First run: 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate is the new king of the luxury mountain

GMC’s Denali trim level is meant to mean that nothing else can be higher. After all, it is named after the highest peak in North America, but now the brand wants to go further with a new 2022 trim level called Denali Ultimate.

This truck is aimed entirely at the most luxurious versions of the RAM 1500 and Ford F-150, such as the Limited trim and to find out if it can beat the rivals we flew to San Diego, California, to test. After some time behind the wheel of the new Sierra Denali Ultimate on busy roads and highways, we came away impressed.

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This is not the first time GMC has used the word Ultimate in combination with Denali. Already in 2016, it introduced the Ultimate Edition in limited quantities and also last year there was an Ultimate package available. Everyone has aimed to become the king of the mountain but no one has dared to go as far as the 2022 Denali Ultimate.

The ultimate Denali

Quick facts>>>

> Model: 2022 GMC Sierra Ultimate Denali

> Price: $ 82,795 including $ 1,695 shipping fee

›Driveline: 6.2L V8 paired with 10-speed automatic and 4WD

›Output: 420 hp (313 kW) & 460 lb-ft (623 Nm)

›EPA: 17 MPG combined / 15 MPG City / 20 MPG motorway

> For sale: Now

As part of a styling refurbishment for the year, the front of the truck has a grille and headlights that have been given a new design. Horizontal lines dominate each surface in an attempt to make the truck look wide and powerful. Now the headlights seem almost as if they are simply integrated in a grille that takes up the entire front of the truck and that is exactly what GMC intended.

Only Denali Ultimate will be equipped with dark chrome details on the grille. It will also exclusively get a set of 22-inch low-gloss black wheels with machined accents. Post your jokes about truck owners who are distracted by shiny things here because when we get in the truck, the shiny bling is almost gone.

No two ultimate are exactly alike

Sierra Denali Ultimate has some of the best materials we’ve ever seen, not just in a GMC, but in a truck – full stop. The suede ceiling is a nice touch, but what is more impressive is the upholstery in full-grain leather that is matched with genuine “Paldao” wood with open pores throughout the interior. GMC is right to point out that since the wood is genuine, no two Denali Ultimates will be completely identical even if the same list of options and features are installed. While it may seem gimmicky to some, we like the topographic map of Mount Denali that is actually etched in the wood on the dashboard.

The seats themselves are both stylish to look at and exceptional to sit in with 16-way power adjustability that ensures that everyone can find a comfortable position. These adjustments include specific actuators that also control the side supports, the upper shoulder pad and the lumbar support. Just like in the Sierra AT4X that we also drove on this trip, the seats have a massage function that we used a lot. GMC even included a single button that can lower all windows and open the sunroof with a single push.

While in those seats, it is easy to see that the interior in both rows is a great place to spend time. Not only is there more than enough head and legroom in each row, but also small features that stand out, such as how the suede upholstery actually continues along both the A and B pillars. Also at the rear, passengers will find heated seats as well as USB and USB-C power ports to keep the devices running.

Integrate Denali with the digital age

No luxury product can be complete today without fully embracing the latest technology and the Sierra Denali Ultimate does not disappoint. In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch cluster screen that is fully configurable. The central infotainment system measures 13.4 inches and has only two physical buttons, one for “home” and one rotary knob for volume. Both screens are bright and use simple menus that are easy to understand and navigate.

The ease of use is largely due to Google Built-In which is standard on all Denali Ultimate. Although the system is not designed as an Android-powered device, it works much the same way and responds to touches and other inputs directly.

Unfortunately, despite being so wide, the screen can only be used for one specific task at a time, so for example, there is no way to keep navigation on one side of the screen while searching through radio stations. In addition, while the GMC includes a 15-inch multicolored heads-up screen, we found that the bright sun washed it off very easily. We were not allowed to drive the truck at night but we suspect it would have been a better experience.

