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2017 GMC Sierra Denali 3500HD Crew Cab 4WD Quick Take

By Keith Buglewicz on April 21, 2017 7:30 AM
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The 2017 GMC Sierra Denali 3500H Crew Cab is as big a truck as you could possibly need. With those inflated rear fenders it's nearly as wide as a Smart is long. You could park a Chevy Sonic hatchback between the front and rear wheels, with room to spare. It's 21.5 feet long. In black, like our test truck, all those dimensions look doubled, and even with running boards it's a significant step up to get inside.

It's big because this is a work truck, not a city cruiser. You get a truck like this to patrol vast acres of farmland, haul your horses to and from shows or stables, or to drag your luxurious fifth-wheel trailer around the country so you can camp in style. Honestly, it'd be a little dumb to just drive something like this unladen in regular city traffic. So, anyhow, I did that last thing, and came away pleasantly surprised. 

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Lap of luxury

The Denali means it's luxurious inside, with contrast stitching on the leather-wrapped seats, a touch echoed on the padded dash and doors. The audio system sounded good, and was easy to hear even at freeway speeds because it's so quiet inside. Creature comforts include dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled seats, Apple CarPlay, and the ability to pull a house off its foundation. Even the big 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8 engine was nicely quiet, and managed to deliver 13.8 mpg, pretty respectable considering the 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft of torque it generates.

What really got me is the ride. This suspension is set up to haul nearly 5,000 pounds in the bed (nearly 2.5 tons), or tow up to 22,700 pounds (more than 11 tons) using the built-in fifth-wheel hitch in the bed. So speed bumps, ruts, and expansion joints transmit the kind of jolts through the cabin that you'd expect from a stiff heavy-duty suspension.

But even with that in mind it's not intolerable. It's no match for a modern half-ton pickup, but it's no worse than a half-ton from about 10 years ago, and that's a far cry from the kidney-pounding setups HD trucks used to suffer from. Most of the time the suspension was as comfortable as you could hope for considering that performance envelope.

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Parking a challenge

The considerable bulk makes parking lots a hassle, and parking structures are probably best avoided altogether. There's no around-view camera system, and not even blind spot warning, but the big convex sections of the outside mirrors are a decent substitute, letting you know if your big rear fenders are about to take out the Prius in the next lane. After about a day, I was mostly used to it.

Our as-tested price for the Sierra Denali 3500HD came to $69,585, including the $1,195 destination charge. That's a lot, but this is also a lot of truck, and we don't just mean the fancy leather. It'd be tough to find a more civilized way to haul your ponies from the stable to the racetrack.


 

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