Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

GMC Sierra Denali: Nothing old-fashioned to see here

It might be a truck, but don't be conned into thinking the Sierra Denali's a tank

Many truck purists are deeply unhappy about the way the pick-up market has been evolving. These modern trucks are too sanitised, critics cry, likening the driving experience to travelling around in a Range Rover with a big rear. A lot of us who make do on a daily basis with rather more basic motoring might be content, but that’s beside the point. Pick-ups, for some truck lovers, should be tough to drive and lacking in frills.

The thing is, these days almost no vehicle is tough to drive nor lacking in frills (whisper that among those who earn their living mucking about reviewing cars, as they’ll protest otherwise – but will still be wrong). If people want transportation that’s a bit more basic, there are plenty of second-hand tanks a decade or so old with a few thousand kilometres on the clock that they can spend their time and money keeping on the road. For those who are after something a little old-school, but are keen to spend their dirhams on a new vehicle, there are few options available.

At first look, you might put the GMC Sierra Denali in that category. But the key words here are “at first look”, for it isn’t actually the case. If the manufacturer’s intentions were to create a more traditional vehicle, it failed. The latest model retains some of the car’s classic touches, but it is certainly not tough to drive nor lacking in frills.

Despite the archaic stick shift, the almost square speedometer and the fact it’s the size of a small apartment block, the Denali is a modern, easily drivable piece of machinery that performs in the efficient way you’d expect from any vehicle constructed somewhere other than a garden shed. It assumes a cloak of tradition, while secretly wearing the latest designer garments underneath, all of which becomes obvious as soon as you start the engine and the dashboard comes alive.

The front grille is an impressive sight.
The front grille is an impressive sight

This latest Denali has a bigger cabin than previous models and GMC says the vehicle has the most premium Denali interior to date. That’ll be the agreeable wood and aluminium trim, leather-appointed seating and steering wheel. The connectivity is pleasing, too, with GMC’s infotainment system and navigation coming as standard. There are also several handy compartments inside. It’s all rather plush and – sorry, traditionalists – not old-fashioned at all.

Despite its size (and, standing close to it, you may well be a little in awe of how big it is), performance isn’t an issue. There’s a lot of poke in that 6.2-litre V8 engine, which will make you happy and even a little surprised when you put your foot down. The obvious downside to this, though, is that it’s thirsty.

Those of us who are more used to clambering in and out of vehicles that we’re actually taller than will find the handles you use to climb aboard a novelty, as well as good exercise for the arms. The legs get a bit of a workout, too, as you may need to stand on the footplate to reach the handles.

You might be wiser to opt for a shorter vehicle if using climbing walls is not your thing. Mind you, if the truck is parked with plenty of room around it, getting in and out is less of a problem, but if you have to squeeze into a space and are unable to open the doors fully (which could be a common occurrence), you’ll definitely need to do the aforementioned scrambling act. To be fair to the Denali, this is common among all large, modern pick-up trucks, so we can’t count it as a failing.

Metallic touches on the dashboard.
Metallic touches on the dashboard

In much of Europe, say, this kind of vehicle may feel a little too big. In the Middle East, though, there are plenty of reasons to get the pick-up bug, particularly if you have a use for all that space behind the cabin.

We’ve already mentioned the exercise involved in getting in and out of the Denali, but if you decide to buy a vehicle of this sort there are more fitness tests ahead. Bear in mind that when your friends see your new ride they’ll be after your help to shift anything they can’t fit in their smaller cars.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, it’s best to adopt a sorrowful expression. Or maybe you could simply say you’re already a bit tired from scrambling in and out of the cabin.

Updated: September 21, 2019 12:34 PM

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