Carbon-fiber pickup bed, a slick tailgate that does all but make you breakfast, apps to monitor your trailer—they are among the highlights of the 2019 GMC Sierra that broke cover in Detroit, continuing the pickup wars that will continue to rage this year with an all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and 2019 Ram 1500, as well.
For this fourth generation, GMC has worked to further differentiate the Sierra from the Silverado. The 2019 Sierra Denali has a taller, more confident, and more powerful stance and retains its upper-class status with a new massive glittering chrome grille. In fact, this generation Sierra separates itself far more from the Silverado than ever before, said Mark Reuss, head of global product planning for GM. GMC customers pay more and want their truck to stand out and to have the top-line features. So GM spent a lot of money to give the brand something distinctive.
From our first look at the Denali and SLT top trim levels, GMC can check a lot of boxes. We have to wait until the New York auto show in March to learn more about the base models. Reuss hinted this generation could have five trim levels in total. The Silverado will be available in eight trim levels with six powertrain combinations.
Because the GMC and Chevy trucks ride on the same all-new platform, both have become bigger and have the largest dimensions in the field. The wheels of the new Sierra (22 inches) have been pushed closer to the corners of the vehicle. Despite being larger in every dimension, the new Sierra weighs up to 360 pounds less than its predecessor. Comparatively, the Silverado dropped up to 450 pounds.
More than 15 years after GMC introduced the Sierra Denali, this latest generation is the most premium Sierra to date, said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC.
The 2019 Sierra Denali and SLT will go on sale this fall, and those two top trims combine for 87 percent of GMC’s total crew cab sales, Aldred said.
Like the Silverado, the Sierra gets updated versions of the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines as well as a new 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine. The V-8 engines have stop/start technology and Dynamic Fuel Management, which enables the engine to operate on one to eight cylinders, depending on demand. The available 6.2-liter and the diesel engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and the 5.3-liter is mated to GM’s eight-speed. Reuss will not talk about dropping a V-6 into the base models yet; again we have to wait for the New York show.
For an improved ride, the Sierra Denali has an exclusive Adaptive Ride Control suspension system with sensors to monitor the road and make adjustments in real time. Reuss said it reacts faster than GM’s magnetic ride control that made its debut on the Denali in 2015.
To distinguish itself from the Silverado, the Sierra boasts a number of firsts exclusive to the brand, including the MultiPro Tailgate, which is standard on Denali and SLT. The result of almost three years of engineering, the new tailgate has six positions, multilevels, and a lot of clever thought. There is the regular tailgate that flips down and has flip-up load stop to keep gear from sliding off; there is an inner tailgate within the tailgate that serves as a standing workstation and also has a load stop. There is a nice, wide step that folds out of the tailgate or doubles as a seat, and a courtesy grab handle in the bed makes it easier to climb in and out of the bed. Everything opens with a push of a button on the tailgate handle.
In a first, GMC offers a carbon-fiber composite pickup box, replacing the standard steel inner panels. “We’ve had this vision for two or three years, and people said we couldn’t do it,” Reuss said, adding it’s the first time GM has used any carbon fiber on a pickup truck. CarbonPro offers unprecedented strength and the most dent, scratch, and corrosion resistance in the segment, he said. It will be available on the Denali later in the model year.
The bed continues to be made of steel, but a revised alloy that GM says is 50 percent stronger. The cargo boxes offer 63 cubic feet of space, additional tie-downs, and a newly available 110-volt power outlet.
“In 116 years of making GMC pickup trucks, our industry-first carbon-fiber box is the toughest and most durable pickup box we have ever made,” Aldred said. It is 62 pounds lighter than the steel version and is part of GM’s mixed-material strategy, which includes aluminum for the doors, hood, and tailgate and steel for the fenders, roof, and standard cargo box. Ford, by contrast, went all in on aluminum when it switched to aluminum-bodied F-150s for the 2015 model year, a move that competitors have not followed.
Given that Sierra owners like to tow, the 2019 model offers a new ProGrade Trailering System and app with a pre-departure checklist, maintenance reminders, trailer light test, trailer electrical diagnostics, and trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring. There are also aids to help position the trailer for hitching and the available side-view cameras and a trailer-mounted HD camera help monitor the trailer while driving or in reverse. Trailer theft detection lets owners know by text or an OnStar alert that the trailer has been detached from the truck without permission.