Review: 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate


Half-ton pickups are the bestselling vehicles in North America. In a wildly competitive market, pick-up trucks have to offer much more than before. Most people still depend on their trucks for work, and as they get more expensive, we expect much more out of them. It has to be luxurious, comfortable, practical, and durable. For the last few years, they have eventually become a status symbol. The updated GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate would be the right choice for people that wants to have everything in their American pick-up truck, and with the latest changes, it is more competitive than ever.

The Denali trim is what makes the Sierra more of a status symbol so that it has its own branding. You will see a lot of Denali badges on the interior, including the steering wheel. It also comes with tons of chrome parts, especially in the front fascia, and gives the Sierra a premium look. The boxy front end is not unique to Sierra, but the long hood and huge chrome grille make it easier to recognize this is a GMC truck from miles away.

From the side and rear end, the GMC Sierra looks like a traditional pickup truck. The boxy side profile makes it look much bigger than the competition. The Denali Ultimate trim offers pretty much everything available except a few little extras, but the main standard features are the 22″ aluminum wheels with Chrome inserts, powered running boards, chrome trims, and most importantly the MultiPro Tailgate which allows you to have several different layouts for different uses. I wish there were more colour options for the Denali Ultimate trim, as you expect more choices and personality when you spend 6 figure amount for a luxury truck.

The MultiPro Tailgate not only makes it easier to access the bed, but it offers six functions. You can sit more comfortably, carry bigger items, or offer more cargo space if you are carrying large items such as a motorcycle, or an ATV. I think this is what makes the GMC Sierra appealing to the audience, as it is the best tailgate available in the market. The other entries have easy access features, but they aren’t as good. You can also add optional Kicker speakers and Bluetooth connection as a party trick.

The MultiPro tailgate has two important compromises, the first one is that extra features, hinges, and complexity makes the tailgate quite heavy especially if you try to lift it with one hand only. It, unfortunately, does not come with a powered tailgate, meaning that you have to lift it yourself all the time. So you definitely need to choose if you want comfort or more features when it comes to the tailgate choice.

The biggest change is in the interior. The GMC Sierra comes with a completely new dashboard design, which looks so much better than the outgoing version. It was the weakest link when you compare it with the other half-ton pick-up trucks, as they had much refined and better interior design. The older dashboard design is still available at lower trims and it is still good for what it is, but if you want a nicer interior with a much larger infotainment screen, you need to go with higher trims.

The interior quality is quite good, and the fit and finish are acceptable for the price tag. The material choice is excellent, it offers a nice combination of leather and wood. Although the new interior has much more screen real estate, it still has lots of physical buttons for HVAC and other features. If you are coming from another General Motors product, the button layout will be quite similar. Compared to the outgoing dashboard, I really like the driver-oriented dashboard design, and the shifter is located on the center console, which gives you a more car-like feeling when you drive it. You can still get the column shifter if you opt for the 6-seat combination, but you need to choose lower trims.

When GMC updated the interior design, they also added more features. Of course, the new infotainment system is the most important change. The new 13.4-inch touchscreen is available with SLE trim and higher trims. It also comes with the latest Google built-in software, which allows you to use Google apps without smartphone integration. Of course, if you want to connect your phone, there is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features available. The screen resolution is excellent, including the cameras all around the vehicle.

Aside from the new infotainment screen, the biggest and most obvious update is the fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, offering a lot of different custom layouts and looks. In typical GM fashion, you will see tons of information and it is super easy to get used to the layout. New to 2023, Denali trims offer the Super Cruise feature standard, which is one of the best adaptive cruise control systems available, and it also comes with lane changing assist feature.

The seat comfort is still the same, the front seats offer a lot of adjustment options, and like most GM products, they are firmly padded. You will have no issues when it comes to the interior space, including the rear seats. At 6’1″, I have tons of legroom and headroom space behind my seating position. It also has heated rear seats, as well as USB ports and vents for the rear seat passengers. If you need extra space, you can lift them up for maximum cargo capacity, or use the storage compartments in the rear seats.

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 comes with four different engine options depending on the trim you choose, but there are only two options if you choose the top Denali Ultimate trim. The first one is the 3.0L Duramax Turbo Diesel engine, which offers better torque figures and fuel economy, but our tester came with the naturally aspirated 6.2L V8 engine pumping out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.

Both options are matched with 10-Speed torque-converted automatic transmission and standard 4-wheel-drive system, but if you choose lower trims, you can choose different drivetrain combinations, such as the 2.7 Turbo or naturally aspirated 5.3L V8 engine, or a rear-wheel-drive and 8-speed automatic transmission. The Denali trim does not come with extra off-road-worthy features like the locking differentials, but the Tow/Haul mode is still available with a transfer case that allows you to switch to Low gear mode.

The naturally aspirated 6.2L engine gives you the best performance of the bunch, but it will not be ridiculously fast as the other trucks on the market. General Motors claim a towing capacity of 13,000 lbs and a payload capacity of 2240 lbs when properly equipped. The numbers are quite impressive on paper, but there is a huge disclaimer because your mileage may vary based on the version you choose. However, in order to achieve this towing capacity, the 6.2L V8 engine and 4WD are required, as well as the Max Trailering Package and 20″ wheels and tires.

The ride is quite comfortable and plush, mainly because of the front suspension tune. However, if you look underneath, you will still see the traditional pickup truck suspension setup. It has a solid axle rear suspension with leaf springs. Although General Motors tuned the rear suspension to hide the biggest deficiency of the leaf springs, you still feel the small bumps and road imperfections. It is the right choice for a work truck to have leaf springs for hauling heavier items, better towing and durability, but not as refined for a 6-figure luxury truck.

The 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 is still a great half-ton truck and a strong contender. The Denali trim with its 6-figure price tag might not be for everyone, but it is definitely the right choice for someone that needs a truck as a weekday workhorse, a weekend luxury family hauler, and an everyday “status symbol” in today’s hot market. General Motors hit the nail with the updates for the 2023 model year, offering a much better interior design that can finally keep up with the other luxury trucks, along with the unique features that make the Sierra stand out against the competition.

Engine6162cc naturally aspirated pushrod 16-valve V8
Transmission & Drivetrain10-speed automatic & 4-wheel-drive
Max power420 hp @ 5600 rpm
Max torque460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
0-100 km/h5.5 sec
Curb Weight5586 lbs – 2533 kg
Fuel Economy (Combined)15 MPG – 15.6L / 100 km
Price (as tested)$106,537 CAD
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