Test Drive: GMC’s 2019 Sierra 1500 is made for long distance hauling

Redesigned for 2019, the GMC Sierra 1500 pickup-truck line retains the qualities that keep General Motors trucks among the sales leaders year after year. It’s big and capable enough to handle almost any job set before it, yet rides comfortably and has plenty of amenities. Yet the GMC Denali Crew Cab’s considerable length, height and overall bulk make it less agreeable in ordinary driving circumstances than the many smaller trucks on the market, including the Honda Ridgeline, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma.

Our test truck, a Denali Crew Cab with 4-wheel drive and high-low transfer case, made sense for people who do serious, long-distance hauling, and want a high level of comfort inside the cab. But it was no treat to drive around town or commute to and from work. The standard-length bed, roomy back seat and long, muscular-looking front end added up to more than 19 feet in overall length. The 6.2-liter, 420-horsepower V-8 also exacted a fuel-economy penalty of some consequence. On the highway, holding close to the speed limit, we were able to nudge the gauge a tenth or two of an mpg above the truck’s rating of 20.

The 2019 Sierra Denali features a “MultiPro tailgate,” which has configurations allowing it to be used as a step, work table or a stop for loads that are longer than the closed bed. — Courtesy of GMC Global Pressroom

Curiously, the 5.3-liter V-8’s fuel economy isn’t much better than that of the bigger engine. However, the standard 4.3-liter V-6, which puts out a respectable 285 horsepower, is rated at 18 mpg city, 24 highway, with rear-wheel drive; 17/22 with 4-wheel drive.

GMC has added a few flourishes that might make a difference for indecisive truck shoppers. Most prominently, the Sierra features a “MultiPro tailgate,” which has configurations allowing it to be used as a step, work table or a stop for loads that are longer than the closed bed. The system even has steel bars that swing out and lock to make it easier to climb into the truck’s bed. It’s standard on Sierras in SLT and Denali trim.

Additionally, the test truck’s back seat had removable panels so items could be placed between the seat back and the front of the bed.

For people who value taut, secure handling, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram line remains the best of the big pickup trucks. We haven’t driven a Ram in a few years, but we were impressed with its roadworthiness in the past. Among smaller trucks, the Honda Ridgeline is the truck of choice where cornering and road feel are concerned. The GM trucks, including the Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, are awkward by comparison.

Our test truck had the 22-inch aluminum wheels, the biggest available, along with all-terrain tires. Base-model GMC trucks have 17-inch wheels.

The sticker price on the Denali 1500 was daunting: $67,735. The base work truck starts at $28,300.

Sierra and Silverado models are carrying a big sales load for GM these days. Last year, Americans purchased 803,807 of the big pickup trucks, and sales are on track to match or exceed that for 2018.

2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD

Price: $67,735

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 420 horsepower, 460 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Drive: Traction select system, 2-speed Autotrac transfer case

Weight: 5,443 lb.

Suspension: independent coil-over-shock front; solid rear axle with leaf springs, adaptive ride control

Ground clearance: 8.1 in.

Wheels: 22-in. polished aluminum

Tires: 285/45R22 all-terrain

Seating capacity: 5

Maximum payload: 1,610 lb.

Maximum towing capacity: 9,300 lb.

Fuel capacity: 24 gal.

Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.