With spring finally arriving in Michigan, and with an ample 5600 break-in miles under our Denali's belt, it finally was tested, and we learned some performance secrets: Simply flat-footing the accelerator in RWD prompts some wheelspin, and the automatic upshifts at 5500 rpm -- curiously 100 shy of the power peak. Manually upshifting just ahead of 5500 (so the shift happens at 5700) shaves a noticeable tenth or two off the 0-60 and quarter-mile times. If you absolutely must get the jump on the uniformed Denali driver in the next lane, select Auto-AWD and do a brake-torque launch to shave another two-tenths, for 7.4 seconds to 60 mph, 15.7 at 88.0 mph in the quarter. That 60-mph dash is about a half-second slower than our last F-150 XLT SuperCrew 5.0-liter and Ram Sport Hemi (both with 4WD, weighing within 100 pounds of Big Jim). Opting for the 6.2-liter drops that to 6.0 seconds, but in 99 percent of daily driving in a beast this large, my accelerator foot never hits the floor, so I don't pine for that thirstier engine one bit.

We've spent a few months settling in, augmenting our winter warrior with some ex-works essentials. To keep the vast floor area from becoming a salt lick, we installed a custom set of WeatherTech Laser Measured FloorLiners ($190) that fit so snugly they can't move around, though only the driver mat uses retainer pins. And to preserve the paint in the bed, we opted for a fuzzy Bed Rug that will be kind to the painted things we'll carry. The $430 price included professional installation, which was done in the dead of winter. We wonder if the metal had sufficiently warmed to the recommended 68 degrees, because some of the adhesive hook-and-loop fasteners have detached from the bed. We also had to trim the liner to expose the factory's under-rail LED bed lighting. We like that the Bed Rug bridges the floor-to-tailgate gap, so mulch and loose materials don't fall through, but we don't love the fact that the tailgate won't shut unless you clean out that area.

A quick, painless dealer visit took care of our tire-pressure monitoring fault and an exhaust-overheating recall. Trips to the far north and west coasts of the Mitten State have revealed this to be a superbly quiet, comfy cruiser, impervious to truck ruts, crosswinds, and tire-eating potholes. Fuel economy is also trending up, as we're no longer tempted to pamper ourselves with lengthy remote-start warm-ups. We now look forward to towing and hauling various summer-fun gear.

More on our long-term 2014 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab:


2014 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab
BASE PRICE $51,355
PRICE AS TESTED $54,585
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 5.3L/355-hp/383-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5708 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE 153.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 239.0 x 80.0 x 73.8 in
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.7 sec @ 88.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 124 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.71 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 30.0 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 16/18/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 211/187 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.15 lb/mile