At the same time, we are grateful that GMC included a number of physical buttons for climate control as well as other important functions such as lane departure warning, parking sensors and more. Inside the center console you will find a wireless charger and several electrical outlets under the center armrest.

What traffic?

California is known for many things, including its beaches, its ski slopes, its desert and of course its traffic. It is in fact in that traffic that the Sierra Denali Ultimate can shine the brightest thanks to the addition of SuperCruise. The hands-free technology from General Motors has been updated in this truck and it has some of the most impressive features we have experienced.

Unlike other driver assistance aids from other brands, SuperCruise is a true hands-free system that does not require a driver to hold the steering wheel or handle the speed. Systems that require a little steering effort often do so because they want to verify that the driver is attentive and ultimately ready to take over in the event that the system asks them to. SuperCruise confirms the driver’s attention by using a camera mounted just above the airbag in the steering wheel. This camera always looks at the driver and looks for a number of factors including eye position and head position to determine if they are attentive and ready to take over if they need to. Once the system is convinced that these conditions are met, SuperCruise is an impressive driver. Not only will it slow down and increase with traffic, but it was the arrow straight into each lane that we used it in.

In addition, an update for 2022 will allow Denali Ultimate to actually change lanes on its own when the right conditions are met. For example, say your cruising speed is set at 70 mph but the car in front of you has slowed down to 60. If SuperCruise sees an opening in an adjacent lane, it will turn on the turn signals, move into the lane and increase the speed as close to your set cruising speed as it can be. You can also press the turn signals yourself to initiate a file change. Sitting in a bit of California traffic was no more stressful than sitting in a drive-thru queue at your local fast food place.

Of course, there are limitations to SuperCruise that should be noted. First of all, it only works on selected highways across the country, so do not expect it to take you anywhere in the city or on the city streets. In fact, it disables itself pretty much as soon as you drive on the exit lane on the highway. In addition, it is not a perfect system purely practical because some sunglasses can trick it into thinking that the driver is attentive even though the eyes are away from the road.

Finally, should SuperCruise determine that the driver is not paying attention, it will basically do everything it can with flashing lights and a vibrating chair to get the driver’s attention. The warnings become more intense as time goes on. If it does not feel that the driver is back in control after an unspecified time, it will stop the vehicle in the lane it is in. It does not have to be said that a full-size truck parked on the highway can be a danger to both those inside the truck and those who approach it.

When you want to drive yourself

This is a big truck from all angles and it feels like that on the road. The visibility is good but it is difficult to place exactly where the edges of the truck are without some time to get used to its proportions. Once done, the Sierra Denali Ultimate feels just as sublime to drive so many vehicles starting in the six-digit range.

Although it may not have the same Multimatic DSSV muffler from AT4X, it honestly does not need them. This large truck offered excellent damping from poor road conditions without any problems. Feedback via the steering wheel and pedals was also good. It’s easy to see what’s happening at the front tires during turns and when pressed hard, the Sierra Denali Ultimate communicates the loss of traction appropriately. It was almost obvious that it would run well but sometimes brands will rest on their laurels. We are pleased to report that GMC did not do so with this truck.

A powerful petrol V8 or a more economical Inline-Six Diesel

Buyers can choose between a 6.2-liter V8 gas engine that delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft or a 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel that pushes out 277 hp and 460 lb-ft, both coupled to 10-speed automatic gearbox that drives all four wheels. The Gas V8, which costs $ 1,005 more than diesel, provides 17 mpg combined, 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. As for the oil burner, it raises the EPA’s figures to 24 mpg combined, 22 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

A luxury SUV that is truck-shaped

The premium market for full-size trucks is stronger than it has ever been. Of course, it has not been around that long, but it does make the standard that the Sierra Denali Ultimate has set all the more impressive. No, it’s not affordable – the price tag of $ 82,795 proves it. But it is difficult to claim that you do not get much for your money. In many ways, it feels like a well-made luxury SUV that has the added benefit of a rear bed.

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Photos GM / Stephen Rivers for Carscoops

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