What Makes GMC's Denali Trim So Great?

GMC Denali IMG_3920_1000 II

By Tim Esterdahl

Today's pickup truck segment offers more luxury pickups than ever before, and these trucks come with a hefty price tag. While truck purists bemoan their many luxury touches and correspondingly higher price tag, these trucks continue to be hot sellers for all manufacturers including GMC's Denali trim, which has almost taken on a life of its own. We recently got our hands on a 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali 4x4 crew cab to see what all the fuss is about.

What Is So Special About the Denali?

Riding in top-dollar trucks is one of the perks of our job, yet we can't deny there is something about the Denali (our tester came in at $57,820 including destination). We counted 15 places inside and outside of the cabin where GMC placed the name Denali. From the head restraints to the bed to the tailgate, GMC wants you to know there is something special about this pickup.

The list of features for this trim level is extensive. GMC takes the base 2015 GMC Sierra crew cab starting at $36,585, including destination, and adds a host of luxury features. From the chrome 20-inch wheels, chrome-laden mirrors and side steps to real aluminum trim throughout the cabin along with soft-touch surfaces and luxurious leather seats, this truck has it all. While many truck fans and buyers may wish their truck had this feature or that, with the Denali you get it all.

We're told customers want these features and are paying top dollar for them. The Denali vehicle lineup made up 21 percent of all GMC vehicles sold in February 2015 (up 3 percent versus January). Nearly 12 percent of all light-duty Sierra trucks sold have the Denali trim, and this number is rising according to GMC truck spokesman Brian Goebel. On the heavy-duty side, 44 percent of all trucks sold have the Denali trim package. Goebel said these luxury trim packages have helped the Sierra reach the highest transaction price of any pickup line in the industry.

How Does It Drive and Tow?

Speaking of having it all, our test model included the 6.2-liter V-8 with the eight-speed transmission, which will likely be found throughout the GMC lineup in the future. With this powertrain, our test truck was one of the smoothest and quietest models we have driven in quite a while. While the engine responded immediately and powerfully to the pedal, it was much more refined in everyday driving. It moved so smoothly and quietly you could be forgiven for thinking you were driving a Cadillac and not a pickup.

While the large engine had absolutely no trouble when towing our 16-foot camper weighing approximately 3,000 pounds, we found it quickly went into and out of four-cylinder mode with GM's active fuel management system. In fact, unless we had the display screen open with the "V4" indicator, we could not feel a difference. This system helps the 6.2-liter engine return EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined. We were able to easily hit the combined number, and we wouldn't be surprised if other owners could get better than that since we tend to have a heavy throttle foot.

Polished Interior

Inside the cabin, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is not anything like a traditional pickup and is actually probably closer to a luxury car. From the fit and finish to the multitude of little details wrapped in premium soft-touch materials, you are immediately immersed in luxury. It is clear from the moment you open the doors that this isn't your typical work truck.

Many details stood out while driving the truck, including how comfortable the interior and ride quality truly are. The triple-sealed doors may sound like a marketing gimmick to critics, but it really makes a difference. We repeatedly found that while cruising at highway speeds we could easily hold conversations with our passengers and use the Bluetooth phone feature. The cabin was so quiet we never felt like we needed to raise our voice whether we were speaking to passengers or using the Bluetooth phone. In fact, we used the phone feature more than we typically do since it was so easy to hear and be heard.

The only real issue we had with the 2015 GMC Sierra is a personal preference item. Compared to other trucks we have driven, we found the front viewing area of the Sierra to be narrower than other trucks. This is likely due to the slope of the windshield. The GMC simply feels a bit boxier with this somewhat limited viewing angle versus other trucks.

In the end, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is a really nice truck with lots of great interior finishes combined with a powerful yet fuel-efficient powertrain. This truck makes traveling a lot more comfortable, and given how much it costs, it should.

To see this Denali's price sheet, click the icon below.

Sierra Denali 1500 Price

Cars.com photos by Tim Esterdahl


GMC Denali IMG_3990_1000 II

GMC Denali IMG_3980_1000 II

GMC Denali IMG_4017_1000 II



Sorry, I don't care who makes it, all the top level trucks still have the awful cheap plastic that just doesn't make them worth the $$$ they ask for them.
I will take a basic truck with the same awful cheap plastic.

