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.