The minute we saw the 2014 GMC Sierra, we knew the best way for it to live up to its ultimate potential would be to receive the Denali treatment. The combination of attractive lines (is this the best-looking half-ton on the market today?), LED accents under the headlights, and Denali power made this truck one we were truly excited to drive. And when Edward A. Sanchez drove the GMC Sierra earlier this year , we were even more eager to see how the new truck, with the all-new 6.2-liter V-8 under the hood (which is related to the new Corvette's V-8), would perform at the track.

But first, we were going to enjoy our time behind the wheel. Our tester was black on black: Onyx Black on the outside, with a Jet Black interior. The four-wheel-drive Denali we drove rode on 20-inch chrome wheels, with no shortage of additional tasteful chrome accents. While the truck came with features such as chrome assist steps, rear-seat entertainment, polished exhaust tip, power adjustable pedals, heated/cooled seats in front, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, and power heated side mirrors, the Denali doesn't shy away from being ready for work. With the EZ Lift and Lower (and locking) Tailgate, LED lighting in the bed, adjustable tie-downs, and trailer brake controller, the Denali offers the best towing capacity in its class. (That's 12,000 pounds in a RWD Denali with the 3.73:1 axle and the Trailering Package; ours, with the 3.42:1 rearend and the short bed, could tow a maximum of 9700.) The cabin is likely less prepared for sharp tools and crud-covered jackets and boots than other GMCs in the line, but that's how it should be. People paying the extra premium want a nicer interior, and there is a feeling when you sit in this truck that it is special. The contrasting white stitching on the doors and dash, plus the white piping on the doors, was well done and elegant. We were also impressed with the connectivity options in the cabin.

On the road, it was apparent that one of the coolest things about the super-quiet cabin is that it lets in just enough of the 420-hp V-8's engine note, which has plenty of growl to make any V-8 fan happy. Its acceleration is smooth and mighty, with very quick response when you step on the gas pedal. There is no shortage of low-end torque, and that amount of power made this 5600-pound truck feel like a lightweight. While we admit we like that more vehicles are available these days with eight-speed automatics, the shifts were fine with this six-speed. But as time goes on, fuel-economy regs and new competitors' transmissions may force the issue sooner rather than later.

It was time to take it to the track. Our impressions of the power and speed of the Sierra Denali were not out of left field. The truck reached 60 mph in six seconds flat. That's faster than the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 sedan (which hit it in 6.2 seconds) and is in the same ballpark as the acceleration of a Porsche Cayman (5.6 seconds). So it's fast. It finished the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 97.2 mph, and needed only 135 feet to come to a full stop from 60 mph.

Our truck was over $56,000 as tested, which is approaching well-equipped 3/4-ton territory. What's interesting about GMC's price structure for the new Sierra Denali is that the 6.2-liter engine isn't standard. And having multiple options -- the Trailering Package, trailer brake controller, rear-seat entertainment -- allows buyers to make their Denali better equipped for work or for fun. On ours, the 6.2-liter cost an extra $1995. That means people who want to save a little money while still getting the feature-filled leather interior can do it, but with the 5.3-liter under the hood. However, we expect those who are making enough money to afford the Denali will get the 6.2-liter. We've heard initial projections suggested the 6.2-liter's sales would be at about 10 percent, and expect the actual take rate is higher. But even if it's a select group, whoever does opt for a truck with this engine is going to have a blast driving it.


2014 GMC Sierra Denali
BASE PRICE $51,060
PRICE AS TESTED $56,225
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5638 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE 143.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 229.5 x 80.0 x 74.0 in
0-60 MPH 6.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.6 sec @ 97.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 135 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 14/20 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 241/169 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.20 lb/mi