2018 GMC Sierra Denali: Tow like a pro in style
- 5.3-liter V8 with 335 horsepower
- Optional 420-horsepower 6.2-liter
- EPA fuel economy of 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway
- Denali trim adds luxury touches
With an all-new 2019 GMC Sierra headed for dealerships this fall, it raises the question of whether the outgoing model is still worth considering for discerning truck buyers. The current generation Sierra that’s been around since 2014 and benefitted from a 2016 facelift is still an attractive entry in a competitive segment, especially for those looking on the more luxurious side of pickup trucks.
I recently had a chance to drive the 2018 GMC Sierra Denali around southern Utah while towing a pair of Polaris RZR UTVs. The truck was equipped with the tried-and-true 5.3-liter V8 engine that’s been used in one form or another since 1999. In its current form, it delivers 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque comes on at 4,100 rpm and GMC claims it delivers more than 300 lb-ft from 2,000 all the way up to 5,600 rpm where horsepower peaks.
Not bad, but the 5.3 under the hood of the Sierra I drove just isn’t up to snuff compared to the competition, at least on paper. Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 available in the F-150 delivers 395 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque while the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 in the Ram 1500 matches Ford at 395 horsepower and leads the class in torque at 410 lb-ft. Even the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan can beat the GMC’s numbers with their respective V8s.
Fuel economy for the 5.3L V8 is on par with the rest of its segment with an EPA fuel economy rating of 20 highway/15 city mpg. One thing that did impress me about the engine is that cylinder deactivation works in tow mode. Despite the heavy load behind me, the truck was still able to occasionally turn off four cylinders to save fuel.
More to it than the engine
So why spring for the Sierra when its 5.3-liter V8 comes in dead last in its segment in terms of power and torque? Well, a truck is made up of much more than just an engine. The truck I had the pleasure of driving was a Denali, which means the interior was nicer than any truck interior deserves to be. I was treated to heated and cooled leather seats and features like navigation, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, wireless charging, and much more.
The 2018 Sierra Denali also offers an incredibly smooth ride which adds to the already superb comfort level of the truck. Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re driving a pickup truck when the ride quality and interior appointments are more like those of a luxury sedan. The Sierra Denali really hits home GMC’s reputation of trucks that are rugged, yet refined.
But all of those luxuries come at a price. The truck I drove was worth about $60,000 with options and that price gets higher if you upgrade to the 6.2-liter V8 which has 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, a worthwhile $2,495 upgrade if you’re planning on doing a lot of towing. However, there are likely to be some good deals showing up on these trucks with the all-new 2019 model on the way.
If the latest and greatest luxury pickup truck is what you’re after, then you’ll probably want to wait for the 2019 Sierra Denali. But if you want a good deal on a luxury pickup and aren’t concerned with what the next generation has to offer, then keep an eye out for a discounted 2018 GMC Sierra Denali.
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