We've detailed the many features and improvements that mark the GMC Sierra 1500 as all-new for 2019, and we especially explored those elements-the split-folding tailgate, adaptive suspension, and carbon-fiber cargo bed-that distinguish it from the equivalent Chevrolet Silverado 1500 models. And indeed, General Motors has given the GMC brand a legitimate claim to offering something more than a Chevy with extra chrome.
One thing the two still share, however, is the top powertrain combination of a naturally aspirated 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 that makes a stout 460 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a fresh 10-speed automatic transmission and standard, selectable all-wheel drive. Now, we've had the opportunity to track test the new half-ton GMC equipped with the big engine and, to little surprise, it performs much like the similarly equipped Chevy Silverado High Country pickup we previously evaluated.
At GMC, the 6.2-liter V-8 is available as an upgrade over the standard 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 on both the top-selling Sierra 1500 Denali and on the brand's new AT4 off-road-oriented model. In our acceleration runs, both versions performed pretty much the same as one another and the equivalent Chevrolet, with the luxe-equipped Denali reaching 60 mph in 5.5 seconds (the mechanically similar Chevy did in 5.4 seconds, but the AT4 needed 5.8) and covering the quarter-mile in 14.0 seconds flat at an even 100 mph. While GM's new pickups can't match the even more impressive straight-line performance of Ford's 450-hp F-150 Limited, their pushrod valvetrains give them the V-8 rumble that speaks to traditionalists.
The most evident on-track distinction between the version designed for the valet lane and the one intended for unpaved trails is mostly attributable to their wheel-and-tire packages. Whereas the Denali wore optional 22-inch wheels (21s are standard) wrapped with all-season Bridgestone rubber, sized 275/50R-22, the AT4, sporting its factory two-inch suspension lift, features 18-inch alloys shod with knobby Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, sized 275/65R-18. Where the shorter profile street rubber held on to the skidpad at 0.78 g, the AT4's blocky tires with taller sidewalls gave up at a mere 0.71 g. The Denali came to a halt from 70 mph in 183 feet where the AT4 needed 195; the aforementioned Chevy Silverado required only 175 feet on tires similar to the Denali's. None of these trucks suffered any evident brake fade, which is to be expected but not always found when testing unladen vehicles designed to tow 9300-pound trailers or carry a full ton cargo.
GMC says it reduced the mass of the new truck with an aluminum hood and doors and by shaving 88 pounds from the fully boxed frame. The diet is said to make the Sierra as much as 360 pounds lighter overall depending on specification; our scales say this 5602-pound 2019 Denali was 174 pounds lighter than the one we tested in 2016. The AT4 was another 119 pounds lighter, so this pair brackets the 5502-pound Chevy in terms of tonnage. Theoretically, less weight and a transmission boasting 10 gear ratios rather than the previous generation's eight should reduce fuel consumption, but we averaged only 14 mpg in this Denali, down 1 mpg from both what we observed in the 2017 model and from what the AT4 managed. Recording 18 mpg on our highway fuel-economy test, the Denali fell 2 mpg short of its EPA highway estimate, which has actually decreased from 21 mpg in the previous generation. We were driving unladen trucks; it's possible that those towing or hauling heavy loads would see more benefit.
As we've noted before, GM trucks generally handle slightly better than their Ram and Ford competition-even if that earned the Silverado little favor in our more recent comparison test of the segment-but even the adaptive dampers on the Denali don't deliver as smooth a ride as the also-new-for-2019 Ram 1500, which claimed the class trophy in this year's 10Best Trucks and SUVs competition. That said, the Denali's suspension manages the significant mass of its 22-inch wheels a touch better than the comparable Chevy. The steering feel of GM's pickups is now finally delivered without the weirdly offset seating position that marked earlier generations, and the brakes are easy to modulate, which matters when you're making these trucks work to their full potential.
There's nothing in our objective testing that would mark the Sierra as a compelling choice over the Silverado, so it's down to those GMC-exclusive features and your personal reading on the Sierra's appearance and status. Or whether or not you feel like you're "professional grade." We can't help but note that the innovative tailgate would be less necessary if modern pickups came in a more reasonable size, but this is where a few decades of marketing-driven emphasis on extreme capability has brought us. Reasonable pricing has faded into the rearview as well, with our loaded Denali ringing in at $67,735 as-tested on a $62,090 base price. Most of the extra cost equipment came in the Denali Ultimate package ($5350 after a $500 package discount). The long list of gear that package brings includes the aforementioned big wheels, power-operated side steps, a tire-pressure monitoring system for your trailer, a rear camera mirror, a multicolor head-up display, a power sunroof, and an array of electronic driver-assist systems, including collision alert, lane-keeping assist, low-speed automatic braking, and much more. This is on top of the already plush Denali standard gear that brings the trick tailgate, a leather-lined cabin with heated seats in all positions (also ventilated on the 10-way power adjustable front buckets), and so on.
That all makes the $2495 upcharge for the big V-8 look insignificant for a clientele fully capable of saying they prefer an "old school" truck drivetrain while demanding amenities such as the Denali's 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, remote start, and a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot.
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