Months after revealing the new 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 via helicopter at Texas Motor Speedway, GM unveiled the redesigned 2019 GMC Sierra Denali and SLT full-sized pickups at a staid, upscale media event in Detroit. GMC sought to differentiate the Denali brand in particular as the premium truck, touting its average transaction price performance against luxury brands like Mercedes and Jaguar.
On a typical day, I’m a card-carrying member of the “everyone should own a wagon or a hot hatch” brigade. But, I can admit that, with driving wet snow and pockmarked roads awaiting me for the ride home in my front-wheel-drive VW, a new Sierra Denali did not sound half bad.
Performance and pricing details from GMC were scarce. But, the trucks were extant, and GMC revealed some details about the forthcoming models.
Who It’s For: The Silverado is for the badass about to do some work or some serious off-roading. The Sierra Denali, the “most premium Sierra ever,” according to GMC, is for the badass who can appreciate some open pore wood paneling while traveling to pressing business in Wine Country. He or she wants comfort, luxury and all manner of electronic gadgetry, but in a big freaking truck. Think less “trail boss” and more someone’s actual boss.
What’s Under the Hood: Unlike the Ford F-150, the Sierra is sticking with updated versions of GM’s 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s. There will also be a 3.0-liter inline-six turbo-diesel option. The engines will achieve better fuel economy through a Dynamic Fuel Management system, operating on one to eight cylinders as conditions merit for better fuel economy. The 6.2-liter V8 and the diesel will have 10-speed automatic transmissions. GMC prepped the Denali for pothole season with an Adaptive Ride Control suspension.
What’s New: The latest iteration of the Sierra Denali is wider and roomier. It offers a more commanding ride height and is, of course, tougher than its predecessor. That enhanced hirsuteness, however, does not come with added weight. GMC lightened the load with aluminum for the moving parts. GMC also abandoned its absolute commitment to a steel bed, offering a CarbonPro carbon fiber pickup box on at least the top end model. Per GMC, the truck can be as much as 360 pounds lighter than the last model.
Must-Have Options: The Denali and SLT editions of the Sierra will include a standard MultiPro tailgate, with six distinct positions and functions, including a standing workstation mode. The tailgate will offer both step and seated functionality and hold up to 375 pounds. The Denali also offers an optional high-resolution rear camera mirror that can tilt and zoom, permitting the driver to see around cargo and large-headed passengers.
Trailering: If you tow things and enjoy futzing with an infotainment screen, the Sierra will be the truck for you. The ProGrade Trailering System on the Denali and SLT will offer a “confident towing experience.” There’s a new Trailering app, compatible with Android and iOS, which checks lighting and monitors tire pressure and temperature for the trailer. There are hitch view, side view, and trailer-mounted cameras. It has Trailer Theft Detection. The Sierra should have you prepared for any trailer-related eventuality short of an artillery bombardment.
Verdict: Critics have noted the Sierra’s persistent similarity to the Silverado: the trucks have been so similar they share a Wikipedia page. Is 2019 the year we exit Olsen-twin territory with these two trucks? That’s the intent. The Sierra provides its pro and premium options and distinctive C-shaped LED lighting. It has different grille and body detailing. It will feature prominent, light-catching GMC and Denali badging. Still, the trucks will share powertrains and probably will deliver indistinguishable performance. You should be able to buy a pared-down Sierra or a tarted up Silverado. The distinction is there with the 2019 editions, but non-truck fiends may need to squint.