Mountain Wheels: GMC’s glossy Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate is a whole lot of truck
Sports Sports | Jul 29, 2023
With 7,700 pounds of Shaq-sized vehicle to handle, you have blessedly few moments of self-doubt while out on the highway — which finally made me feel like those self-assured guys who drive Toyota 4Runners like they own the road, and you.
However, behind the wheel of the all-new 2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate, the stats that go along with an ultra-powerful and unbelievably oversized towing machine tend to put the Boulder weekenders in their place.
The Sierra is a full-blown heavy-duty truck, with the ability — in the four-wheel-drive, crew cab setup I drove — to tow nearly 22,000 pounds of fifth-wheel trailer. Mine was equipped with a 6.6-liter V8 Duramax turbodiesel and a 10-speed Allison transmission, which meant 470 horsepower and a stellar 975 pound-feet of torque, but still managed about 17 mpg during my unladen mountain drives. It was enough torque, I reckoned, to pull a house off its foundations. Or worse.
Priced at $94,835, which includes just over $1,000 in fifth-wheel-ready equipment, the luxurious Sierra Denali Ultimate package takes the truck’s interior to near-Cadillac levels of leather and finishings. An AT4X offroad version is also on the horizon, and there are also four- and six-wheel 3500 models available, the biggest of which can tow up to 36,000 pounds.
It is, indeed, a monstrous truck whose owners I assume will get massive tax write-offs using it as a work vehicle; it’s hard to imagine something this large being used as a family vehicle, but that also seems to be par for the course, during our ongoing big truck wars.
The GMC was so big I had to park it in a different spot during the week I drove it, and tight parking lots or gas stations required care and attention. It offered the most practical use of those side, forward, cab-view and even behind-the-trailer-view cameras seen in GM’s trucks, meaning I could get close to (or even see) curbs and park it with some ease. Sierra 2500 also has probably the largest two-level side mirrors this side of a Mercedes Sprinter van, which can power-extend for trailering, or menacing oncoming drivers. Your choice.
With an almost 267-inch-long vehicle that’s nearly 80 inches tall, pedestrians literally disappear in front of you at crosswalks, and full-sized humans barely peek over the hood or the bed rails. You end up looking down into the cabs of delivery trucks and seeing people’s backyards as you drive by; aggressive drivers almost entirely disappear if they get up behind your wall of tailgate, which itself is one of those multi-level folding numbers that includes a tailgate sound system.
Morning start-up diesel sounds are very much present, though the diesel exhaust fluid system means there’s hardly a whiff of exhaust or smoke to be seen. The diesel experience means slightly slow but steady power under lower-speed circumstances, though it might be faster from 65-100 mph than a Corvette, thanks to the locomotive-styled torque.
My preference during my drives with the Sierra 2500 was to keep it at about 65 or under, as the truck’s ultra-massive weight and relatively tall and skinny stature (plus 75 pounds of air pressure in the rear tires) means Colorado roads are universally appalling, and sometimes terrifying.
Concrete road sections made the Sierra so big and bouncy that I was about to lose my lunch, and even recently-patched sections on I-70 were amplified and precarious. Berthoud Pass was just plain awful. Gravel, during my north-to-south transit of Ute Pass from U.S. 40, wasn’t much of an issue; it’s one vehicle where speed warnings on corners really need to be taken into account pretty much all of the time.
The Ultimate package really takes the modern truck world’s wall of grille look to new levels of intensity, topped by a hood as big as a hot tub cover and flanked by gigantic LED lamps and giant daytime lights (and full-sized truck marker lights on top of the cab). Mine featured painted wheels; 18-inch wheels are standard but there are 22-inch wheels available, of course.
Built-in steps in the front and rear of the box make access at least technically more easy; cab access is actually pretty simple thanks to power-deploying, LED-lit, cab-length running boards.
Inside, it’s a pretty swanky setting thanks to full-grain leather and actual open-pore paldao wood, and replete with endless testimonials to that Alaskan mountain it’s named after — topographic etchings on the top glove box, geographic coordinates on the door sills.
There’s leather everywhere, from the door panels to the grab handles, and a suede-styled headliner; seats also feature power massage, and there are stainless steel grilles for the Bose Premium sound system. Displays are also enormous, with a 15-inch center screen that pulls up all the various camera views.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at [email protected].
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Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.Heavy duty trucks are all about the numbers, and the new GMC Sierra 2500 packs trailer-hauling prowess with glossy looks and finishes. As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.