2014 GMC Sierra Denali road test: A plush, capable truck

2014 GMC Sierra Denali 4WD Crew Cab

2014 GMC Sierra Denali 4WD Crew Cab

If you want all the luxury of an expensive sedan, but actually need a full-size pickup truck, you may want to take a hard look at the 2014 GMC Sierra Denali.

The all-new model is more comfortable, more capable, more sophisticated and more high-tech than the model it replaces. It has the capability of a work-horse truck that roams around construction sites or tows bulky landscaping gear, yet that’s almost certainly not the mission its buyers have in mind for it.

No, this top-of-the-line GMC pickup truck is meant for the well-to-do buyer who tows boats, transports horses to dressage events or travels the country with a mobile home trailing behind. These people want the strength of a pickup truck, but they also want to travel in comfort.

GMC Sierra Denali front seats

GMC Sierra Denali front seats

Of course, luxurious pickup trucks are nothing new, and even the less generously equipped GMC models offer conveniences that were unheard of before the pickup was re-imagined as a comfortable substitute for an automobile.

Still, the top-of-the-line Denali, with a base price of $51,060 (including the $1,095 delivery charge), attracts about 20 percent of GMC Sierra buyers. And, more than 60 percent of Sierra buyers opt for the crew-cab model.

Among the first things you will notice about the test truck, a four-wheel-drive 2014 Sierra Denali 1500 Crew Cab, are the large, in-your-face grille and the 20-inch chrome wheels. They highlight an overall design that is more aggressive than the previous model.

They also emphasize that this truck is big. That’s big, as in B-I-G. With a 6-foot, 6-inch bed, this Sierra is an inch short of 20 feet from stem to stern. Subtract 10 inches if you are traveling in a Denali with the smaller 5-foot, 8 inch bed. Figure in a width of 6-feet, 8-inches and you are talking about walking from the back of the parking lot to the shopping center. Pulling into and out of a space between two large sedans is just not worth the effort, even with the front and rear parking assist warnings and a standard rear-vision camera.

GMC Sierra Denali rear seats

GMC Sierra Denali rear seats

With the new model, Sierra offers three new engines —  a standard 4.3-liter, 285-horsepower V-6; a 5.3-liter, 355-horsepower V-8; and a 6.2-liter, 420-horsepower V-8. All of the engines are mated to 6-speed automatic transmissions and will automatically deactivate to 4-cylinder operation when traveling under light loads.

The engine in the test truck was the optional 6.2-liter V-8. With 460 pound-feet of torque and a 3.42 axle ratio it is capable of towing 9,400 pounds. For those who need more, a Denali with the maximum trailering package is capable of towing 11,700 pounds.

The truck is pretty fast, too, Testers at Car and Driver magazine clocked a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds and found the Sierra Denali with the big V-8 could hit 99 mph in 14.1 seconds on a quarter mile run.

As one would expect, a heavy truck (5,429 pounds) with a big engine is going to be pretty thirsty. The EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway. Merely cruising around mostly suburban roads with one passenger I averaged 17 mpg.