Weather or Not
Many in the north were optimistic that towards the end of a bitterly cold and snowy season, nature would allow for the gentle passage of a warming trend as February approached its final days, and March eagerly waited to ride into New England. Unfortunately, the result was a distant second from the sunny days associated with the early stages of spring skiing and deck-parties hosting raucous, but amusing entertainment.
The northeast mountain ranges faced winter’s last revenge. Snow, ice, sleet, and frigid temperatures blanketed the region—from its peaks to valleys; the weather covered even the slightest spot of color with—inches to feet—of ice, a snowy-mix, even powder. It was perhaps the season’s worse storm at the highest altitudes.
The GMC winter driving event was scheduled during this same period, with participants knowing that facing the elements would be as tortuous as driving in them; resilient, they all made the journey.
The harsh conditions getting to Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, (hours away), was an ideal testing ground for the new 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab and AT4. Upon arrival to the mountain’s basecamp, the hybrid pickups would face another set of obstacles; they would be tested by participants, in a real-world, outdoor laboratory.
Go Extreme-Push the Limits
If uncertain you’ll face the rigors our Sierra Denali went through, take comfort in knowing we thoroughly tested this luxury workhorse and ran it through challenges that mimicked experiences drivers, and passengers could face during their ownership of this comfortable, and versatile full-size truck.
During the later days of winter, we packed up and journeyed north to New Hampshire for an overnight stay. The following morning, we effortlessly loaded equipment and luggage into the massive crew cab, which is accessible by four independent doors—offering similar convenience as most SUV’s. When it appeared there might not be enough room in the cab for our gear, leaving the possibility of having to use the cargo bed for the excess, we found the longer crew-cab body served up an additional three inches of legroom along with rear seats which fold up.
Ready to go, the Sierra Denali’s 8-inch diagonal color touchscreen navigation system indicated there were two choices to get to our first destination, the Billings Farm & Museum, of Woodstock VT.
Option one: Take major interstates, with semi-cleared road surfaces from first-light plowing and chemical treatment or, Option two: Traverse the mountains—separating us from our objective—passing through long twisting dips and turns, climbing dramatic elevations, navigate through narrow crossings, and ultimately face the unknown around each corner.
We decided on an adventure.
Drivers of Success
In preparation for the trip, we became familiar with the pickup truck, which is confusing nomenclature when describing a vehicle exhibiting a luxury interior, accompanied by components and features, found in the most expensive and opulent automobiles.
Its exterior is statuesque; from an emboldened chrome grill with the famed GMC shield to a refined and masculine look. The vehicle’s appearance results in eyes moving down to its 22" polished aluminum wheels—then back up to the trim accented by a continuum of the same bright color.
In tracing the lines of the 4-door crew cabs’ exterior, its outline provides a sense of movement accompanied by a feeling of sophistication arising from a poised and self-assured stance.
A bold and beautiful truck, it offers a best-in-class, 5'8" box, with 63 cubic feet of space, and an all-new and industry first, MultiPro Tailgate. Flexibility, function, and convenience, remove difficulties associated with maximizing tailgate use. For example; there is an enhanced second-tier loading and load stop function, a standing workstation, ease of access to the bed, and a step-entry system that when paired with the assist handle, offers both a step and seat function.
Even with all of this, what will ultimately draw attention when at a work-site, on a family vacation, or an evening at the symphony, is the vehicle’s fine appointments, rich interior comforts, and exquisite styling that moves the new Sierra Denali into a class by itself.
Other key components making this ride an exceptional one include; a multi-color head-up display on the windshield (with a 3 x 7 inch customizable data window), a crisp and accurate rear-camera mirror offering a wide and less obstructed view in the rear field, and Denali’s premium forge leather-appointed seating, authentic open-pore ash wood trim, and dark-finish aluminum décor. Add heated and perforated front bucket seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a premium Bose audio sound system that puts a driver into the venue selected from the intuitive audio-library.
As for performance; during our trip, the Sierra Denali powered through many feet of snow-effortlessly and met the strain of tracking up a mountain-side while staying within a marked lane—covered in sheets of ice. Most importantly, it remained stable and delivered a sense of security, which ensured passenger confidence while running through the steep and twisting backroads of New England in the winter.
With a ProGrade Trailering System and Trailering App, (which includes a suite of new technology), accompanied by the support of GMC’s lane-change, blind-side alerts, and rear-cross traffic notice, just about anyone in the household will quickly become proficient in hauling their boats, horse trailers, or equipment.
