• Bigger dimensions, lightweight construction
  • New tailgate configuration
  • Two V8s available
  • 10-speed automatic transmission standard
  • Carbon fiber bed liner
  • Turbodiesel on the way

 

You’d expect a redesigned player in the intensely competitive full-size pickup league to have a new face, new dimensions (read: bigger), new capacities (also bigger), and new tech and safety features. As well as a new diesel engine option, keeping pace with most of its competitors.

GMC checked all those boxes in the global debut of its 2019 Sierra Crew Cab. Staged in Detroit, the unveiling revealed Sierra Denali and Sierra SLT that are bigger and bolder than their 2018 counterparts. As you’d expect.  But what you might not expect is something all-new at the rear of the truck. After all, what could be all-new about a tailgate?

MultiPro Tailgate

In the Sierra’s case, a lot. GMC calls it the MultiPro Tailgate, a remarkable piece of engineering that figures to be a game-changer for all pickups, great and small. But for model year 2019, at the very least, it’s exclusive to the Sierra.

Here’s what it does. Controlled by the truck’s key fob, the tailgate powers up and down, a function it shares with the new Chevy Silverado. But it goes well beyond that. A panel flips up from the top of the gate when the gate is open, to serve as a cargo stop. It serves the same purpose when the gate telescopes rearward, an integral bed extender.

Flip the gate full down, to ease access to the cargo bed. The gate can also fold and stack on itself, providing a place to set up a laptop. And it also unfolds into a nifty set of stairs, for climbing into the cargo bed, an easier way to go than the toehold built into the ends of the rear bumper.

Carbon fiber bed liner

Another unique cargo bed feature will come along later in the model year—an optional carbon fiber liner. The bed’s outer walls are steel, but the liner, called the CarbonPro, covers the interior surfaces. GMC claims the carbon fiber will be more durable than a steel bed or other liners. Like the MultiPro Tailgate, the carbon fiber liner is a Sierra exclusive.

Other noteworthy updates include a large (3 by 7 inches) color head-up display tracking vehicle vital stats; a camera-based inside rear view mirror that expands its sightlines to compensate for rear seat passengers and/or cargo; and a new trailering package that makes hitching-up and towing easier than ever.

Shared with Chevy

The Sierra has always been a fraternal twin of the Chevrolet Silverado, and that’s true of the latest generation; chassis and powertrain components are generally common to both trucks. What this adds up to is a truck that’s both bigger and lighter than the current Sierras. The GM designers achieved their weight reduction without adopting the wholesale use of aluminum, like the Ford F-150. In the Sierra the hood and doors are aluminum; the rest of the weight reduction—as much as 360 pounds, according to Global Product Development VP Mark Reuss—was achieved by increased use of high-strength steel.

With the 2019 on-sale date still many months in the future, GMC’s presentation was remarkably devoid of specifics regarding chassis and dimensions other than to say that the wheelbase and overall length have been lengthened. Moreover, the new frame is stiffer than that of the current Sierra, according to GMC.

Judging by the Silverado, the Sierra wheelbase stretch may be almost 4 inches, and overall length grows by about an inch and a half. The new truck is also a little taller and wider. The dimensional increases yield a bigger cab with more legroom, as well as more load space in both cargo beds, standard and long.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Two V8s first, turbodiesel later

There will be two engine choices at launch, both V8s, both updates of existing powerplants—5.3 and 6.2 liters. Like other specifications, GMC refrained from any mention of power ratings or fuel economy. But the company did reveal a new fuel economy tech feature called Dynamic Fuel Management.

In addition to start/stop, the new Sierra also boasts an extension of GM’s cylinder deactivation that reduces the number of cylinders firing in steady throttle cruising. That technology shuts down half the cylinders in a V8 engine. Dynamic Fuel Management goes a big step further, shutting down as many as seven of the eight, depending on power demand. The new turbodiesel option, due sometime after launch, will be an inline 6-cylinder, 3.0 liters in displacement.

A 10-speed automatic will send power to the rear or all four wheels.

Inside and out

The inner Sierra, particularly the Denali, features more luxurious materials, including rich pebble grain leather and wood trim with exposed grain, as well as enhanced audio, infotainment and connectivity.

And the exterior is hard to ignore. The design and engineering teams conspired to reduce front end overhang, the side sheet metal is distinguished by C-shaped character sculpting that echoes the LED running lights up front, and the Denali sports new bright-finish 22-inch wheels. But the most striking element of the new truck’s styling is the bright mesh grille, bigger than that of the 2018 model in the 2019 SLT, and bigger still in the Denali. The new grille may be big and bright enough to be seen from low earth orbit, and for those who revel in bling, shop no further.

As with specifications, GMC refrained from any mention of price. The base MSRP for a 2018 rear-drive Denali is $53,000.

GMC’s Detroit presentation focused largely on the Denali, a priority that’s easy to appreciate when one understands that (a) the Sierra is the division’s bestselling vehicle, (b) the luxurious Denali is the most profitable of GMC’s full-size pickups, and (c) some three quarters of Sierra sales are Denali. The company promises more detailed Sierra information in the not-too-distant future.

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