• 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving

$80,000 of Self-Driving Luxuriousness

Luxury trucks are definitely a thing - they’re hot and the automakers who build them are smiling all the way to the bank. Even an ordinary truck these days will set you back $50,000 while at the high-end it’s more like $80,000. And that’s exactly what I’ve got here in the new GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate - an aspirational truck that can even drive itself.

  • 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
  • Year:
    2022
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    10-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    420 @ 5600
  • MPG(Cty):
    15
  • MPG(Hwy):
    20
  • Torque @ RPM:
    460 @ 4100
  • Energy:
    SIDI; Stop-Start
  • Displacement:
    6.2 L
  • Layout:
    Front engine/4WD
  • Price:
    80840

THERE’S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN


When Denali just isn’t enough, it’s time to go Ultimate. Despite $5 per gallon gas prices and runaway inflation these types of pricey pickups are like the pied piper of consumer indebtedness with a record number of new car buyers now making monthly payments over $1,000. How about that!? At least this Sierra can double as an apartment if you become delinquent on your mortgage. The crew cab is enormous, the massaging seats can spare a chiropractic bill or two, and if you’re exhausted from working double shifts to fund your purchase, this truck will even do the highway driving for you.

The Ultimate is now the highest-level Denali trim and as such includes an even greater degree of detail and luxuriousness. This cabin looks and feels plush and for the first time truly sets the Sierra apart from its Chevy Silverado counterpart. It has all the features, all the cameras, and all the room and even includes Super Cruise hands-free driving as standard; unquestionably the most lavish truck I’ve ever driven.

THE ULTIMATE SKINNY

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090487

The Ultimate treatment includes:

  • an exclusive grille in what GMC calls Vader chrome
  • a plethora of shoutouts to Mount Denali including depictions of its topography and geographic coordinates
  • an Alpine Umber moderate brown interior with topstitched leather and open-pore wood in spades
  • an upscale suede headliner
  • 16-way front seats with numerous massage programs
  • a new 12-speaker Bose surround sound system
  • a rear-camera mirror
  • a large, 15” head-up display
  • and a sunroof.
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090508

The Sierra 1500’s biggest engine also comes standard – the 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8- with cylinder deactivation and stop/start technology mated to an efficient 10-speed transmission. It craves premium unleaded and is rated at 17 mpg in combined driving resulting in its owners spending about $5,100 per year in fuel costs. It rides atop 22” all-season highway tires with an adaptive suspension that lends to a beautiful ride that’s soft and sophisticated and only a tiny bit truck-y. Now, I can’t imagine this one would see much hard labor but it does have the capability:

  • a scratch and dent resistant carbon-fiber composite bed with easy step-up access via bumper cutouts and grab handle
  • a power-sliding rear window
  • over 2,000 pounds of payload capacity
  • the most elaborate array of trailering technologies on the market including Trailer Side Blind Zone Alert and even a sensor that warns the driver when the truck may be overweight
  • 8,900 pounds of conventional towing
  • an automatic locking rear differential
  • an off-road drive mode with hill decent control
  • and the best trick tailgate in the segment with multiple configurations to accommodate various length cargo, provide a work or seating surface and even play your tunes via streaming or USB – though not particularly well - through small, built-in Kicker speakers.

And as for cameras? They are everywhere on this truck providing 14 different views including those specific to trailering needs and even one to take a peek on what’s happening in the bed. But even considering that impressive list, the Denali Ultimate’s standout feature is its autonomous driving capabilities.

SUPER CRUISE GETS EVEN SMARTER

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090483

The greatest automotive innovation of my lifetime is Super Cruise. GM has been offering it for several years on a very select number of vehicles and now it’s come to GMC. And this version is even better because not only does it do the highway driving for you but now it also makes its own lane changes, accommodates traffic coming in from on-ramps, and handles construction zones like a champ. I drove from Albany to Boston the other day with almost zero interaction with the steering wheel and Super Cruise is as smooth as it is smart.

What does this mean for you? It means you arrive at your destination relaxed and more rested while also having truly enjoyed the journey. I’ve come to realize that Super Cruise must be experienced firsthand to truly be understood and appreciated. It now also works while towing a trailer. And not once have I felt unsafe while using it – it’s that well-conceived and expertly executed. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s now part of an OnStar subscription for an additional $25/month.

GOOGLE BUILT-IN

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090497

GM has always had one of the best and easiest-to-use infotainment systems in the biz, which is why I’m surprised to see the Google takeover of the new, bigger touchscreen much like the latest Volvos but thankfully better. The voice commands work very well just like talking to your smartphone’s assistant, but I just didn’t think General Motors needed a brand-new approach. And with wireless projection of your phone onto the screen they’re really giving you the choice as to how you want to interact with the truck. The new Bose Premium series sound system is a big disappointment, however. No matter how I tweak the sound profiles the music plays thinly.

FROM OFF-ROAD TO SPORT

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090486

With low-range gearing, an ‘AUTO’ setting for the four-wheel drive and even a Sport drive mode this Sierra runs the dynamic gamut. A performance-tuned exhaust is optional if you’d rather have something that sounds a little racier because this truck plays a very subdued soundtrack and the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel is also on the Denali Ultimate menu at a cost savings over the V-8. Long-trip comfortable, supremely quiet and backed by 460 pound-feet of torque to swiftly handle highway passing collectively make this truck a vacation rockstar…as long as you opt for some sort of bed cover. And when the rear seats aren’t in use they flip up to create more carrying space. Power running boards are another welcome feature and these are special in that they extend rearward with a tap of the foot to create a side step into the box.

THE CONS

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate: Aspirational, Luxurious, and Self-Driving
- image 1090504

Where is there room for improvement? Well, the drive itself isn’t as spectacular as the new Tundra’s - it’s just not as smooth and car-like, there’re no rear seat climate controls, no Nissan-like Utili-Track moveable tie downs cleats in the bed and though this tailgate speaker system is a cool idea it sounds lame compared with the Honda Ridgeline’s bed-based boombox.

Otherwise, the Denali Ultimate - with an as-tested price of $84,140 - lives up to its flagship status and earns its luxury rig bragging rights.

Steven Hammes
About the author

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