Sierra Denali Ultimate: Name Says It All

CHATHAM, Mass. – Simply stating the name — 2024 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate – sets the stage for this truck: a luxurious, capable, comprehensively equipped example of an American icon – the full-size pickup.

Power-assisted everything; heated leather seats throughout; 13.4-inch infotainment touchscreen; muscular 6.2-liter V8; auto four-wheel drive (4WD), and long-list of technology are all standard on this model, GMC’s top-of-the-line variant.

Old-fashioned brute power, modern efficiency

The 6.2-liter V8 harkens back to the days of monster motors in America’s cars and trucks but the Sierra’s makeup is unlike the engines of yesterday.

Aluminum block and cylinder-head construction, not cast iron, marks this modern powerplant. The 16 valves are operated by an overhead camshaft setup with variable-valve timing.

Gone as well is the carburetor, replaced by Direct high-pressure fuel injection with what GMC calls Dynamic Fuel Management.

The results of these engineering feats are 420-horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, but the on-the-road results are even more impressive.

Backed up by a 10-speed automatic transmission and two-speed Autotrac 4WD transfer case, the Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate produced 0-60 miles-per-hour times of 5.4 seconds in Car and Driver testing, 19.3 miles-per-gallon of fuel efficiency in my review period (federal Environmental Protection Agency ratings of 16 mpg overall, 15 urban, 19 highway), all while capable of pulling a trailer of up to 13,200 pounds.

This combination of capabilities, in a truck filled with premium features, would have been unheard of even 10 years ago.

Solid platform for real-truck activities

The Denali Premium Suspension consists of independent coil-over-shock with twin-tube shock absorbers up front; solid axle with semi-elliptic, variable-rate, two-stage multi-leaf springs, splayed twin-tube shock absorbers and auto-locking rear differential in the rear. In addition, there is adaptive ride control and Stabilitrak with trailer-sway control.

The electro-hydraulic power-assisted four-wheel-disc brake system features anti-lock (ABS) and vented front and rear DuralifeTM rotors. The fronts are 13×1.8 inches, the rears 13.6×0.79.

Unique-to-Denali-Ultimate 22-inch wheels, finished in low-gloss black with machined accents, wear P275/50R22 all-season tires.

These pieces combine for a ride which is firm, but comfortable. The bed was empty throughout my time behind the Sierra’s steering wheel, but never did I feel like the truck was unbalanced, not always the case with an empty pickup.

This is a big vehicle – 231.9-inches long, 75.5 tall, 81.2 wide and 5,586 pounds – so even with the high-performance acceleration and sophisticated suspension, I was cautious in pushing it on twisting roads.

Its handling was reassuring, as I always felt in control even when conditions got tight. Construction and traffic forced me to detour through the narrow, two-way streets of East Boston and Chelsea as I tried to get from Logan International Airport home to Cape Cod and I was always able to maneuver the GMC even when another full-size pickup came at me.

Advanced driver-assistance systems smooth out driving

The extensive roster of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) standard on the Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate was a major factor in the driving ease I experienced. Audible and haptic  – a vibrating seat – warnings alerted me when traffic came too close, or I was nearing a stationary object while navigating a tight parking lot.

The ADAS list included GMC Pro Safety (forward-collision alert; front-pedestrian braking; following-distance indicator; Intellibeam-auto high beam); front and rear park assist; trailer side blind-zone alert; rear cross-traffic braking; rear-pedestrian alert; enhanced automatic emergency braking (AEB), and high-definition surround-view monitor.

Technology, amenities and conveniences fill luxurious interior

Stepping on the automatic running boards which deploy whenever a door is opened and into the interior reveals a LARGE, truly five-passenger space filled with materials, equipment and technology more commonly found in premium cars and SUVs.

The leather seats are heated at the four outer positions. The fronts are also ventilated, feature full power adjustment, including for lumbar support, and massage capabilities. Two-person memory for the driver’s seat also includes the outside heated, folding mirrors as well as the leather-wrapped, power-adjustable, heated steering wheel.

Dual-zone automatic climate control, with easy-to-use intuitive dash controls, takes care of the interior environment.

Speaking of the dash, a customizable, 12.3-inch instrument cluster sits on the lefr, while the 13.4-inch color LCD touchscreen dominates the center as the control unit for the infotainment system. The infotainment system includes standard Google Maps -based navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio and 12-speaker Bose® Premium series with Center Point surround technology with AudioPilot and Richbass woofer.

The Denali Ultimate also brings a customizable, 15-inch heads-up-display; panoramic moonroof; a 60/40 split rear seat with under-seat and hidden-behind-the-back-cushion storage compartments; 10 cupholders; USB and 110-Volt power outlets; two glove boxes in the dash, and a huge center console.

Unfortunately, I was not able to evaluate one of the more intriguing features available on the 2024 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Super Cruise, GMC’s self-driving capability. According to GMC, this option ($2,200 on the review unit) “is the industry’s first true hands-free driver-assistance technology for compatible roads, and it can be used on more than 200,000 miles of compatible roads in the U.S. and Canada.” In addition to being limited to specific roads, it needs a subscription to operate, which I did not have.

A lot of truck

The 2024 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate sits at the top of the diverse eight-model range. The two-wheel drive Pro at $37,200 anchors the line, with the Denali Ultimate topping it at $82,500. The review unit added the Super Cruise ($2,200) and Titanium Rush Metallic paint ($495) options as well as the $1,995 destination charge for an as-tested price of $87,190.

That is a lot of money for which shoppers will get a lot of truck; a truck which will provide roomy, luxurious and comfortable transportation while still providing rugged pickup-truck capabilities. And the price is competitive with top-of-the-line full-size pickups from GMC’s major competitors.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.