2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD
Power: 397hp @ 3000rpm
Torque: 765ft-lbs @ 1600rpm
Engine: 6.6L Duramax Turbodiesel V8
Fuel Consumption: Not Rated (19mpg observed)
Price as Tested: $62,179
The GMC Sierra 2500 HD Denali is a really, really big vehicle. It's impossible to lose in a parking lot because it's always visible, even when surrounded by other trucks and SUVs. My family and I immediately started referring to it as "the monster." Aesthetically, it's a truck. It's big, boxy, masculine, and (since it's a luxury truck) covered in chrome. Mostly, it's dramatic, though, almost cartoonishly because of its size. Bearded old men in plaid shirts and dad jeans give it a thumbs on the street (that actually happened).
On the inside, for just a moment, it doesn't feel like a truck at all. Comfortable, supportive leather seats with four-way adjustable lumbar support cradle the front passengers. The rear bench has plenty of leg room and is comfortable for three people, as long as none of them are terribly overweight. Then, when I looked out of the window, I was suddenly reminded that this was a truck, judging by the fact that I could only see the roof of the Honda Fit next to me. I could see the roofs of Ford F-150s and BMW X5s from this vantage point as well. I could see the truckers' chests. I felt powerful and invincible in a way that's really more scary than comforting.
The dual zone A/C did a great job of keeping me cool and my wife not cool, but the seat ventilation was disappointing at best. Normally, I do happy little back-flips when I'm told I'll be driving something with ventilated seats because I overheat very easily. The issue with these, however, is that they don't actually cool your back, butt, and legs; they just cool your anus. For whatever reason, the only place where I could feel cold air coming up through the seat was the two-inch circle around my anus. Not really what I was hoping for.
Even if the interior had been circa 1995 Kia polyester and Bob the Builder-grade plastic, which it certainly is not, this would be a brilliant truck for one reason: the engine. The 6.6l Duramax Turbo-Diesel is one of the best truck engines available. It's powerful, wonderfully torquey, and efficient. This truck is, despite its ponderous bulk, quite fast. I suppose 397 horsepower and a whopping 765 foot-pounds of torque will do that. For a truck this size, the fuel economy was also astounding. I recorded around 18mpg. There's a good bit of turbo lag, but it actually adds to the fun, since it kicks in very suddenly.
The bed is a little disappointing, though. While the size isn't bad for a crew-cab, (it's just enough to squeeze a queen mattress in there), the attachment points for bungee cords and ropes and such are a little sub-par. The only places to attach a rope are at the bottom corners of the bed, which can be difficult to reach when you've just loaded the truck full of stuff, like a queen mattress. The places to hook in your bungees also don't feel secure, since there's not much of a lip. Would it be too much to ask for a little hole on the inside of the bed at the top corners as well, so that we could tie a rope without digging through all of our cargo?
The real question is, "do I need it?" Almost definitely, the answer is, "no." It's a fantastic heavy-duty truck. But my tester was $62,000 (base price $46,000), and the vast majority of people would be better served by a 5-series or E-class. However, if you are a contractor, boat-owner, small-penis-compensator, farmer, or you just like getting a thumbs-up from bearded dudes, you could do much worse. If you habitually lose your car or get hemorrhoids, it might also be a good choice for you, because of the freakish size and the anus-cooler. Think of it as the Ferrari of trucks--you spend $62,000 on an engine and they throw in a luxury truck for free. Really, that engine is worth every penny.