Isn’t the term ‘luxury truck’ an oxymoron? It would be — in 1925 when the segment was created. Things have moved on considerably since then and even though pickups are still tough and highly capable machines, you’d have reservations about hosing down interiors of fancier models after a hard day of hauling heavy equipment to and fro a worksite or off-roading in the mud. They deserve a little more respect than that, and having driven the 2017 GMC Sierra Denali, it sure has earned mine.
Extensively updated in 2016, for this year the Sierra receives a capless fuel-filler neck, active grille shutters for improved aerodynamics, low-speed automatic braking and a driver monitor system. The updates are minor but what we have here is a handsome and fully loaded pickup with plenty of fire in its belly. You’ve gotta love the massive chrome grille, chromed door handles, chromed wing mirror housings and those 20in machined-aluminium wheels. It wouldn’t go amiss parked outside a five-star hotel but deep down, it knows it’s a work horse that’ll happily carry tonnes of lumber before getting caked in grime when tackling muddy tracks. Most would consider this dirty work but the Sierra Denali makes it look good.
The fancy truck market is flourishing in the US but they’re a very common sight even on our roads. Buyers who want the best of both worlds will surely be tempted by this classy GMC — it has all the bells and whistles one could ask for. First of all, this big rig sure looks the part; no doubt, it’s a boxy bruiser but a closer look reveals bulging creases on the body, rectangular tubed LED headlights, a recessed bonnet latch tray, automatically deploying side steps, corner bumper footholds and a coated bed. The only thing I feel is missing from the otherwise bold exterior are dual exhaust tips; that single pipe looks a little lonely back there.
Moving on to the interior, the first thing to strike you is how massive it is. It’s so roomy that you’d need arms as long as an orangutan’s to be able to rest your left hand on top of the door card and with 1,677mm of shoulder room maybe even King Kong could fit in the front seat. It’s got luminescent LED lighting in there, vented leather seats, and a warming steering wheel which you’ll never use here of course but it is further proof of how urbane this GMC is. It’s been swathed in high grade materials and has more than enough creature comforts to worry Cadillac but as I said, it hasn’t forgotten its roots; the truck DNA is intact — those beefy toggle switches and chunky control knobs see to that. You could probably operate them wearing boxing gloves let alone the workman kind. But with several USB ports, wireless phone charging, power adjustable pedals, a power sliding rear window, sunroof, rear view camera, and so many storage pockets that you’ll definitely lose your valuables in there, it’s positively bustling with desirable amenities.
Moving on to the tech and safety systems, it has GM’s intuitive 8.0in touchscreen with 3D interactive navigation maps that sits proudly in the middle of the centre stack, a Bose audio, Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and remote vehicle start. Our tester also has the Enhanced Driver Alert Package which adds active lane keep assist, adaptive headlights and forward collision warning and a vibrating seat to warn you if a collision is imminent. Standard safety features include four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front side-mounted airbags, and front and rear head curtain airbags.
So far so good but it gets better when you stop drooling over it and actually drive it. Sure, the Crew Cab Sierra is a big and heavy truck but blessed with a 6.2-litre V8 that churns out 420bhp, 623Nm of torque (it has a towing capacity 5,443kg) and mated to a slick eight-speed auto, it has more than enough get up and go is fun to, dare I say, throw around. No, not on the road — the massive Goodyears will plead for their life if you chuck it into a corner at sportscar speeds but, on correct terrain, and that’s off-road, it excels. Manhandling this sophisticated GMC is a thrill out in the rough and there isn’t even any need to engage four-wheel drive with the power sent to the rear axle proving more than enough from keeping it from bogging down, but if you need more assistance it’s good to know that it boasts low-range gearing, auto-locking hubs and an electronic locking rear differential.
On the road, the Magnetic Ride Control dampers help cushion you from bumpy roads and although the ride is smooth it feels like the Sierra is wandering at times; the electric steering is a tad vague and with such a large contact patch via the P275/55R20 tyres that’s to be expected. Still, it induces a massive smile and if you are of a shy disposition, you may want to look elsewhere as this commands a whole lot of attention.
It’s refined, loaded with tech and yet it’s still a proper pickup. So no, a ‘luxury truck’ isn’t an oxymoron but you have to be a moron if you don’t like this monster with a delightfully sophisticated character.