2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Review Pros and Cons: Ultimate Enough?

Benefits

  • Massively improved interior
  • Thoughtful integration of Google, Apple and Android
  • Basic strong braking, steering, engine response

Disadvantages

  • Super Cruise was super AWOL
  • Excellent magnetic dampers are betrayed by 22-inch wheels
  • Phantom “Service Suspension” warning after off-road driving

The GMC Sierra received a significant midcycle update for 2022, but test vehicles weren’t available in time for last year’s Truck of the Year competition. This is how it is.

Two new trims came with the update. One was the off-road-themed AT4X, while the other—the Denali Ultimate, a Hillary step above just the Denali—was what GMC sent us for evaluation. Its amenities are plentiful, including more than 40 inches of fenders, yards of cross-stitched leather, open-pore wood, a GMC-specific dashboard design, a CarbonPro carbon fiber-reinforced bed (no bedlinen needed), magnetic adaptive shocks, and GM’s Super Cruise driver assistance system with trailer function.

Even more compelling is what is available via the screens: not only wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but also a deep integration with Google. Google Maps powers the navigation, and tons of features are just a Google Assistant voice prompt away. “Google integration is primo,” said deputy editor Alexander Stoklosa. “I love how it reads back what you ask it via text on the screen. It’s really responsive, gives me quick search results and navigation directions, and answers natural voice questions.”

Not so great was the lack of Super Cruise, GM’s vaunted driver assistance system that is standard on the Denali Ultimate. Many judges were eager to test the Super Cruise back-to-back (to back-to-back) against Ford’s BlueCruise, Toyota’s adaptive cruise control and the Driver+ system in the Rivian R1T in place as a support vehicle, but at no point during our time with the Sierra – including 10 hours and 600 miles round trip from Los Angeles to Kingman, Arizona – did we ever get the system to engage. “It’s a shame Super Cruise doesn’t work, but my biggest complaint is that with it AWOL, this Sierra doesn’t seem to have any lane-centering whatsoever,” said senior editor Aaron Gold.

The Denali Ultimate’s 6.2-liter direct-injected V-8 provides the beef but is surprisingly quiet. It pulls with even authority whether it’s loaded with a trailer, a fat stack of 100-pound horse rugs in the bed, or nothing at all. “The engine works to get up to speed with a 7,000-pound trailer, but it gets there well enough, and the truck is in close control of the load,” editor Scott Evans said. “Very confident.”

During our Davis Dam towing test, the Denali Ultimate pulled a trailer with a scissor lift and 500-pound jackhammer without a problem. On the way up, three wide-open throttles from 35 to 65 mph revealed smooth upshifts and an intake-heavy sound. On the way down, we noticed some wobble from the trailer and some pushing under braking, but nothing to worry about.

Associate editor Duncan Brady also noted that the engine is only part of the Denali Ultimate’s strong driving fundamentals: “Outstanding body control, responsive steering, a predictable brake pedal and a sweetheart of a V-8 make for a surprisingly sporty truck. Where’s my Denali SS?”

As the top model in the Sierra range, the Denali Ultimate gets upgraded MagneRide shocks with adaptive ride control, which rides like a dream on perfect roads. (Only the all-electric F-150 Lightning was considered better.) However, the heavy 22-inch wheels wrapped in relatively low-profile Bridgestone Alenza tires make for a crisp ride on rougher surfaces.

The Sierra was basically unstoppable over dirt and through the dirt, but the extreme suspension drop when traversing more challenging terrain seemed to cause a “suspension failure” warning even though nothing appeared to be mechanically wrong. (The message disappeared after two ignition cycles.)

At $78,700 to start plus $495 for Titanium Rush Metallic paint, the as-tested price of our Sierra Denali Ultimate was $80,840. That’s a lot of money, but the Denali Ultimate is a lot of truck—and a well-executed one indeed. We also loved details like the topographical lines etched into the wood and the little marks on the seats that show the latitude and longitude of the truck’s namesake mountain. The carbon-reinforced bed’s light weight (only 62 pounds!) and indestructibility are also good talking points. Lighter and smaller wheels would help smooth out the ride over the rough stuff, but otherwise there’s little to dislike about the top-of-the-line Sierra. Well, when Super Cruise works, anyway.

2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate Specs
Base price/As tested $83,695/$84,190
Current (SAE network) 420 hp at 5,600 rpm
Torque (SAE grid) 460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 5.7 sec
Accel, 0-60 mph (charged)* 6.7 sec
Accel, 0-60 mph (towing)** 12.1 sec
Quarter mile 14.2 sec @ 96.4 mph
Quarter-mile (charged)* 15.0 sec @ 92.9 mph
Quarter-mile (tow)** 18.8 sec @ 75.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 128 feet
Braking, 60-0 mph (loaded)* 129 feet
Lateral acceleration 0.76 g (average)
MT figure eight 27.9 sec @ 0.62g (average)
Frustration Test*** 8.5 sec @ 570ft
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 15/20/17 mpg
EPA range, comb 408 miles
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-speed, 4-door truck
Engine, gearbox 6.2L direct-injected OHV 16-valve 90-degree V-8, 10-speed automatic
Operating Weight (F/R DIST) 5,536 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 147.4 inches
L x W x H 231.9 x 81.2 x 75.5 inches
For sale Now
* 1,500 pound payload | ** 7,000 pound trailer
*** 35-55 mph 6% grade acceleration with 6,460 pound trailer

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