2012 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD 4WD


Sometimes you need a basic truck and sometimes you need a really nice, really powerful truck. The GMC Denali 2500HD is the latter. Most customers will never need a vehicle like the Denali but for those who do and can afford it, this is thee vehicle for the boss, the top dog, the general contractor, the man who’s made it in life and wants a luxury appointed, yet ultra capable machine to haul his big expensive toys.

We set out on our adventure to the desert region of Lancaster, CA, which is north of L.A. and smack dab in the middle of Breaking Bad country. “Club Ed”, home to such films as Dennis Hopper’s “Eye Of The Storm”, Rob Zombie’s “Devil’s Rejects” and Tim Robbins’ “Nothing To Lose” seemed like a hostile, desolate place to exploit the Sierra’s abilities and comfort in the face of extreme forlorn.

Let me start by saying that this is a big vehicle. The curb weight is 6119 lbs., the wheelbase is 153.7 inches, the overall length is almost 245 inches and the height is 78.3 inches. Driving this beast into a parking garage is a test of ones nerves and patience. I found myself dodging utility pipes, hanging signs and I was graced with about 3 inches of clearance from the cement structure itself. The optional 6” tubular chromed assist steps helped greatly when trying to navigate the garage with the door open as did the standard rear vision camera for backing into tight spaces.

Outside, the Denali is undeniably handsome, muscular and it exudes the “Professional Grade” confidence that most trucks do not. From the chrome adorned, in your face, huge grill with GMC prominently foisted in a one foot by five inch red font, to the matching chromed lower valance surrounding the beefy tow hooks, to the chromed door handles, door trim pieces, DENALI HD logo, step tubes and the chromed front and rear bumpers, this truck is the epitome of blinged. The only brightwork on the exterior that wasn’t chromed were the optional 20” forged, polished aluminum rims which were stunning in their own right.



Inside, the Denali could pass for a luxury car. There was plenty of high quality, black leather everywhere and nearly every surface that mattered was soft touch. The faux wood trim’s dark burl suited the black, executive theme of the rest of the interior, though I’m sure some would prefer it not be there. The 7″ touch screen navigation and entertainment system were top notch. My friend and I were blown away by the Bose 9 speaker center surround-sound system with Surrounstage signal processing which, in concert with Audiopilot noise compensation, augmented stereo MP3’s into 5 channel surround-sound. The sound quality was easily as good if not better than some luxury cars I’ve driven.

The navigation system was intuitive and easy to use, though I did have to call OnStar once because the navigation system would not allow me to enter a known, valid destination. My one and only gripe with the radio interface was the sensitivity of the volume nob. At least 5 times during our testing I inadvertently turned the radio off because I pressed in the volume nob, which powers the system off, when I was simply attempting to adjust the volume. If I owned the truck, I’d use the steering mounted audio controls to circumvent that problem. iPod integration was seamless as was Bluetooth connectivity with my iPhone.



All of this luxury and attention to detail is useless in a truck without the power to get the job done and in this respect, the Denali shines again. The loaded model I was given for testing had the Duramax 6.6L turbo diesel, a $7,195 option, outputting 397 hp and 765 lb.-ft of torque, trumping all previous Sierra’s to date. The machine blessed with getting this power to the ground is the bulletproof Allison 1000 Series 6-speed transmission with overdrive. It’s comforting to know that the transmission in this consumer truck is built by the same company that produces transmissions for our militaries M1 tanks! Power delivery is smooth and refined, yet brutally strong when called upon to perform. Throughout the week I averaged 11.2 mpg over 213.6 miles of hard use and still had a 487 mile range according to the trip telematics.

The Denali is at home on Saturday date night with your girl in the streets of LA as it is tearing up the desert in four-wheel-drive, smashing offroad obstacles, plowing through sugar sand and powering up hills you wouldn’t dare try in a lesser machine. The suspension travel was fantastic and the truck was able to maintain its composure even while we thrust it into the depths of whoop hell and back. I was reminded after our first attempt to employ my seatbelt to avoid being bounced out of the large sunroof…

The Eaton heavy duty automatic locking rear differential with external transmission cooler, which comes standard in the Denali and is a class exclusive, kept the behemoth moving forward even as I slowly crawled up and over some serious, sugar sand hills. No matter what challenges we threw at the Denali, she performed exemplarily. We blew a whole day and nearly a tank of fuel gallivanting through the desert mountains and trails.



Most customers of a truck with this much power will undoubtedly use it to pull large loads or haul heavy payloads in the bed. Sadly, I was unable to test this aspect of the Denali though I have no doubt it would be able to tackle any feat it encountered. The tow ratings are 16,500 lbs. for a 5th wheel, 13,000 lbs. for a trailer and 3,193 lbs. maximum payload. The integrated diesel exhaust and Grade Braking systems are meant to inspire confidence and improve regular and downhill braking scenarios. Grade Braking in particular senses when you want to slow down and modifies automatic downshifts to assist in maintain speed and control.

I really enjoyed my week with the Denali as did everyone who encountered it. The stunning desert vistas and mountainous terrain we experienced was a first for me and an experience I’ll never forget. The Denali shepherded us through the hostile terrain and shielded us from the eccentric desert minions all while completely pampering us in leather and tech. For $62,859, this truck is everything you could ask for in a full size, fully capable luxury truck. Even if you are not the boss, you will feel like you are piloting the Boss’s Truck.

Photo Credit:  Copyright 2012 Ryan French / Car Fanatics Blog

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