2022 GMC Sierra Denali
I’m truckin' to Sin City!
A Denali - as the name suggests - is the high point of any trip.
By Reed Berry
Fri, Feb 25, 2022 07:03 PM PST
I've never really considered myself a truck person. I’ve always owned cars, either coupes or sedans, although I do find the practicality of crossover vehicles quite appealing. But I’ve never owned, or have even considered owning, a truck. I don't really need to go on Dr. Phil to figure out why. When I was growing up, there was a point in time when we didn't own a family car, so the four of us - my mom, dad, brother and myself - would pack into the single bench seat of my father's work-provided Chevy pick-up truck and off we would go to restaurants, amusement parks, doctor appointments, and anywhere else most families would typically go in a car. It was a little uncomfortable at times and, back in the day, trucks were fairly basic. Entertainment was limited to an in-dash AM/FM radio or, occasionally, a fight between my brother and me.
Sometimes, my brother and I would ride in the bed of the truck. It was great. We would get tossed from side to side as my dad made turns, or slide back against the tailgate as he accelerated. It was a simpler time when, apparently, child endangerment was considered family fun! At least it seemed fun at the time. But to me, a truck was just basic transportation and, unless you needed to haul something in the back, there was no real appeal for me to buy or drive one.
Well, times have changed and I'm road testing a vehicle that could quite possibly turn me into a truck person - a 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Limited Denali.
Driving To Las Vegas - In A Sierra Denali
The weather is nice and I have friends in Las Vegas, so I'm hitting the road and heading from L.A. to Nevada in this great-looking four-door Sierra Denali. The thing is, about 20 minutes into my drive I have almost forgotten that I'm driving a truck. This feels more like a big, spacious car.
The ride is nice and smooth and the interior is very comfortable. The power bucket seats in the front have 10-way adjustment and are ventilated for added comfort. The rear passenger area is also quite spacious, with a 60/40 folding bench seat. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, and there is dual-zone climate control.
There are power outlets and USB ports within easy reach, and there is a wireless charger in the console for smartphone charging. One impressive feature is an extra deep storage compartment in the center console - big enough to hold an array of snacks for today's drive, or even a jacket in case the weather cools a bit later in the day.
The interior styling is as big and bold as the vehicle itself. From the dashboard to the seating and even door panels, everything looks great, and all controls are conveniently placed and driver-friendly. The interior is cleverly designed to incorporate two storage compartments (or glove compartments, as we called them back in the day) on the passenger side. One between the air vents that opens upward, and one below it that drops down to open.
As with most newer vehicles, Sierra Denali does not fall short on infotainment options. AM/FM radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and streaming music via Apple Carplay or Android Auto are all at your fingertips. Or, if you still roll old-school, there's an auxiliary jack with which to connect your smartphone or other device. My phone connected quickly via Bluetooth, and the sound is sharp and clear. The standard Bose sound system has been upgraded in my test vehicle to a Multipro Audio System by Kicker, which sounds awesome. The 8-inch (diagonal) touchscreen with voice recognition handles navigation flawlessly. This vehicle also has 4G LTE Wi-Fi that, based on a few tests with my laptop and other devices, works very well.
Rear Camera Mirror
This vehicle is equipped with a rear camera mirror, meaning that rather than seeing the reflective image of a standard mirror, you are seeing a rear-view video display instead. I've had such a mirror in other vehicles and it was a bit problematic, in that I wear distance glasses for driving. Glancing at a video display so close to my face rather than seeing a reflective image of everything behind me in a mirror results in a blurry image which is a bit disconcerting while driving. The rear camera mirror is part of an options package and does not come standard. Nor does it need to be turned on, for folks like me.
Engine And Power (Lots Of Power)
There is certainly no lack of power in this vehicle. The 2022 Sierra 1500 Denali comes standard with a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine that delivers a respectable 355-horspower, but my test vehicle is equipped with an available 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 that produces a very enthusiastic 420-horspower. Paired with a smooth, efficient 10-speed automatic transmission, this truck is capable of some very serious driving. Acceleration is quick and confident, allowing me to pass slower moving traffic with ease.