Back on the Road
The wind howled, while snow and slush built up all around us as we made our way towards Woodstock, Vermont. We had spent hours pushing hard against a tide of weather which wouldn’t let up, but it never phased us while surrounded in the comfortable and quiet cabin, listening to our favorite music as if it were a day at the beach.
The vehicle’s stance felt secure with a rock-solid wheelbase. Its stability, adaptive ride control, and pinpoint steering accuracy assured our safe arrival. When speaking to others who participated in the trip north, there was resounding agreement that whatever conditions faced, they always felt safe inside their vehicles. Notably, no one bailed on the event because they couldn’t get to the destinations on the agenda.
Once we arrived at the Billings Farm & Museum the wind began to rack across the fields, blowing billows of white in every direction. After something hot to drink, we loaded into a similar truck to ours and began a discussion with GMC Vehicle Performance Engineer, Aaron Pfau. We learned about specific towing capabilities of the new GMC Sierra Denali, and the ease of monitoring systems of this new-breed of vehicle. The hooking up of a trailer of snowmobiles was without fanfare and proved to no longer be the responsibility of those having supreme knowledge of all things mechanical. Turning a chore into a simple task, most any adult family member can take the boat to the ocean or the off-road 4x4’s to the forest without worry.
Just as important, and of great interest was Pfau’s intimate knowledge of how the truck’s platform of advanced technology works to instill a sense of solace. He simplified, for our benefit, how each major system interacted to conditions in mere microseconds, and how these messages when bundled together would turn into a feedback loop, resulting in an uninterrupted and enjoyable experience for both the driver and passengers.
Once the demonstration was complete, and we understood how and why our tumultuous ride to Vermont had been tamed, the second leg of the trip began; we were off to Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont.
One Vehicle does it All
The magnificence of Stowe is its premier location and brilliant beauty; it attracts a well-heeled following who have vast interests and are from just about everywhere in the world. It’s a destination resort which provides all winter sports and activities.
Our agenda included: ice fishing, an event new to us; snowmobiling, something we love to do; and skiing, which is always on our minds.
It was busy, and always an up-early day, but for everyone to fully appreciate the effort that went into designing the adaptive and versatile Sierra Denali, the group would have to use the trucks in as many settings as possible.
Those who watched the crew venture out onto the lake in the early morning to drill holes into the ice, (at minus six degrees), set up shelters, fish, and enjoy the day’s catch, would soon realize that the main support of the trip was our vehicles. Loading and handling of equipment, ease of access, strength, and the security of them blanketed us with peace of mind.
As for other activities associated with style and function, we felt proud to be testing such a beautiful and seductive vehicle as we headed deep into the woods for a snow-sled adventure, or when we pulled our skis from the cargo bed for a day of carving turns and shredding freshies.
Equally impressive, was driving to dinner and joining the fleet of other exclusive-type vehicles who made their way around the Stowe community. It’s well-known that a person’s personality is projected by the car they choose; and with this notion in mind, we couldn’t help but wonder what impression was left with many of the tourists while watching 12 sparkling new GMC vehicles run the loop at this upscale resort.
Myths & Fallacies
To set the record straight; not all people who drive pickups are guys.
There’s a new fellowship, and they’re explorers who enjoy taking a different road to success. They may be business owners who need a cargo bed during the day, but elegant accommodations in the evening when going out for dinner; an adventurous couple, who find themselves balancing social events with the demands of being on the road for work, then taking off-road trips when they play. Or it could be a family requiring the flexibility, and space to accommodate pets, the kid’s friends, bales of hay, or new-found treasure won at an auction.
The GMC 2019 Sierra Denali 1500 4 WD Crew Cab is an excellent advancement in the type of vehicles the American public needs and wants well into the future. Sure, there are those who want to leave the chore of driving to automation, as for the rest of us, we thrive on the exhilaration of new ideas and technological advancements.
Testing this vehicle was in-depth and allowed us a critical view of its offerings and capabilities, perhaps greater than what most drivers would have an opportunity to learn. Because of this, we approached the story with seriousness. The results determine that GMC engineers, design staff, and marketing professionals have turned the page in automobile history, and made me into a believer that ruggedness and efficiency can dovetail with grace and splendor.
If you’re not a pickup truck person—drive one. If you are thinking about a new truck—drive this one.
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