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2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Review
The Ultimat-est Pickup Ever
SAN DIEGO — GMC's Denali is one of the most successful subbrands in automotive.
I can't tell you how often I've talked to someone who had just purchased "a new Denali" rather than a new Yukon SUV or Sierra pickup truck. What started as a fancy trim level has grown into an entire brand unto itself — new Denali models don't even say GMC on the steering wheel.
To feed the ever-growing demand for the ultimate luxury pickup — and to show that pickups can never have too many trim levels — GMC has taken the Sierra Denali and loaded it up with every option imaginable. The result is the new Sierra Denali Ultimate, an $80,395 monument to luxurious practicality.
I'm pretty sure GMC wanted to make life easier for truck buyers who walk into a dealership and say, "give me the best." The Denali Ultimate includes Super Cruise, a carbon fiber-composite cargo box (which is outrageously cool and saves weight while being incredibly durable), an exclusive interior and exterior design touches like a unique grille in "Vader chrome" which is a gorgeous, dark, sinister-ish metallic, and unique 22-inch wheels.
Super Cruise isn't exclusive to the Denali Ultimate, but this is the only truck where it comes standard. It's the most advanced driver assist technology available today and is reason enough to buy the Ultimate.
It allows drivers to take their hands completely off the wheel while driving on limited-access highways like interstates. The car uses its cameras and other sensors to watch the lane lines and the other vehicles on the road, comparing what it sees to a pre-recorded laser-measured map of the world. Though the truck handles both steering and throttle inputs (if you've ever used adaptive cruise control, imagine that but for steering as well), the driver must pay attention to the road to ensure nothing weird happens — and the driver must be ready to take over steering at any time. This isn't self-driving, though it feels close.
It's weird the first few times you use it, but after a while, you start to trust it more because it's such a smooth and robust system. And, for 2022, Super Cruise has been updated with two incredible new features. First, it works while towing.
Anyone who has towed long distances knows how tiring it can be. No matter how much experience you have, driving on the interstate with a trailer weighing thousands of pounds dragging behind you is simply more work. You have to look in the mirrors more, consider your lane changes more, and it just takes more out of you. Super Cruise makes towing easier on the highway by taking much of that load off the driver.
It takes into account the length of the trailer when taking turns, moving closer to the lane lines at the entry and exit of corners, and does all the things you should do when towing a trailer. It's really something.
If you're not towing, it does something even more impressive: changing lanes. Actually, it's not the changing lanes that's impressive. Super Cruise has been able to change lanes after the driver activates the turn signal for a few years. What's astonishing is that it does it without any direct input from the driver.
In other words, imagine you're driving down the road, in the right-hand lane, with Super Cruise on and your speed is set to 70 mph. If a truck in front of you is going 65 mph, Super Cruise will check the lane to the left for traffic and, if it has room, will automatically move over, pass the truck, and return to the right. That's all without direct input from the driver, other than the driver watching the road. It's incredible, and it will blow people's minds once they experience it in person. For now, you'll have to trust me.
So the Denali Ultimate has that, a nearly-indestructible carbon-composite cargo box and a unique interior with open-pore wood etched with laser-cut topographical maps of the summit of Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America. GMC calls the interior Alpine Umber a pretentious way of saying dark brown, and it's lovely. Also lovely are the massaging front seats and the six-way MultiPro tailgate, one of the best reasons to buy a GMC pickup.
The other best reason to buy the new Sierra Denali Ultimate is the redesigned interior, complete with a big center touchscreen running Android Automotive (which is different from Android Auto, which the truck also supports along with Apple CarPlay). The new dash and center console, which sees GMC ditch the steering column-mounted shifter, puts GM back in contention with Ford and RAM, which had previously run away in the classy truck interior department.
Also a great reason to buy the Sierra Denali Ultimate is that you can ditch the thirsty 6.2-liter V8 and swap in the incredible 3-liter Duramax Turbodiesel for no charge. I love that engine so much, and I wouldn't buy a GM full-size truck or SUV without it.
GMC says the new Sierra Denali Ultimate is the most luxurious pickup in its class. It might be right, though I'd gander the Rivian R1T might give it a run for its money if not for the fact that the Rivian isn't technically a full-size truck.
One thing's for sure, though: if you're going to buy a Denali, you might as well buy the best.