Denali Reserve Package
Speed is already a concern for me on this trip as, between the amount of power under the hood and the smooth, quiet performance, it is very easy to reach - and exceed - freeway speeds in this vehicle. I was wondering why everyone else on the freeway seems to be driving so slowly today. Fortunately, my test vehicle has a multi-color head-up display that projects on the windshield in front of me not only the speed at which I'm driving, but the speed limit on the highway, as well. The head-up display is part of the Denali Reserve Package ($4,910) that includes a variety of desirable features, including a bed view camera, adaptive cruise control, and a power sunroof.
No Start/Stop Function.. Thankfully
One thing I noticed right away, and certainly something that will make my drive much more enjoyable, is that my test vehicle is NOT equipped with something found on many newer vehicles: automatic stop/start engine technology. Designed to stop the engine automatically in traffic or at a stop light to conserve fuel and then restart when you are ready to continue driving, I've always considered the feature a genuine annoyance and, quite frankly, even a bit jarring at times.
Handling is certainly impressive in the Sierra Denali. I have an excellent feel of the road, and cornering is sharp and confident. Denali premium suspension with adaptive ride control is standard, as is Stabilitrak with hill start assist. These performance features may not be of too much concern as one does their daily driving, but they are certainly appreciated when encountering more challenging driving conditions. As I always do on the way to Vegas, I've gotten off of Interstate 15 to take some little side drives on rural roads and this truck negotiates any road surface with ease.
Red Rock Canyon
Speaking of interesting roads, instead of heading for the lights, excitement and crowds of the Las Vegas Strip, I'm taking the Sierra Denali to Red Rock Canyon, a natural conservation area in Nevada's Mojave Desert. Known for it's red sandstone peaks and beautiful scenery, Red Rock Canyon features a 13-mile one-way (meaning traffic flows in one direction, not that you are not allowed to leave) scenic drive during which we will see a wide variety of plants and wildlife. There are even marked tortoise crossings along the road. The scenery is gorgeous, and the Sierra Denali looks great against this stunning natural backdrop. Entering and exiting the truck to enjoy various nature spots along our route is quite easy thanks to the truck's power steps - or, as some still refer to them, "running boards" - that quickly extend as the door is opened and retract as the door closes.
The Sierra Denali is loaded with safety features, and there are lights, tones, and vibrating seats to serve as a constant reminder of that. Some of them come standard, including front and rear park assist, lane change alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. Others, such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking - just to name a few - are included in the aforementioned Denali Reserve options package. All are quite helpful in making your drive a bit safer. The front park assist was particularly helpful for me when pulling into parking spaces because my view down the hood of the vehicle made things appear closer than they actually were.
One place I stopped frequently during my trip was the gas station. The Sierra Denali is certainly not miserly on fuel, with an estimate of 16 miles per gallon combined city/highway driving. I actually did slightly better than that, averaging 16.9 mpg on this trip. But, after all, it is a big, heavy (weighing in at around 5,000 lbs.) truck, built for functionality and comfort, not economy. And, if you're like me, you may have so much fun driving the Sierra Denali that you may forget about how much you're spending on fuel - until the monthly Chevron bill arrives in the mail.
Overall, I'm enjoying my experience. Not just because of the beautiful scenery, great food, and excitement of Las Vegas and surrounding areas - but because this truck makes sense. It's big, comfortable, and certainly practical for anyone whose lifestyle would benefit from the hauling capacity of a powerful truck. If off-roading is your thing, a Ford Raptor or Ram TRX may be more your style but, under normal driving conditions on a variety of road surfaces, this truck performs well and checks all the boxes when it comes to features - both comfort and safety - that you would want in a vehicle of this type.
So, what will all this high-tech practicality and comfort cost you? The GMC Sierra 1500 Limited Denali's base price is $59,600... But, with all the various options packages, our test-vehicle ended up at an eye-popping $71,530. Sounds like a lot of money, and it is. And, when buying a vehicle of this size, one must certainly consider the fuel economy, especially considering the high gas prices we currently face. But, as a friend once told me after I questioned his purchase of a huge, gas-guzzling SUV, "If you can afford the car, you can afford the gas".
About The Author
Known professionally as "The Traffic Guy," Reed Berry has been a driver safety educator for over 30 years. Reed has conducted traffic school classes and suspended license workshops throughout California, and has served as keynote speaker at safety conferences and corporate events across America. He has appeared on radio and television programs both in the U.S. and internationally to discuss safety-related issues. A contributor to LA Car since 2003, Reed Berry is a member of Motor Press Guild, the Los Angeles Press Club and SAG-AFTRA.