Behind the Wheel

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Review: Comfortable, capable, and on the verge of being the best truck

Chrome details give the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali a luxe look.

Photo courtesy of GMC

The best truck is an excellent blend of capability, comfort, and tech. The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali checks most of those boxes thanks to a variety of upgrades for the new model year that make enough of a difference that the truck ticks up a few spots in the desirability rankings.

Sitting at the top of GMC's lineup, as tested the Sierra 1500 Denali seemingly had every bell and whistle. The CarboPro bed, MultiPro tailgate, and 3.0-liter Duramax diesel engine. That's the trifecta of GMC innovation, and it all plays very well with the idea of a luxury truck that the arm of General Motors is looking to project with the model.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali The Sierra tester came equipped with the truck's available MultiPro tailgate and CarbonPro bed.Photo courtesy of GMC

The strong stance of the Sierra 1500 Denali is complimented by a bright, multidimensional grille, chrome exterior accents, and body-color bumpers. The overall effect is elegant rather than beefy.

The real eye-catching aspect is the MultiPro tailgate, which during a week of testing (and a few stops at Home Depot) garnered more than its fair share of questions and displayed its functionality to a number of curious fellow shoppers. Attach that interest to the questions about the CarbonPro bed, and a trip to the hardware store gives a whole different meaning to Demo Day.

The true gem of the Sierra 1500 Denali is a bit more hidden. That's its strong, capable, and surprisingly quiet diesel engine. The Duramax is good for 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Its power inspired confidence while simultaneously not annoying the neighbors with a startling grumble when it starts. The engine is paired with a smooth-as-silk 10-speed automatic transmission.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali The truck isn't just another pretty face. It is plenty capable as well. Photo courtesy of GMC

The available 4x4 drivetrain can be switched to Auto to take advantage of the functionality when needed but fuel savings when not. The EPA rates the 4x2 version of the truck at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway while the 4x4 is said to get 22 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Those estimates held true during testing resulting in the model being nearly twice as fuel efficient as the Toyota Tundra in the two-wheel drive variant.

GMC has made the truck easy to drive at low speed but on the highway, at higher speeds, the steering gets too loose for comfort, making you rethink quick lane changes. That's not an issue that effects the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 or HD, or GMC Sierra HD AT4, which were recently tested in similar conditions.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali The interior of the model isn't up to par with the luxury-level exterior.Photo courtesy of GMC

The model also falters in its cabin. Though the materials are an upgrade from the more pedestrian variants of the Sierra, the Sierra 1500 Denali doesn't feel like a true luxury truck the way the interior of the Ram 1500 does. Still, its seats are comfortable, there's good legroom in the rear, and the infotainment system is plenty responsive.

The truck has a host of easy-to-use tech including 15 camera views and adaptive cruise control, which is new for the 2020 model year. Those cameras, while helpful when driving and towing, are not as helpful when it comes to parking - parking between the lines is somehow much more difficult than it should be.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali The GMC Sierra is easy to drive but difficult to park, even with all the camera angles.Photo courtesy of GMC

A combination of wonky steering and lack of luxe cabin features keep the Sierra 1500 Denali from being truly great. However, it's one of the better pickup trucks on the market because of its carbon fiber bed, innovative tailgate, and engine. If the price tag is too high for your taste or if you want a beefier looking truck, check out the Sierra 1500 AT4, which adds a lift, black exterior accents, and other equipment to the typical Sierra 1500 setup.

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New electric pickup truck

GMC Hummer EV deliveries to start soon

Hummer EV deliveries will start in December.

GMC

This year has turned out to be as difficult for automakers as 2020 was, if not much more so. The pandemic is still a major factor, and to make matters worse there's a global microchip shortage that heavily impacts automakers' ability to build tech-heavy vehicles. GMC has a big launch left to handle in 2021, and according to a recent call with journalists, it's proceeding as planned. On a recent call with reporters, GMC exec Duncan Aldred noted that Hummer EV pickup deliveries are on track to begin in December. He also elaborated on the truck's EPA range numbers.

2023 GMC Hummer EV The trucks will deliver up to 329 miles on a charge. GMC

The Hummer's EPA range lands at 329, not far from the 350 miles General Motors targeted for the vehicle. Those are the estimates for the limited Hummer Edition 1, which carries a six-figure price tag and gobs of bells and whistles. Aldred said that other models coming later on will offer longer range estimates when they hit the roads sometime in 2023.

A staggering 80 percent of reservations GMC has gathered so far are for the Edition 1 model. Almost half of the 125,000 people who have inquired about the Hummer EV have placed the refundable $100 deposit and the SUV's first year of production is completely sold out.

2023 GMC Hummer EV The Hummer EV's first year of production is sold out. GMC

When it hits the streets later this year, the Hummer EV will be just in time to face off against a growing crop of EV trucks and SUVs. Rivian recently began delivering the R1T electric pickup truck and will continue with the R1S SUV next year. The Ford F-150 Lightning is coming in 2022, and General Motors itself has a Cadillac EV rollout to handle in 2022. Chevy and GMC will show off electric versions of the Silverado and Sierra pickup trucks on January 5 and GMC will push the Hummer SUV EV in 2023.

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Chevy has offered the regular cab short bed configuration in global markets for years.

Chevrolet Bahrain

The pickup truckhas been the vehicle of choice for working people for decades, but they've become rolling luxury lounges in recent years. A new full-size American truck can be decked out with as many tech and luxury features as a German luxury sedan, but there's hope for people who love basic trucks. Chevrolet confirmed to The Drive that it will begin offering a regular cab, short bed version of the Silverado 1500, and it'll be one of the purest pickups on sale when it arrives.

The configuration was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when GM's square body trucks were rolling off the production lines by the thousands. A small but dedicated of enthusiasts have kept hope alive in places such as Reddit's r/rcsb (regular cab, short bed). According to reporting from The Drive, Chevy will soon offer buyers two bed lengths for their regular cab Silverado. There's a catch, though. The short bed will only be available for the WT (Work Truck) trim, so opting for the combo means you're also opting for features like cloth seats, a barebones stereo, and plastic flooring with no mats.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado LT Even the most basic non-WT Silverado is quite nice. Chevrolet

The upside here is that there are fewer things to break and you'll still have a choice of three engines, but you'll miss out on all of the great updates that Chevy gave most Silverado models for 2022. That means no refreshed interior with neat new tech and no off-road features. You really have to want the short bed to opt for the basic WT, and though you'll have a cool, rare truck, you'll also likely miss many features that even a lower trim regular Silverado gets.

Chevy hasn't released pricing for the shortbed WT yet, but looking at the rest of the trim lineup, it should carry a price tag of around $30,000 when it hits the market.

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