2014 GMC Sierra Denali first drive shows impressive styling, power

Producing 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, Producing 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, the EcoTec3 positions the 2014 GMC Sierra Denali as the class leader when compared to other light-duty truck engines. Photo Credit: Cars.com

advertisement | advertise on newsday

We recently had the chance to drive the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali crew cab with the all-new EcoTec3 6.2-liter V-8 at a press event, and we can say this about the truck: although likely to be pricey, it will impress just about everyone who gets behind the wheel.

Walking around the exterior of the Sierra 1500 Denali crew cab, one can't help but notice its bold look. The truck's design is tough and rugged yet refined, just as the Denali name suggests. Specific to the Sierra Denali models are projector headlamps with signature LED daytime running lamps, body-color bumpers, 20-inch chrome wheels and the iconic Denali front grille.

The Denali interior features supple leather, and real wood and metal trim accents. GMC's design team decided to ditch the plastics and synthetics for the real thing. One of the first things you notice is the beautifully stitched leather steering wheel and dash. The heated and cooled front leather bucket seats are inviting and comfortable. Ample storage and power options are plentiful, and all are within easy reach of both the driver and front-seat passenger. The large 8-inch color touch-screen seems intuitive and quickly provides access to audio, navigation and GMC IntelliLink features.

However, you can't see the real star of this truck without popping the hood. New to the Sierras for 2014 is the EcoTec3 6.2-liter V-8 engine available on SLT models. Designed to maximize power, torque and fuel economy, the EcoTec3 engines feature a combination of active fuel management (cylinder deactivation), direct injection and continuously variable valve timing. The combination of these three features is not available on any of the competitors' trucks.

Producing 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, the EcoTec3 positions the Sierra as the class leader when compared to other light-duty truck engines. While EPA fuel economy numbers haven't been officially released, the GMC team seems confident that consumers will be pleased with the results. It is also worth pointing out that the new engine provides the Sierra with a maximum trailering capacity of a whopping class-leading 12,000 pounds.

The only way to really get a feel for the new EcoTec3 Sierra is to take it for a spin, which we journalists were allowed to do. Unfortunately, GMC provided us with a preset loop that featured both street and highway driving with a very tight timeline. The first thing you notice when driving the Denali is that the truck is very quiet — not hybrid quiet, but much quieter than previous Sierras we've driven. GMC's design team focused on improving cabin acoustics and reducing outside noise. This is evident in the triple-sealed doors and the abundant sound-deadening materials found throughout the truck's cab.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Accelerating and merging into highway traffic was a breeze as the engine and transmission were smooth and responsive. Visibility when changing lanes was surprisingly good given the fact this truck was a crew cab. The B-pillar location creates a visual challenge for the driver, but it's likely something owners can get used to.

When a stretch of road opened up in front of us, and after a quick glance to double-check the mirrors for black-and-whites, we hammered down and turned that big EcoTec3 V-8 loose. Using our backside dyno, we can say the power felt incredible. Acceleration seemed fluid, and the engine didn't seem pushed at all. Even at 85 mph, the EcoTec3 still had more horsepower on demand.

Merging in and out of highway traffic was easy. For as big as the Sierra Denali crew cab is, the truck still felt agile and nimble. Driving on surface streets was an enjoyable experience as the Denali provided plenty of ride comfort. We could easily carry on a conversation with our passenger. We especially liked the seats because they were firm yet supportive.

All in all, GMC has definitely stepped it up in the luxury pickup market with this latest Sierra Denali. With its comfortable ride, quiet cabin and the performance features of the new EcoTec3, the Sierra Denali has a lot of things going for it. We're eager to see the fuel economy numbers when they're released. If they're as exciting as GMC has led us to believe, there is no doubt the Denali will be a real contender with consumers.

You also may be interested in: