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