Just the idle of the 403hp 6.2L V-8 is enough to make you fall in love. The cam gives it a mildly lumpy burble that's tuned to resonate like the low notes of some Gothic organ. Matching this sound perfectly is deep piano-black paint. It's classy but a bit menacing. Meet the '08 GMC Sierra Denali. It's the most expensive light truck to wear the GMC name, and the most powerful, too. Optioned out, this truck stickers for almost $48,000.
It's the same motor you'll...
It's the same motor you'll find under the hood of Cadillac Escalades, but you can't get it in any other pickup. It makes great noises and makes this truck move out with authority.
At the other end of General Motors' truck spectrum is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT. In the regular-cab Work Truck (WT) form, it is GM's least expensive fullsize truck with a list price of around $18,000. Our tester, a two-wheel-drive model with just a few choice options, came in at about $21,000. While nothing fancy, it is a truck you could love, too, just for different reasons than the Denali.
Before driving these two trucks back to back, we went into this driving face-off seeking answers to some of our questions: Is any truck really worth $48,000? Would anybody want to drive the cheapest Chevy pickup? Do these trucks share too many components and feel too much alike? Read on for the answers.
Starting At The Top
When you look at the spec sheet, the Denali could easily pose as a sports car, until you get to the dimensions of the bed and its payload capabilities. Here are the facts: It has 403 hp, 417 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed gearbox, full electronic stability controls, four-wheel disc brakes with the latest Bosch ABS, 18-inch rims, short 3:42:1 gears, an Eaton automatic locking differential, and a robust 9-1/2-inch rear axle. Clearly, this is the hot rod of the GM truck family. But, unlike some past hot rod trucks-remember the GMC Typhoon that had a towing capacity of only 900 pounds-this truck can work like a truck. The 5-foot 9-inch bed can handle more than 1,700 pounds, while it can tow a full 8,500 pounds.
You Have Arrived
Inside, you could easily mistake the interior of this truck for a luxury car. The overall design is high-end, and the trim panels fit tight. The leather on the seats looks and feels good. The wood on the steering wheel adds a rich touch. The Denali manages this high degree of elegance, while being tasteful, accommodating, and useful. For those of you who have been in onem of GMC's new Yukon Denali SUVs, you'll recognize where GMC pulled these nice pieces. Most everything comes from the SUV cousin, including the supportive front bucket seats, the functional center console, and airbags coming at you from the front, the sides of your seats, and down from the roof header. Our only hit on the interior is the cheap-looking bezel that goes around the radio. In an interior this nice, the cheapo stuff has to go.
Since the Denali is a sedan truck (a four-door), we spent some time evaluating the rear seating area. It's big back there, and adults should have no problem getting comfortable. Ours even had the factory-installed DVD entertainment system. When you're hauling cargo and not people, the rear seat cushions simply fold up against the backrest-no buttons to push or latches to release-simple, just as it should be.
As already noted, power comes from the Denali's 6.2L Gen IV smallblock engine. It's the same motor you'll find under the hood of Cadillac Escalades, but you can't get it in any other pickup. It makes great noises and makes this truck move out with authority. The torque is great, and the power just keeps coming right on up to the 6,000-rpm redline.
The Denali comes in rear-wheeldrive and all-wheel-drive configurations, and our test truck was the latter. Getting off the line in a hurry took nothing more than brake-torquing the motor and sidestepping the brake. The big Goodyear Eagles immediately hook with no wheelspin. You end up at 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. Remember, this truck weighs more than 5,300 pounds, so there's some real hustle coming from under the hood.
There's a reason why the Denali...
There's a reason why the Denali has a higher price tag: The interior wraps the passengers in luxury. Rich wood trim and nice leathers really deliver a touch of class.
Even at the threshold you...
Even at the threshold you know you're about to step into style.
The rear doors swing wide...
The rear doors swing wide open, allowing ease of entry and exit. Also notice the windows on the rear doors roll down completely, another nice touch.