The 2013 GMC Sierra Denali is hauling class

By Steve Smith
Posted 6/12/13




Aaron Cole

Auto Columnist

Despite an endless amount of configurations, there are essentially two types of pickups in the world.

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The 2013 GMC Sierra Denali is hauling class





Aaron Cole
Auto Columnist

Despite an endless amount of configurations, there are essentially two types of pickups in the world.
    There are trucks where visible dirt could potentially increase the resale value, and trucks that are born and bred to be clean like a surgeon’s operating table. The 2013 GMC Sierra Denali is firmly in the latter category.

    You can make broad assumptions about who buys what and why, but there are two potential reasons for this shift toward mobile penthouses with a long bed and trailer hitch.
    First, ranching and farming could be a far more lucrative profession than I was brought up to believe. Or second, and more likely based on the farmers I know, the basic formula for pickups has changed significantly over the last decade.
    Practicality used to be inversely proportional to luxury. You didn’t see Rolls Royces bailing hay just like you didn’t see Hank Hilljack valet his dually at the Four Seasons.
    You can largely thank GMC for that sea change in the pickup market.
    Only a few short years ago, GMC noticed their buyers were shoveling luxury options like navigation, wood and leather into their pickups far faster than they were shoveling anything into the beds.
    The Denali was born to specifically to scratch that itch. The range, which is an option on every GMC consumer vehicle, isn’t only a package of 20-inch chrome wheels, faux-wood grain panels, leather and a chrome grille for the. The Denali carries as standard GMC’s larger V8 engine (an option on the standard Sierra) a 6.2-liter behemoth that could strain gravity’s grip on nearly any object. Or to put it another way: It’s a monster of a motor, y’all.
    That may be about as accurate as you need to be, really. The engine cranks out 403 horsepower and 417 lb.-ft. of torque, which as you could imagine, hammers anything in its sights. The engine is standard in both two-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations for the Sierra and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission always. As you would imagine, the combination won’t set any mileage records, but the Sierra Denali manages a 14 mpg clip in combined driving with a 26 gallon tank. That range improves in highway cruising at 18 mpg, but with a 400-mile range, long interstates can become thirsty places.
    Chances are you’re more concerned with the grain of the hides in the Sierra Denali than how long you can haul your neighbor’s feedbags so here goes: Don’t get this thing dirty. There are places where the Sierra Denali feels downright utilitarian: gear shifter, center console, parts of the dash and floors. But there are more places where the Sierra Denali feels downright cosmopolitan: steering wheel, instruments and just about everything else.
    At $14,000 more over the regular price of a Sierra, the Denali’s entry point is well into the top 10 percent for full-size pickups. Our test model, optioned to the moon, came in at an eye watering $53,694 with navigation (how is that not standard?), sunroof ($895) and chrome rails ($695).
    After a week of driving, we could make a few observations about the Sierra Denali. First, is that GMC’s forerunner to the luxury pickup market is showing its age here. Slick packages from Ram, Ford and now Toyota are making the luxury truck market a cutthroat business. General Motors have already showed off their 2014 Sierra Denali and it looks fairly better, but as luxury pickups go, even the new Sierra Denali definitely retains the “workman’s luxury” look approach.
    If Ford’s King Ranch looks like a Country Western song, then Toyota’s new Tundra 1794 looks like a Tammy Wynette on a rhinestone bender. Ram’s Longhorn is somewhere in between I suppose.
    Unlike some of those other models, I didn’t mind driving the understated luxury pickup. The Sierra Denali doesn’t unnecessarily draw attention to itself, which I can appreciate when I have to perform a six-point turn just to park it.
    The Denali’s ride isn’t as comfortable as some of the other luxury pickups, but what’s your preference? Would you rather have smooth speed bumps or the ability to pull them cold out of the ground?
    That’s perhaps the most important question when it comes to shopping for a luxury pickup: How over-the-top and easy are you looking to make this thing?
    I mean, it’s not like you wanted to get dirt on your brand new Sierra Denali, do you?

Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He’s driven hundreds of cars, briefly. He knows he’s wrong, he’d just rather hear it from you. Reach him at or on Twitter: @ColeMeetsCars.


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