Why The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Is An Awesome Truck

Opinion / 8 Comments

But it isn't quite perfect. Here's how we'd improve it.

In 2019, Ram did the unthinkable: stealing the second-place spot from Chevrolet on the pickup truck sales chart. This major shift in sales is representative of the Ram's attractive styling, comfortable ride, and class-leading interior. But General Motors, makers of the Chevy Silverado, has a secret weapon in the form of the GMC brand. The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 shares its mechanical underpinnings with the Silverado, and if you combined the sales of both trucks, GM actually outsold Ram in 2019 and came close to Ford's sales numbers.

The GMC Sierra offers numerous features that are not found in the Chevy Silverado, focusing on the higher end of the market with trims like the AT4 and Denali. GMC sent us a 2020 Sierra 1500 in the top-of-the-line Denali Carbon Pro Edition to review for a week, and we found many things to love about it. However, there is one area where the Denali could be more competitive with the Ram 1500 Limited and the upcoming 2021 F-150.

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Love: The Bold, American Styling

With the current generation of trucks, Chevy's designers decided to think outside of the box while GMC stuck closer to the proven design formula. In our opinion, this decision left the Silverado looking too outrageous while the Sierra still looks handsome, especially in Denali trim. You can spot a Denali via the massive and distinctive chrome grille.

The Carbon Pro Edition truck gets 22-inch black wheels, adding a sporty touch. This truck lets people know that you have arrived in style. We only wish the Carbon Pro model would match the grille with the wheels, finishing both items in black or chrome, or perhaps a cool shadow chrome.

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Love: The MultiPro Tailgate

Part of the Carbon Pro Edition package includes GMC's exclusive MultiPro tailgate, which opens in six different configurations. The upper portion of the gate opens separately, so you can lean longer items out of the top, or use the surface to work. With both pieces lowered, you can gain closer access to the bed or use the integrated bed step. There is even an optional Kicker speaker system integrated into the tailgate, which will come in handy at a tailgate party.

As a minor criticism, the upper portion of the tailgate can be damaged if you lower it with a tow hitch installed. GMC offers a solution to this issue by equipping bed steps in the rear bumper, so you can still get up into the bed even when a hitch is installed.

Inside, the bed is made from carbon fiber composite, meaning it can stand up to the toughest abuse without the need for a bed liner. It is also resistant to corrosion, weighs 25 percent less than a normal bed, and shaped to offer more space than a steel box.

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Love: High-Tech Features

Sitting at the top of GMC's lineup, the Sierra Denali boasts the best technology in the company's portfolio. Features such as the rearview camera mirror, head-up display, power-retractible running boards, wireless phone charger, 360-degree cameras, advanced towing cameras, and tailgate sound system make the Denali feel like a truck for a 21st-century luxury shopper. Added touches like heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel are pretty common in trucks today but help the Sierra Denali feel worthy of its high starting price of $58,200.

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Love: Perfect Engine/Transmission Combo

The Sierra Denali is available with a choice of three different engines. A 5.3-liter V8 acts as the base motor while a 3.0-liter diesel inline-six is also available. Our tester made use of the larger 6.2-liter V8, which is mated exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission. With 420 horsepower on tap, the 6.2-liter engine effortlessly gets the Sierra up to speed while the buttery smooth 10-speed automatic transmission matches with precise shifts. This engine/transmission combination ranks near the top of trucks we've tested.

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Where It Needs Improving: The Interior

There isn't much we'd change about how the GMC Sierra drives. With the 6.2-liter engine and 10-speed transmission, it is perhaps the smoothest powertrain available in a truck today. But our Denali Carbon Pro Edition tester rang in at $71,850, which is a price tag that the interior can not live up to. After testing the Ram 1500 Limited and higher trim variants of the F-150, GMC's decision to barely change the Sierra's interior from the last generation feels like a mistake.

Especially with a new F-150 on the horizon, the GMC, even in Denali trim, feels like it has the cheapest interior of the American trucks. The Denali does feature nicer leather surfaces, but the seats still feel harsh compared to the plush chairs found in the Ram. It is also missing key features like massage seats, a panoramic moonroof, and ventilated rear seats (all of which can be found in either the Ram, F-150, or both). GMC needs a facelift to address the cabin, bringing in elements from the 2021 Yukon. With a few key adjustments to the interior, the Sierra could be far more competitive.

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