With the 2022 Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate, GMC is finally bringing a luxury truck to compete with the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn. Ram has been the top dog for interior luxury for nearly a decade, so how does the Denali Ultimate stack up?
On the outside, the Denali Ultimate comes packed with high end features. Starting from the front there is a massive dark chrome grill with a chrome outlined GMC badge. Chromed tow hooks sit in the bottom of the bumper with an additional chrome surround. Fog lights are pushed out to the edges and as low down in the bumper as is reasonable. At the top of the grill sits a hood scoop like feature that is actually between the hood and grill.
Moving down the side, we see the LED headlights wrap around to the front fenders with amber marker lights on the top and bottom. 22-inch black and machined wheels make a bold statement, especially with the ground being clearly visible through them and past the 13-inch rotors. Just in front of the mirror the only Ultimate badge denotes what the truck really is. This badge also marks the engine in the truck, in our case it reads 6.2L. Accenting the Titanium Rush Metallic paint are a few bits of chrome here and there. Notably on the mirrors, door handles, power side step and around the glass, but not on the B-pillar.
Around back there is another chrome outlined GMC badge on the upper gate of the Multi-Pro setup. On the main gate is a centered chrome DENALI badge. On the lower right of the gate is a chrome Sierra badge. The last bit of chrome on the truck are HDMI shaped surrounds for the exhaust outlets. The rear bumper includes the very useful corner bumper steps.
While this is a dedicated luxury vehicle, it is still a very capable work truck. Functional exterior features include a variety of cameras and sensors, oodles of tie down points in the Carbon Pro bed, a standard receiver hitch with 7-pin wiring, and the powered side steps that can be rotated way out to the rear to allow easier bed access.
Alpine Umber is what GMC calls the mix of dark tan and black leather that adorns the interior of our Denali Ultimate tester. The hickory brown leather has topographical maps of Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley, formerly Mt. Denali, you never know what it’s going to be). This same map is on the wood panel of the upper glove box as well.
Other brands are using as much piano black plastic as they can. GMC has wisely stuck with matte black plastic in most places. The matte doesn’t scratch as easily, doesn’t show as much dirt and debris, and most importantly doesn’t reflect sunlight into the driver’s eyes causing distraction and discomfort.
Of course all the other features are there. Heated, ventilated, and massaging seats up front, steering wheel controls, and a HUD. There are also paddle shifters for the 10-speed auto and a standard trailer brake control behind the shift column.
Driving the 2022 Denali Ultimate
Two main features set the GMC Denali Ultimate apart from other Sierra 1500’s we’ve tested. First the magnetic ride control shocks. We’ve experienced these shocks in a variety of other GM products, make for an excellent ride over various terrain types. They do surprisingly well when used within their limits. Except for long travel off-pavement use, they are extremely effective.
The other feature is Super Cruise. We’ve had hit and miss experiences with other driver assist packages, but Super Cruise is on another level. Being hands free is a much more relaxing experience in a lot of ways. Instead of having a hand or two on the steering wheel at all times, Super Cruise frees up your hands to be in a more relaxed position. However, like any computer aided system, we felt that we had to be more attentive to what the truck was doing. You never know when it’s going to find a crack in the road and mistake it for a lane marker. For us it worked well except for one section of freeway where Super Cruise wasn’t mapped between a freeway offramp and the following freeway onramp. In that section it would disable completely without much warning.
With the same equipment as other Sierra 1500’s the Denali does have decent dirt road capability. A low range transfer case and auto-locking rear differential (G80) give the Denali Ultimate all the goods to provide great traction. Taking away from the capability are very large wheels and small sidewall tires, low front air dam, and low side steps. Magnetic ride control certainly smooths out the smaller bumps. However, over larger bumps they do run out of travel.
The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate has a base price of $78,700. Our Monroney only showed two items. Premium Titanium Rush Metallic paint for $495 was the first. The other was a $50 credit for the lack of front and rear park assist (retrofit is included). Adding in the $1,695 destination charge brings the total to $80,840. This might sound like a big number, but the Ram 1500 Limited and Ford F-150 Limited can both easily reach into the $80k price range.
In the world of luxury trucks each brand seems to have its niche. Ford’s F-150 Limited has technology, Ram’s 1500 Laramie Longhorn has cowboy luxury, and now GM has a player that falls somewhere in between the two with the Denali Ultimate. Each excels in some aspects, but falls behind the competition in others. The 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate is luxury and capability tied into one package.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.