I don't care who makes it the top level trucks are effectively way beyond my price range. I would have to have silly amounts of money in order to be able to waste so much on such "gingerbread". For those that got it to waste.... good for you.

Good looking truck on the outside, same GM crap on the inside.

Something about all of these high trim level trucks....the big running boards, the badges everywhere, the bigger wheels and lower profile tires.....they look bloated and clumsy from the outside while lower trims appear more athletic and capable to me.

what waist of talk there's nothing special on these truck but the,6.2 liter had engines it carry's the interior is,the,same plastic that the Silverado have inside denali package should come with 22 inch wheels not 20 u can get 20 in wheels on any regular truck or chrome mirrors or handles please gm that a lot money for plastic there's nothing special about these truck inside or out they all look the same when u go to Ford in the other hand u can distinguish a lariat from king ranch or xlt that what the customer wants uvlook at Lt or ltz from the outside looks the same thing and interior don't change much sorry gm my money on ford that 3.5 ecoboost platinum is very impressive indeed

Typical gm interior, 1980's Buick look.

Yes, this truck is not impressive at all compared to the other 2(Ram and Ford), look a the pic of the helm, that does not look high level, The Laramie and King ranch blow this truck away inside for sure. Very disappointing to see GM again not up to Par

This is a minor complaint but the steering wheel buttons on the new Chevys GMs are really mushy and cheesy. On the Fords they are defined buttons and nice.

Not to mention the off center steering wheel and hump on the back seat floor. Both need to be fixed on the next gen.

The forward opening doors on extended cabs were awful. They should go back to 180 degree opening for cargo.

These were some of my observations at the auto show.

As much as I dislike like GM, I would still choose it well ahead of Ford for a multitude of reasons, with the biggest being the quality is much better than Ford. The GM now appears to be just a tad ahead of Ram on quality. Still none of them compare to Tundra’s QDR.

With the placement the name Denali 15 times throughout the truck that means you are paying about $1,000 each mention and it is simply not worth it.

3,000 lbs??? I don't think I'd go around bragging about being able to easily tow 3,000 lbs. I'd get laughed off the block. How about doing a real test, maybe towing something closer to the upper limit of the truck's tow rating? And also test it with a load in the bed that comes close to the rating. I like a lot about the Denali trim package but also realize that's all it is, trim. Underneath, it's still the same ugly square-fendered truck that's going to cost me more in repairs over its life than it should. However, maybe that's not a fair statement. After all, I'm trying to project my past experience with numerous GM products onto this new truck. Perhaps they have seen the light? Nah, not likely.

Just checked and Chevy's website says a comparable Silverado High Country CC 4x4 is $52k. Just curious if you really gain that much from roughly 10% extra in price with the Denali.

Nice looking truck but just terribly cheap on the inside. Just not up to par with the Ford or the Ram.

Not sure how you all can say it's crap on the inside. Have you actually spent time in them? I have been in both a new GMC (non-Denali) and Ram extensively, and the GMC blows the Ram away in the interior. The Ram has a good design, but the materials are very rubbery and plasticy. The GMC has much better looking and feeling materials. I have also been in the new 2015 Ford at the autoshow, and the interior not even close to Ram or GM. Tons of hard plastic, cheap feeling switch gear etc.


I want to like this, but the interior looks to bland and cheap

Most don't have the money for the top trim levels but they take out 84 month loans and then cry when they are upside down on the loan for the next 6 to 6 1/2 years.

to be the benefit of the Denali packages are a more distinctive appearance package for a price. When you compare to a comparable SLT the price difference isn't that bad. I currently own a 2011 Denali HD and love everything about the truck. With enough shopping around, you can pretty much match the SLT price. Looking at GMC.com the base 1500 Denali is 54k, and a base SLT is 49k, so add the options that are standard on the Denali and the price difference is not that big, if that is the truck you are looking for. Conversely, if you hate Denali or GM then you are going to find fault regardless... Go drive them and you'll find the GM trucks are very refined and well constructed.... As are the rest of the new trucks.

If I was in the market for a 1/2 ton this would be it. The interior is not that great but the drive train is where its at. Don't understand why Ram does not offer the 6.4 in the 1500.


What is really disappointing is the overly animated grilles on these trucks.

I do think designers should start looking at reducing the size of the grilles allowing a start for a more aero shape.

The GMC to get is the SLT crew cab loaded up with the goodies, 6.2, max tow, tow mirrors.

