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2019 GMC Sierra 1500 First Look: Who needs aluminum when you have carbon fiber?

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/1/2018 Motor Trend Staff

The pickup wars continue with today's first look at the 2019 GMC Sierra's top trim levels. The 2019 Sierra makes its debut not long after Detroit hosted the auto show reveals of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and the 2019 Ram 1500.

For this fourth generation, GMC has worked to further differentiate the Sierra from the Silverado. The 2019 Sierra Denali has a taller, more confident, and powerful stance, and retains its upper-class status with a new pattern for the larger chrome grille.

Because the GMC and Chevy trucks ride on the same all-new platform, both have become bigger and have the largest dimensions in the field. The wheels of the new Sierra have been pushed closer to the corners of the vehicle and have 22-inch wheels. Despite being larger in every dimension, the new Sierra weighs up to 360 pounds less than its predecessor. Comparatively, the Silverado dropped up to 450 pounds.

More than 15 years after GMC introduced the Sierra Denali, this latest generation is the most premium Sierra to date, said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global GMC.

The 2019 Sierra Denali and SLT will go on sale this fall, and those two top trims combine for 87 percent of GMC's total crew cab sales, Aldred said. No details are being provided at this time about a base or SLE trim. The Silverado will be available in eight trim levels with six powertrain combinations.

Like the Silverado, the Sierra gets updated versions of the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines as well as a new 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine. The V-8 engines have stop/start technology and Dynamic Fuel Management that enables the engine to operate on one to eight cylinders, depending on demand. The available 6.2-liter and the diesel engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and the 5.3-liter is mated to GM's eight-speed.

For an improved ride, the Sierra Denali has an exclusive Adaptive Ride Control suspension system with sensors to monitor the road and make adjustments in real time.

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To distinguish itself from the Silverado, the Sierra has a number of new and exclusive features including MultiPro Tailgate, which is exclusive to GMC and standard on Denali and SLT. The special tailgate has six different positions and functions for loading gear as well as a standing workstation and easier access to items in the box. One mode makes it easier to step up, and the step also serves as a seat. An inner gate release can be used by pushing two buttons on the tailgate handle.

The cargo boxes offer 63 cubic feet of space, additional tie-downs, and a new, available 110-volt power outlet. The bed continues to be made of steel but a revised alloy that GM says is 50 percent stronger. GMC is introducing CarbonPro, a carbon fiber composite pickup box that the brand says will offer the most dent, scratch, and corrosion resistance in the segment. It replaces standard steel inner panels and will be available on the Denali later in the model year

"In 116 years of making GMC pickup trucks, our industry-first carbon fiber box is the toughest and most durable pickup box we have ever made," Aldred said. It is 62 pounds lighter than the steel version and is part of GM's mixed-material strategy that includes aluminum for the doors, hood and tailgate, steel for the fenders, roof and standard cargo box. Ford, by contrast, went all-in on aluminum when it switched to aluminum-bodied F-150s for the 2015 model year, a move that competitors have not followed.

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Given that Sierra owners like to tow, the 2019 model offers a new ProGrade Trailering System and app with a pre-departure checklist, maintenance reminders, trailer light test, trailer electrical diagnostics, as well as trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring. There are also aids to help position the trailer for hitching and the available side-view cameras and a trailer-mounted HD camera help monitor the trailer while driving or in reverse. Trailer theft detection lets owners know by text or an OnStar alert that the trailer has been detached from the truck without permission.

The head-up display is now multi-color and shows customizable vehicle data on the windshield in a 3x7-inch display. And there's a dual-function rearview-camera/rearview mirror to allow an unobstructed view if the back of the truck is blocked by people and cargo. This is a new generation of the technology with a higher-resolution camera and the ability to tilt and zoom. A conventional mirror is also available.

Matt Noone, director of design, GMC Exteriors, wanted to keep the essence of GMC but update its signature cues. That resulted in a larger, more upright grille, taller hood, and more pronounced take on GMC's C-shaped lighting signature with LEDs everywhere and "light blade" technology providing a more uniform illumination for the daytime running lamps, for an overall more dramatic look.

The 2019 Sierra Denali features available 22-inch Ultra Bright aluminum wheels; the SLT model offers its own unique 22-inch dark aluminum wheels finished with chrome accents. The Denali nameplate on the tailgate is a new block typeface.

Inside, the Sierra is claiming best-in-class front head- and legroom and adds almost three inches of rear-seat legroom. There is a higher seating position in a cabin with leather, open-pore wood and dark-finish aluminum trim in the Denali. The rear seat backs double as storage for tablets, laptops, tie-down cords, umbrellas, or other items.

To stay connected, the infotainment system with a standard 8.0-inch screen has been updated to be faster, more intuitive, and have better voice recognition. The Surround Vision system offers a bird's-eye view of the truck and the overhead image helps detect potential obstacles when reversing. And of course, there is a full menu of safety features to detect pedestrians, cars in the blind spots, and provide automatic braking.

GM sold 217,943 GMC Sierras in 2017, down 1.7 percent from the previous year, compared with 585,864 Silverados sold in 2017 (including heavy duty trucks), up 1.9 percent. The segment as a whole increased almost 6 percent with F-150 as the dominant player (F-Series, including heavy-duty trucks, sales ended the year at 896,764, up 9.3 percent) and Ram 1500-3500 sold 500,723, up 2.3 percent and gaining share.

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