Tested: 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Pushes the Boundaries for Luxury Pickups

Tested: 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Pushes the Boundaries for Luxury Pickups

Full-size pickup trucks are so ruthlessly benchmarked against each other that it’s hard to find one that’s an outlier in any major way. For instance, had the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate participated in our most recent comparison test, its 5.4-second 60-mph time would have put it just behind the Ford F-150 PowerBoost (5.3 seconds) but a half-second ahead of the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro (5.9 seconds). Its 6.2-liter V-8 makes 420 horsepower, which is a little less than the hybrid Tundra’s 437 horses and a little more than the Hemi Ram 1500 Limited’s 395 horsepower. And on it goes, from towing to braking to features and pricing. To stand apart, a truck requires some kind of proprietary weapon—Ford’s onboard generator, or Ram’s impeccably tailored interior. Fortunately, the Sierra Denali has its own killer app: Super Cruise. GM is the only company that has it, and nobody else’s hands-free driver assistance system works as well (sorry, Ford BlueCruise). If you do a lot of highway driving, Super Cruise might be the feature that swings your decision toward the GMC rather than a comparably posh truck from a competitor. Just make sure it’s available, as GMC has periodically paused the availability of Super Cruise due to supply issues. As of now, it’s available to order on 2023 models.

Not that Super Cruise is all the Sierra Denali Ultimate has going for it—and, with a starting price of $84,995 with the 6.2-liter engine, it better not be. The Sierra benefits from GM’s 2022 interior overhaul, which brought an updated design with a 13.4-inch touchscreen, and then piles on the goodies: a 15.0-inch color head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats with massage, and the nicest materials this side of an Escalade. The door panels are wrapped in leather, the Bose speaker grilles are stainless steel, and the open-pore Paldao wood is laser-etched with topographical maps and the GPS coordinates of its famed mountain namesake. Now that we mention it, this Denali might be nicer inside than an Escalade.

Among all that interior finery, it’s easy to miss the small infrared camera perched atop the steering wheel. That’s the driver-monitoring hardware for Super Cruise, and it enables hands-free driving—the truck has to know you’re awake and paying attention before it hands over control. Once it does, Super Cruise proves impressively competent. During our drive, it would regularly go 60 miles or more before disengaging, usually because of a construction zone or because it ran out of approved road. You can now engage Super Cruise while towing a trailer, and it also can automatically pull the truck out of its lane to pass slower traffic and then move back into it, both talents that GM has amply advertised.

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Super Cruise handling a highway interchange that required slowing down and applying serious steering lock.

Car and Driver

What GM hasn’t touted is Super Cruise’s ability to handle highway interchanges. When our route took us from one highway to another, we expected Super Cruise to turn off as we barreled toward the 90-degree junction. Instead, the Sierra slowed from 70 mph to about 55 mph and the steering wheel cranked over hard left as the truck negotiated the curve. When the road straightened, the Sierra resumed its set speed and continued along the (now different) highway. In other words, it did just what we would have done, had it handed over control. The fact that it didn’t need to tap out occasioned some surprise and, we admit, delight: cool. Hey, we love driving, but three hours on the highway is three hours on the highway, so hallelujah to a truck that can help mitigate that monotony.

When you do find your way back to some corners, the Sierra Denali Ultimate isn’t a bad dance partner, on account of its standard magnetic ride control dampers. Even though the Sierra uses a relatively crude solid rear axle with leaf springs, magnetic ride control tames the yips and hops associated with an unladen bed, reading the road 1000 times per second. The Denali Ultimate managed 0.78 g of grip on the skidpad, which would have tied the Ram for best in that comparison test. And its ride is about as serene as the Ram’s, even without air springs. The Denali is light, for a full-size full-luxe pickup—5586 pounds—and that relative litheness shines through in its driving manners.

2022 gmc sierra 1500 denali ultimate

Marc Urbano|Car and Driver

While the standard-issue Sierra Denali is offered with GMC’s 5.3-liter V-8, in addition to the 6.2-liter V-8 and 3.0-liter diesel I-6, the Ultimate only gets the latter two engines. GMC positions the diesel six as the entry-level powerplant, priced $2500 below the gas V-8 model. Although the diesel six makes just 277 horsepower, it matches the V-8’s 460 pound-feet of torque and is a rewarding engine in its own right, if you can live without the V-8 model’s 13.9-second quarter-mile at 100 mph. (When we tested a Chevy Silverado with the 3.0-liter diesel, it ran the quarter in 15.5 seconds at 88 mph.) The diesel also earns a 24-mpg EPA combined fuel-economy rating, easily besting the gas truck’s 17 mpg. We averaged just 15 mpg in our time with this Denali.

When you’re Super Cruising on down the highway, getting a massage from your heated seat, you might forget there’s a pickup bed riding along back there out behind the cabin. But indeed there is and it’s a novel one, in that it’s made of carbon fiber. Granted, GMC’s CarbonPro bed probably won’t make much actual difference in your life, but we always recommend obtaining more carbon fiber, and it’s sure to be a conversation starter at your local mulch purveyor. Plus, think of the money you’ll save on a bedliner. The Sierra’s MultiPro tailgate also folds down into a variety of different loading positions. At this point, you might be saying, “For $84,995, that tailgate better have its own stereo in it!” Rest assured, it does.

In fact, the Sierra Denali Ultimate’s price is its biggest drawback. A regular ol’ non-Ultimate Sierra Denali 4×4 with the same powertrain—420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic—costs $12,500 less and is also available with Super Cruise (those are the only two Sierra trims to get it, for now). Then again, the Ultimate’s sticker price looks like a bargain compared to the upcoming Sierra flagship, the 2024 Sierra EV Denali Edition 1, which will cost $108,695 when production starts in early 2024.

But for now, this is the pinnacle of Sierras. If you can stomach the price, there’s nothing else like it.



2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate V-8

Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup


Base/As Tested: $84,995/$84,995

Options: none


pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 376 in3, 6162 cm3

Power: 420 hp @ 5600 rpm

Torque: 460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm


10-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: control arms/live axle

Brakes, F/R: 13.0-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc

Tires: Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02

275/50R-22 111T M+S TPC Spec 3112MS


Wheelbase: 147.4 in

Length: 231.9 in

Width: 81.2 in

Height: 75.5 in

Passenger Volume: 136 ft3

Bed Length: 69.9 in

Curb Weight: 5586 lb


60 mph: 5.4 sec

100 mph: 13.9 sec

1/4-Mile: 13.9 sec @ 100 mph

Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 5.9 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.1 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 3.9 sec

Top Speed (gov ltd): 106 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 182 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.78 g


Observed: 15 mpg


Combined/City/Highway: 17/15/20 mpg


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