When you show up anywhere in that truck, truck people know you have made it. Welcome to the big league.

this truck is not any better than the Ford and Ram top trim levels..and it doesnt even have push button start, the locking tailgate (with the rest of the door locks), power tilt telescopic steering wheel, massaging seats and many of the other 11 segment firsts found on an F150...so don't get all twitterpated over that gm thing, cause it ain't all that

I'm with Tim on this one. I loved my 2013 RAM, but needed more towing capacity. I ended up with a non-Denali GMC, but the build quality of the interior is slightly better than RAM, and both GM and RAM interior quality were better than the hard plastics inside the new Ford. There are things I wish the GMC did have (locking tailgate being one), but overall, it was a better option than the competition.

I do think the Ford trucks got a better layout inside than the previous model years, but they still didn't match the RAM or GMC/Chevy models. (I can't compare the Toyotas because I didn't even look at those).

The Denali trim looks great that's for sure.

Don't forget the magnetic suspension.

I have been driving pick ups for 40 yrs. I've owned every major makers 3/4 and 1 ton trucks used for hauling horses and hay and daily drivers for construction.
The magnetic suspension, triple seal doors, and sloped windshield create the smoothest quietest truck & the Denali pkg. adds up to the best ride experience available today.

in ford you need to go on the higher trims to get a big screen and all are remarkable divided by the front grill by trim and packages included one each one, so when you see one you know if is a cheap version or not.
you know if the owner was cheap or have no money for something better. thats Ford making the difference.

GMC in the other hand you can have big screen in every trim except the work truck version.
the grill on SLE and SLT and some base package are the same quipping an uniform look true all the customers, even do it have some difference outside the biggest are inside.

grill difference are on some work truck, SLT Sport and DENALI

i test drive the GMC, Ford and Dodge and GM is by far the best ride. ford has a lot of outside noise and all the plastics inside sound like cracking and falling and Dodge looks good inside even on a basic crew cab trim but have a sensation of been to small inside.

I am actually looking to replace my GMC Sierra 2500 and came to this site to see what the differences are. I have owned Ford, Dodge, and Toyota trucks however my GMC is by far the most capable and trouble free out of all of them. I read a lot of negative reviews of GM and I don't understand where they come from.

I have to agree with gom. I have never been in the market for a full-size truck. I have always been a S-10/ Colorado guy. Small to medium for ease of drive, comfort and gas mileage. I recently wrecked my 05 Colorado and the insurance company wanted to total it. Hindsight 20/20, I figured I would entertain the ideal of finally being a big boy and owning a full-size. I looked at one of the LTZ package, a high-country, a Denali, a 2500HD and a SLE and I have to say they all were nice, But, they did all seem to have one thing in common and that is the cheap plastic looking interior. There are components in the truck that could have been more sturdy and "heftier", but for the price tags, 34K-60k, you would expect better. Dosent set well with a buyer when they push down on the A/C vent in a brand-new truck and they get that cheap plastic "creek" sound.

I own a 2013 CrewCab 5.3L GMC All Terrain Z71. Black 4" lift 18" wheels and 33" tires also programmed. All I can say is I bought the truck 33,000 miles on it April 2015 for $32,000. I love it. It's been a great truck. I have friends in Ford's, Dodge, Nissan they all want a Silverado or Sierra Z71. HOnestly if I had to choose another brand I'd buy a Toyota Tundra Crewmax, or a Ram. When I test drove trucks to get a CrewCab going from an 08" Silverado extended cab I kept an open mind I drove them all. I went with my mind on a Tundra Crewmax and the money was too far out. The Ford's are a nice truck and roomy but had a lot of rattles and didn't feel as tight as the others driving it. The Ram was a nice ride too but my buddy had a 5.7 and 9mpg and 14mpg just wasn't that appealing to me. So I went on Car n Truck Guru's shopping online and went out of state for the best deal and bought my 2013 SLT Z71 All Terrain. My buddy with the Nissan Titan Hes buying a 2013 Denali now black looks just like my truck. My buddy with the Ram 5.7L he drives a 2017 F150 ext cab and he hates it wishes he bought a GM or a Dodge. Another friend swapped his Ram for a 2017 Denali 2500HD he says he loves it no comparison. Another swapped his Tundra for a 2017 Silverado Z71 crew cab he loves it too.

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