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2012 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD 4×4 Review & Test Drive

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Pickup trucks continue to be the best selling vehicles in the industry because of their versatility and functionality.  Most are light duty 1500 models that can take care of most needs but when you need maximum torque, towing power, size and interior room and comfort nothing beats the new GMC Sierra Denali with the 6.6 liter Duramax turbo-charged diesel engine matted to the Allision 1000 six-speed automatic transmission.

The numbers are big and heavy duty just what you need when towing extra heavy loads or workmen with equipment to a job site.  The new truck has best-in-class maximum towing capability of 23,000 lbs., best-in-class conventional-hitch trailering capacity of 18,000lbs., best-in-class maximum payload of 7,215lbs., best-in-class GCWR rating of 30,500lbs., fully boxed high-strength-steel frames, standard 36-gallon fuel tank enables 680 miles of travel between fill-ups, Smart exhaust brake feature provides greater control on grades and reduced brake pad wear, an array of control features including trailer sway control, integrated trailer brake control, hill start assist, automatic grade braking, intelligent brake assist and large 13in. + brakes.

Optional hard-drive navigation radio with AM-FM-Sirius XM stereo with CD/DVD player, MP3 compatibility and USB port, cruise-control and spare tire lock now standard with Work Truck models, rain-sensing wipers, outside vertical camper mirrors now standard, heated and cooled front seats, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel and rear vision camera are now standard on Sierra Denali HD models like I tested, High-idle switch now available on 2500 Denali HD, plus 20X8in. wheels and tires available on the Denali 2500 model.

Technology features include optional WiFi, USB connectivity, Bluetooth, OnStar 9.0 and navigation that help make work on the road easier.

The increases in payload and towing capacity are due to a variety of enhancements, including beefier rear springs, and U-bolts, revised rear axle tubes and shock tuning, revised pickup box cross sills and other structural enhancements too numerous to mention.

Sierra Denali HD models are offered exclusively in the crew cab body style, in regular-and long-box configurations and in 2WD and 4WD.

The Denali-specific bullet-hole chrome grille makes the trunk instantly recognizable.  Additional chrome trim and body-color bumpers further distinguish it.  Sierra Denali also offers a unique combination of interior style and luxury including standard nuance perforated leather appointed front bucket seats with heated and cooled 12-way power adjustments.  A Denali exclusive leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel which features wood-grain accents and a host of auxiliary controls is standard.

Denali models feature a unique center console, enhanced interior bright work and detailed, highly finished embossed sill plates.  The center console has wood grain trim and a lid that conceals the dual cup-holders creating a more finished and refined appearance.

The 2012 Sierra Denali model makes work and play so much easier with these features-dual-zone automatic climate control, driver information center, rear-seat entertainment system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated outside mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starter system, power sunroof and power operated rear sliding window.

Helping the GMC Sierra Denali HD 2500 4XD achieve best-in-class 397hp at just 3,000rpm and 765lb.ft. of torque at just 1,600rpm, is the Duramax 6.6 liter turbo diesel and Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission.  The engine features a high-pressure (30,000 psi/2,000 bar) Piezo-actuated fuel system for greater fuel efficiency, improved performance and reduced emissions.  An exhaust brake system enables controlled vehicle slowdown on downhill grades without actuating the brakes.  The Allison 1000 features a driver shift control with tap up/tap down shifting and a patented elevated idle mode cab warm-up feature.  Also, the tow/haul mode reduces shift cycling for better control and improved cooling when towing or hauling heavy loads.

All Sierra HD models feature fully boxed frame assemblies that were redesigned last year with reinforced cross sections and use more high-strength steel for greater durability, higher towing capacity and improved ride and handling.  The front sections are hydroformed.  Additional chassis and suspension features include: front axle weight rating up to 6,000lbs front gross axle weight rating enabling a snow plow to be used on all 4X4 models, a short arm/torsion bar front suspension that features forged steel upper control arms and precision-machined cast iron lower control arms, five different torsion bar rates that support five different front gross axle weight ratings to help stabilize the range of trim heights of various models under load while enhancing appearance, handling durability, tire wear and alignment.  The trim height is adjusted on each bar via a single bolt, easily allowing the height to be changed to account for the weight of a snow plow or other accessories.  An upper shock mount attachment design that’s positively connected to the frame with two fasteners eliminates squeaks and clunks while supporting higher load capacity and increased durability.  The asymmetrical leaf-spring design minimizes axle hop and enhances traction control efficiency.  The two-stage leaf-spring design on the 2500HD models feature 3in. wide leaf springs.  Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with hydroboost is standard on all models, including four-wheel, four channel ABS.

Sierra HD safety features and crash avoidance features include StabiliTrak electronic stability control with all single-rear-wheel models, large 4-wheel disc brakes, seat pelvic/thorax and head curtain airbags, rear vision camera, trailer sway control system and hill start assist on single rear wheel models.

Every available engineered and high-tech feature makes the new GMC Sierra HD Denali pickup right for every job or fun adventure that you can think of.  It is my choice for HD trucking.



  • Price as tested: $62,440.00 loaded
  • Engine: 6.6 liter cast iron block/aluminum head, OHV direct injection, turbo charged/intercooled V8.
  • Horsepower: 397hp at 3,000rpm
  • Torque: 765lb.ft. of torque at 1,600rpm
  • Transmission: Allison 1000 six-speed automatic/OD
  • Suspension: Front-independent long/short arm torsion bar/gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar. Rear-semi-elliptic two-stage multi-leaf springs/gas-charged shocks.
  • Brakes: power-assisted Hydroboost brake system/ABS/Traction Control
  • Front-13.8in. vented/dual-piston calipers. Rear-14.1in. solid discs/single-piston calipers.
  • Wheels/tires: Denali standard 20X8in. polished aluminum wheels/LT265/60R20in. all terrain tires
  • Wheelbase: 153in.
  • Overall length: 240in.
  • Overall width: 80in.
  • Overall height: 78in.
  • Track: f-68.8/r-67.3in.
  • Minimum ground clearance: 9.75in.
  • Headroom: f/r-41.3/r-40.6in.
  • Legroom: f/r-41.3/r-39in.



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