A Look into the future: 2008 GMC Denali XT Concept
GMC Denali XT Hybrid Concept takes Chicago by storm
GMC will show the Denali XT concept at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show to gauge reaction. Our guess is the response will strong. This will be one of those concept vehicles that will be polarizing--some will think it's a great idea, while others won't understand it. Among its biggest assests, it offers a 50-percent increase in combined fuel economy over comparably-sized midsize pickup trucks when running on gasoline, as well as giving an early look of some new GMC truck design language that could show up in some form on future GM pickup trucks. The bottom line is that this is the kind of little truck GM needs to compete with vehicles like Toyota's futuristic A-BAT, Honda's Ridgeline, and the coming Chinese and Indian compact truck invasion.
The Denali XT has a unibody architecture and is rear-wheel drive but falls into the Sport-Utility Truck (SUT) category, meaning it straddles the lines between a traditional SUV and pickup truck. Think a flatter, more nimble Honda Ridgeline or Explorer Sport Trac. Denali XT's new, more efficient 4.9L version of GM's small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct-injection technology and Active Fuel Management.
The new engine is matched with GM's unique two-mode hybrid propulsion system, giving the SUT good overall fuel economy, which includes an all-electric drive at low speeds. With its unibody structure, the Denali XT is lighter than conventional body-on-frame trucks, with better ride-and-handling characteristics. Likewise, the Denali XT is filled with technologies and features that maximize its flexibility, including a cargo space-enhancing Midgate and height-adjustable suspension. The Denali XT's proportions are framed around a high cowl and 123.4-inch (3,134 mm) wheelbase.
As you might have guessed, the design and construction were spearheaded by Holden Design, within the Australian arm of GM's global design and engineering network. Based off the Holden Ute, we've heard it reported from several sources that this vehicle will be the precursor to a Pontiac midsize SUT, due out by 2010.
GM calls this their "muscular form, firmly planted" to give the Denali XT a confidently road presence. Minimal overhangs, large wheels, sleek headlamps and a low roof profile deliver an aggressive appearance.
"It is a robust yet tailored design statement that is unlike anything else on the road," said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. "It has the youthful look of a custom automobile that incorporates the capability customers expect from a truck."
Inside, the Denali XT blends mechanical functionality with leather-trimmed comfort. Billet-metal surrounds, controls and instruments convey the cold precision of an aircraft cockpit. The Denali XT seats four. The high-cowl vehicle architecture enables higher seating positions, allowing the couple distance between front and rear occupants to be reduced without compromising knee room. This packaging efficiency creates generous interior and cargo bed dimensions within a more compact package.
The Denali XT uses a unibody structure more akin to a strong car chassis than traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks, the consequence of which are twofold. First, payload and towing capacity are less than most other vehicles of this size, offering what could be the smallest towing capacity for any V-8 offered in the U.S. With that said, the second (and probably more important) consequence of using a unibody chassis, the four wheel independent suspension with its lower center of gravity and quick and responsive capability will have one of the most performance-oriented driving feels of just about anything out there. Up front, we're told the multilink front suspension features a forward-mounted steering rack and dual lower links with ball joints, providing sharp responses to driver input. At the rear, a four-link suspension design uses coil-over shocks and a decoupled stabilizer bar to enhance cornering control and reduce body roll. In short, it's a truck wanting to be a sports sedan.
The rear cargo area is wide, deep and flat, with no suspension or wheelhouse protrusions into the bedbox.
The Denali XT utilizes a Midgate (just like the Avalanche, Cadillac Ext, and Hummer H2) that can be lowered over the rear seats to extend the cargo-carrying capacity from inside the vehicle into the bed. The rear seats fold flat to provide a longer floor for carrying items such as skis, surfboards or wood from the home improvement store. A fixed rear window allowed engineers to retain the vehicle's structure, reducing mass and complexity.
The Denali XT has an estimated payload and towing capacity of 1,100 and 3,500 pounds, respectively, certainly good when compared to other compact pickup trucks, but does fall a little behind when compared to a midsize or SUT-type trucks.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the Denali XT, beyond the fact that it's the wildest SUT we've ever seen, is that new rear-wheel-drive two-mode hybrid transmission is paired with a smaller-displacement version of GM's small-block engine. The new V-8 4.9L E85-capable engine powers the Denali XT with an estimated 326 horsepower. Additionally, it uses direct-injection technology to produce the power of a larger engine, but consumes less fuel and produces lower emissions than a comparably-sized powertrain. Also, the functionality of GM's Active Fuel Management system has been expanded through the use of hybrid technologies, enhancing the cylinder-deactivating feature to further improve fuel efficiency. Additional powertrain technologies have been integrated here as well, including Active Thermal Management, which transfers thermal energy from one driveline component to another to improve efficiency; and a high-efficiency axle configuration, which fundamentally reduces the losses normally associated with conventional axle configurations.
Similarly to the Tahoe, Sierra, and Escalade 2-Mode Hybrid systems, the Denali XT's two-mode hybrid system is partnered with the 4.9L engine, using an electrically variable transmission for better city and highway fuel economy. In city driving, all-electric propulsion is used at low speed up to 30 mph, with the dual-mode, two-motor electric variable transmission working at highway speeds. Additionally, during towing or heavy-load carrying, a set of four fixed gears can be used.
Here's what GM says: "The specific characteristics of the Denali XT allowed the synergistic evolution of GM's small-block V-8 and two-mode hybrid beyond the recently introduced in GM two-mode hybrid products, such as the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Sierra Hybrid. The integration of the advanced internal combustion engine technologies and two-mode hybrid system on the Denali XT reinforces GMC's Professional Grade position as a brand that continues to exceed customer expectations."
Is this the next wave in pickup truck technology? No doubt there is some amazing technology here that will make it into a truck we'll be seeing in the next few years, but whether or not people are looking for pickup truck that's really not a pickup truck; or the reverse--are car sedan people really looking for their cars to do more truck things? This all remains to be seen. Certainly the Honda Ridgeline and Ford Explorer Sport Trac sells pretty well, but whether or not GM can succeed by bringing back the El Camino or Cabellero has to be considered a long-shot at best. If nothing else, seeing a Holden Ute in this country with a Corvette motor and optional 6-speed manual will be fun to romp around on our test track.
|GMC DENALI XT SPECIFICATIONS|
|Base Price Range||$25,000-$40,000|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, 4-door, 5-pass SUT|
|Engine||4.9L DI V-8, AFM|
|Horsepower||326 (Mfr est)|
|Torque, ft-lb||350 (Mfr est)|
|Transmission||2-Mode Electric Variable, 4-fixed gears|
|Suspension f/r||IFS/IRS double A-arm, coil springs|
|Length x Width x Height, in||205.0 x 76.5 x 62.5|
|Base Curb Weight, lb||3872 (est)|
|Max GVWR, lb||5000|
|Max Payload Capacity, lb||1100|
|Max Towing Capacity, lb||3500|
|Max Cargo Volume, cu ft||36.2|
|0-60 mph, sec||8.7 (TT est)|
|60-0 mph, ft||134 (TT est)|
|Fuel econ, city/hwy||15/22 (TT est)|
|On sale in U.S.||2010, maybe|