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Truck Review: 2015 GMC Sierra 3500 4x4 Diesel Denali Crew Cab Review By Steve Purdy

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By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Maybe I missed my calling. I could easily have been a truck driver had fate moved me in that direction when it had the chance. I was a very young man just out of high school when my neighbor, an independent over-the-road trucker, wanted to take me on the road with him that summer. I was tempted but declined, having already made another work commitment for the summer and college plans for the fall. Throughout the years, and to this day, I love to drive trucks – the bigger the better. I even drove city busses my first few years after college.

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Here’s a big truck that is a pleasure to drive – the GMC Sierra 3500 HD Denali 4X4 with the Duramax diesel option. Unfortunately, I had nothing to haul or to tow this week. But we did have a nice, long drive to Chicago getting a good sense of its highway manners.

Had we found something to haul we could have managed over 4,200 pounds of payload with this diesel charmer. Had we found something to tow we could have managed 13,000 pounds with the ball-type hitch. If we had a fifth-wheel hitch we could tow up to 17,100 pounds.

We could do that because we have the GM heavy-duty truck platform with fully-boxed frame and the Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel (B20-capable) making almost 400 horsepower and 765 pound-feet or torque, mated to a sturdy Allison 1,000 six-speed automatic transmission. While the MPG rating is not listed on the specification sheet (find specs for all GMC 3500's below my review) we managed just over 18 mpg on our road trip to Chicago on the freeways (unloaded, of course), and we were not driving timidly. That mileage is even more amazing when we consider our 4.10 rear axle ratio.) With the 36-gallon fuel tank we have an amazing cruising range of around 600 miles.

The GMC Sierra line of HD trucks got a mild facelift and some accessory upgrades for this 2015 model. Exterior styling goes another notch upscale with more flashy trim and some aerodynamic enhancements that, among other advantages, improves airflow to the engine compartment for better cooling. A tailgate step helps us climb into the bed and the optional light on the back of the cab will illuminate the cargo at night. The optional spray-in bed liner protects the painted surfaces back there and we have a nicely damped tailgate for a quality feel.

Our test truck came with all the safety and driving dynamic controls no one had heard of a few years ago like stability control, trailer sway control, hill start assist, hill descent control, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, pre-collision warning, rear view camera with 180-degree visibility and lots of airbags.

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Most changed is the interior, moving even more upscale and adding all the luxury and functionality stuff one could want - some standard, some optional. The Denali package represents the top level of content and accounts for this beautiful, leather-trimmed interior with lots of classy stitching and remarkably comfortable seats.
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A huge, deep, well-designed console will accommodate using this truck for business or travel. We have three USB ports, two 12V outlets and a 110V outlet positioned at the base of the center stack where access is easy. The controls make sense without reliance on trendiness. The user interfaces accessed through the “Home” screen take some getting used to but may, in the long run, be an improvement over previous systems. For example, we don’t have direct access to the navigation system via the traditional dash buttons. Rather, we first must access the “Home” screen then touch the “Navigation” icon.

The rear seats on our crew cab model offer generous space for three and the seat base flips up easily for lots of inside storage.

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The instrument cluster in front of the driver includes a customizable electroluminescent display and a comprehensive on-board computer. Scrolling though the available information or searching for something in particular can be a challenge, as it would take a while to learn it all. And, some of the navigation paths don’t make a lot of sense, as least to this simpleton.

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Ride and handling are about what you would expect with a heavy-duty truck. Suspension is stiffer than a hickory plank and will shake you mercilessly on rough roads. After all, it must be designed to manage significant weight. On decent highways, like most of I-94 on our way to Chicago, it is remarkably comfortable and the cabin is amazingly quiet and serene. Steering feel is good but significantly different than lesser trucks or automobiles. Turning radius is impressive for something so big.

You can get the basic Sierra 3500 with the 6.0-liter engine and no extras for around $33,500. Our Sierra 3500 Crew Cab 4WD Denali starts at $54,000 MSRP and the diesel package adds another $8,845. With a few other options, the destination charge and a modest built-in discount our sticker shows $64,000 on the bottom line.

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The diesel powertrain is warrantied for 5 years or 100,000 miles and the first two years of scheduled maintenance is included.

Had I actually become a trucker, I can envision using this Sierra Denali 3500 for a cross-country trip hauling a 5th-wheel goose-neck trailer loaded with a bulldozer or perhaps a couple of classic cars. Easy work.

Our son drives a 10-year-old Silverado 2500 diesel that he has massaged adding turbo, lift kit, heavy-duty winch and other trucky stuff. He uses it primarily for serious play including going out in Chicago snow storms and pulling people out of the ditch just for fun. He had an opportunity to drive this luxo-truck and came away impressed. That is a good recommendation, indeed.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved