GMC displayed its Denali XT concept at the 2008 Chicago auto show to gauge reaction. This vehicle will be polarizing--some will think it's a great idea, while others won't understand it. Among its biggest assets, it offers a 50-percent increase in combined fuel economy over comparable midsize pickups when running on gasoline and provides an early look at new GMC truck design language that could show up in some form on future GM 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 rear-drive Denali XT has a unibody architecture and falls into the sport/utility truck (SUT) category, meaning it straddles the line between traditional SUV and pickup truck. Think a flatter, more nimble Honda Ridgeline or Explorer Sport Trac. Denali XT's new, more efficient 4.9-liter version of GM's small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct injection and Active Fuel Management.

The new engine is matched with GM's unique two-mode hybrid propulsion system, which includes an all-electric drive at low speeds, giving the SUT good overall fuel economy. 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 suspen 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 follow-up to a Pontiac midsize SUT, due out by 2010.

GM calls this its :muscular form, firmly planted: to give the Denali XT a confident 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 unlike anything else on the road,: says 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 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 is 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.