Following on the heels of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado debut in January, the newest version of the GMC Sierra was shown in downtown Detroit just recently in a converted industrial building, as gritty as the city itself. While the new Silverado was hoisted by helicopter and dropped before a crowd in Dallas as the finale to its 100th anniversary celebrations, the Sierra introduction was much more low key – seemingly as different as the two brands themselves.
The Sierra is undeniably the little sister to the Silverado – particularly in the States where it outsells its GMC sibling by at least three to one. May be that was the reason for the cheaper show. But, General Motors wants to close that gap and they want it done without the taint of what was once known as “rebadging”. Separation and a unique identity is the strategy.
This is the reason GMC has been pushing its “professional grade” message for well over a decade and also why GMC showed several new features not found on the Silverado at this debut.
Driven out onto the portable stage in Detroit was a new truck with distinct sheet metal styling and two standout components. First, a convertible tailgate with multiple functions. Second, that tailgate is fixed to an industry-first carbon fiber cargo box. Neither of these is available on Chevy.
However, before dissecting the new technology, it’s worth noting that the Sierra also continues its separation from the Silverado – style-wise. Its new grille is more upright and dominant with a proportional chrome pattern. The lights are large and C-shaped anchoring the taller hood to the powerful shoulders on the truck’s front end. This is in sharp contrast to the slick, flatter, pulled back look of the new Silverado.
The truck body itself is larger than the old model with the small increases mostly being devoted to the interior comfort of passengers. For instance the 2019 Crew cab has nearly three inches of additional rear-seat legroom compared to the current model.
And then there is the Denali. This trim package was introduced back in 2000 and while it is still just that – it has taken on a unique separate identity all its own. Ask any Sierra Denali owner and they will tell you they simply refer to the truck as a “Denali”. This trim level, because of its popularity has almost become a name brand all on its own.
This is an organic marketing coup that happens only occasionally in the automotive world; GM knows it and is now working to exploit it. Knowing how Denali owners feel about their trucks they are pumping even more upscale styling and materials inside and expanding the badging to include a Denali nameplate on the tailgate. This block-style typeface emphasis the special nature of this key player in the Sierra lineup.
The new convertible tailgate is called the MultiPro. It features six unique functions and positions. The key feature is the split function that folds half the gate down to create a second tier for loading and/or a backstop for long cargo. If the tailgate itself is down the split function now creates an extra wide step up into the cargo bed as well as a cut-out for easier bed access. The weight capacity is 375 pounds and the tailgate will also function as a workstation. This fits nicely with the addition of an 110V outlet added to the box. This tailgate will be standard equipment on Denali and SLT trucks.Less obvious during the roll-out, but perhaps more revolutionary, is the carbon-fiber box, called the CarbonPro. This innovation lands squarely into the steel vs. aluminum debate that’s been raging for a few years now. This is now a new third option though it has yet to be priced (as it will be an option). But whether it’s superior to either of the other materials is not in question. This material is virtually indestructible. A director of the company that developed it for GMC (Continental Structural Plastics) told me that one of tests they had subjected the bed to was loaded a snowmobile with a steel studded track into the truck bed and pinning the throttle – spinning the track in place. This uniquely Canadian-ish torture test did not damage the material. This innovation is formed as a one-piece bed that uses purpose designed carbon-fiber composite that is 62 lb lighter than the base steel version and offers best-in class dent, scratch and corrosion resistance. Not that GMC has shied away from aluminum. Where weight savings are possible it’s used in doors, hood and tailgate shaving 360 lbs off its previous weight. The standard bed continues to be made of roll-formed steel.
Driver focused technologies are also prominent in the new Sierra; among them is an electronic trailering system called ProGrade. This system includes a trailering app that features pre-departure checklist, maintenance reminders, trailer light test, trailer light diagnostics and trailer tire pressure monitoring.
Inside the Sierra offers a 3x7-in head-up display that projects vehicle info onto the windshield within the driver’s sight-line. The standard 8-inch infotainment screen offers a new smartphone-like experience, faster responses and improved voice recognition. This screen also offers a bird’s-eye view of the truck in addition to side and rear views and the advantage of backing up to trailers.
Also offered is a segment first rear camera mirror. This dual function interior mirror offers an optimized view of what’s behind you. The camera has a wider field of vision than a standard mirror and can also be tilted and enhanced. A standard glass mirror is still available.
For power – this is where GMC and Chevy do share – new versions of the 5.3L and 6.2L V8 engines will be joined by an all-new 3.0L inline-six turbo diesel engine (late availability). The 6.2L and 3.0L engine will be paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
In Canada where GMC and Chevrolet pretty much split the truck pie 50/50 I expect there to be just a bit of excitement over not only these unique innovations but also the best new Sierra Denali in almost a decade. Pricing has not been announced yet; trucks go on sale this fall.