Capability through chassis and powertrain engineering is the big story for GMC’s re-engineered 2011 Sierra heavy-duty pickups, but skin-deep beauty is addressed, too, with the new-for-2011 Denali HD. This is the first offering of GMC’s uplevel Denali line on a heavy-duty pickup.
This Denali special packaging is available on 3500HD and 2500HD crew cab models. The test truck is a 2500HD, only offered as a Denali in a 4×4, crew cab, standard box configuration. Standard vehicle pricing is $45,865, but buyers can pump up the options to elevate the price — along with capability, looks and convenience — of this high-content truck.
There’s no doubting the test truck is a special offering, clad in glossy Onyx Black paint (Stealth Gray Metallic and Summit White also are available) and wearing a distinctive Denali four-bar grille. The beefy grille has a chrome surround and horizontal chrome bars that are elegantly peppered with small oval air inlets. A large red GMC logo bridges the centers of the two middle bars.
Below is a body-colored bumper (along with a color-keyed rear bumper), and a lower fascia with round fog lights and an opening filled with chrome texture matching the grille’s.
Chrome accents contrast with the black body, adding to the upscale Denali flavor. Chrome door handles, side molding and polished forged-aluminum wheels increase Denali dazzle. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, and the test truck rolls on 20-inchers, which are an $850 option. The tall 4×4 is fitted with much-needed 6-inch tubular chrome assist steps, a dealer-installed option adding $689 to the price tag.
Other chrome accents — chrome strips on the twin raised hood louvers — indicate a Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel sits beneath. The Duramax diesel is a $7,195 option, and its strengthened Allison six-speed automatic transmission mate bumps up the price $1,200.
The Duramax unleashes 397 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 765 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. It’s estimated that with the 36-gallon tank full, the pickup can cruise on the highway up to 680 miles.
Standard Denali power is via a Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine. It pairs with an upgraded version of the Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission. The 6.0-liter moves the pickups with 360 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm.
More-substantial fully boxed frames, and stronger front and rear suspensions contribute to higher towing and payload ratings for gas and diesel engines.
Maximum conventional-hitch towing for a gas-powered 4×4 2500HD crew cab with standard box is — with 3.73/4.10 axle ratios — 9,400/13,000 pounds. A fifth-wheel hitch boosts the rating to 9,400/13,900 pounds. Payload capacity is 3,123 pounds.
A Duramax-equipped Sierra 4×4 2500HD crew cab, regular-box pickup’s towing capacity is 13,000 (3.73 axle ratio) pounds with a conventional ball hitch and up to 16,700 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch. Maximum payload is 2,792 pounds.
Along with improved workhorse capability, the 2011 Sierra HD offers excellent handling and ride quality for a big truck. Bringing the powerful Sierra HD to a stop is a more-efficient process with larger brakes. Rotors, front and rear, have grown to 14 inches and calipers are beefier. Noticeable is a solid pedal feel and low braking effort.
Standard with the Duramax is a driver-selectable exhaust brake system.