment system with navigation
  • Eight-inch diagonal HD color touchscreen
  • Voice recognition
  • Bluetooth audio streaming
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Bose premium sound system
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio and AllAccess
  • 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot
Extra-cost options:

  • Denali Ultimate Package (HD surround vision, rear camera mirror, multi-color head-up display, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, low-speed automatic front braking, front pedestrian braking, intellibeam headlamps, following distance indicator, power sunroof, GMC Multipro power steps, 22-inch polished aluminum wheels with wheel locks, trailer tire pressure monitoring system) $5,850.
  • 6.2L EctoTec3 V8 Engine $2,495.
  • Dark Sky Metallic Paint $395.
Destination charge: $1,495

Denali Ultimate Package Saving: -$500

As-tested price: $67,735