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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is joining the company’s lineup

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The decision to add a turbocharged engine variant to the Mazda3 was met with praise for those who like getting in a little more excitement behind the wheel. Now It has been announced that the Mazda3's crossover counterpart, the CX-30 is getting the same treatment.

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 will be available with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when the tank is filled with 93 octane fuel. The performance drops to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque when owners fill up with 87 octane. Engines with the turbo-four also get standard all-wheel drive.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo The body styling is pretty much the same as the rest of the Mazda CX-30 lineup, but it does have unique wheels and other attributes.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

To accommodate the new engine option, Mazda has not had to change the outward appearance of the model In earnest but does add some highlights including 18-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, larger tailpipes, gloss black door mirrors and a "TURBO" badge on the liftgate.

As the most premium Mazda CX-30 model, it comes with a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, black upper dash and chrome finishes. The features list includes a Bose 12-speaker audio system and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen..

The CX-30 2.5 Turbo, as the models with the engine will be known. Also comes equipped with Smart City Brake Support Reverse and rear cross-traffic braking technologies that can sense a vehicle coming into the lane of travel when reversing, warn the driver, and apply the brakes in order to possibly avoid a collision. Additional available safety technologies include a 360-degree view monitor, Active Drive Display, traffic sign recognition, and adaptation front lighting.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo The CX-30 debuted just last year.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is scheduled to go on sale by the end of 2020. Specific packaging and pricing details will be announced in the coming months

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The Sierra HD Denali Black Diamond Edition is a new addition to the lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of GMC

Truck drivers are no stranger to the challenges of towing. With updates to the GMC Sierra 1500 and Sierra Heavy Duty pickup trucks for 2021, the premium division of General Motors is adding a suite of customer-focused technologies to the make trailering easier.

"Trailering is essential for pickup truck customers. More than half of our Sierra customers use their trucks to primarily tow equipment for outdoor adventures," said GMC Marketing Director Rich Latek. "We continually listen to customer feedback, which tells us they want class-leading safety, technology and comfort to tow what they need, whether it's a boat, an RV or a trailer hauling off-road toys."

2021 GMC Sierra: Jack-Knife Alert

Photo courtesy of GMC

New or enhanced trailering tech available on both 2021 GMC Sierra light-duty and heavy-duty models includes:

  • Trailer Length Indicator - New for 2021, when enabled and driving forward with the turn signal activated, the center console screen displays a red overlay twice the length of the compatible trailer and shows when other vehicles are present and may interfere with a lane-change maneuver.
  • Jack-Knife Alert - New for 2021, Jack-Knife Alert tracks the position of the compatible trailer in relation to the vehicle. If the front of the trailer approaches the rear of the vehicle, an alert is displayed when there may be a potential jack-knife situation.
  • Rear Trailer View now features guidelines and Trailer-Angle Indicator: Rear Trailer View has been enhanced to include guidelines that assist when backing a trailer into place and a Trailer-Angle Indicator to show the relationship between the truck and compatible trailer. Rear Trailer View requires the customer-installed available GM auxiliary accessory camera.
  • Rear Side View enhancement - When driving forward on the 2020 GMC Sierra, Rear Side View provides a split view of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer that is automatically biased based on the trailer's angle. In the 2021 GMC Sierra, drivers will have access to this view while driving in reverse, making it easier to see surrounding vehicles and objects while positioning a trailer.
  • Cargo Bed View enhancement - New Cargo Bed Zoom View and Bed Hitch Guidance are now available, which can be helpful for aligning and hooking up a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer.

Select trailering features require a conventional-hitched box or camping trailer and additional setup may be required. Customers can see their dealers for full details.

Additionally, GMC is expanding the availability of their MultiPro Tailgate to Sierra 1500 SLE and Elevation trim models, which will also be offered in a number of new paint colors. The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 will be available with 20-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires and off-road high-clearance step.

GMC is also reducing the price of its available 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel engine by $1,500 for 2021 making it just $995 above the the Sierra 1500's 5.3L V-8 with Dynamic Fuel Management.

The 2021 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty Denali gets new standard equipment including HD Surround Visionn and Bed Video camera technology. The new Sierra HD Denali Black Diamond Edition will have several unique features, including exclusive 20-inch high-gloss black wheels and new power-retractable assist steps. Similar to the Sierra 1500, the Sierra Heavy Duty AT4 will now have available 18-inch Mud Terrain tires and an available off-road high clearance step accessory.

Other additions to Sierra HD include the MultiPro Tailgate standard on the SLE grade and three new available paint color options.

The 2021 GMC Sierra goes on sale later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date.

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