2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD

Published in the August 2010 Issue August 2010 Duramax, Turbos

2011 DenaliSome folks have just got the wrong idea. They've somehow confused the term heavy-duty with cosmetics. (That stuff for lookin' pretty.) If your idea of breaking in a brand new diesel is to slap on a pair of sunglasses after your perfume shower, fill up your 89-ounce coffee cup for a leisurely 15-mph Sunday drive around the park, well, you'd be better off driving a mini-van.

Trucks, especially working trucks designed to haul and handle, deserve to have their limits tested in a bare-knuckle brawl between machine and the elements. We're interested in checking out the capabilities of the new line up of 2011 Sierra Denali HDs, and we don't mean on the edges of a golf course. Like playing "sports" that are so "strenuous" they can be performed in skirts, Sunday driving isn't what we've got in mind. GMC promises that the new Sierra line-up will have a 20,000 lb. towing capacity, 6,335 lbs. of payload, and "the most powerful diesel engine in the segment."

Duramax"The new Sierra Denali HD is the latest expression of GMC's Denali philosophy of blending capability with premium features and styling," Lisa Hutchinson with GMC marketing, said in a release about the line-up. The new line has "a maximum towing capacity of 15,600 pounds with the segment's most powerful diesel - that's enough to tow a 34-foot-long, three-axle travel trailer." The Denali HD will have a custom 25000 chassis, with the standard Vortec 6.0L gas V-8/six-speed automatic powertrain, but you can upgrade to a Duramax 6.6L turbo or an Allison 1000 6-speed tranny.

You wouldn't leave a thoroughbred in a corral, so we aren't about to head into the summer without test driving the Duramax 6.6L turbo diesel V-8 to see if the 397 hp at 3,000 rpm and 796 lb-ft. torque are as good as they sound. With GM's assurances of 680 miles between refueling on the larger tank, tank mods might a little less enticing. Well, maybe.

We're also keen to try out the new "smart" exhaust brakes that are supposed to give you "greater control on grades and reduced brake pad wear." We wonder how they'd perform on some of the steep-incline gravel roads in the Tetons. The controllability increases on trailer sway control, integrated trailer brake control, hill start assist, and automatic grade braking would also be great fodder for a mountainous test drive. We're just sayin'. And since we're talking mountains, we might as well test out the nifty new snowplow capability of the 4WDs, since we hate shoveling snow as much as we hate wearing skirts.

"You can see by the ratings numbers that the Sierra HD lineup is more capable, but the trucks are also better performers in the intangible qualities that bond owners with their trucks," Rick Spina, GM's vehicle line exec said in a press release. "They accelerate quicker- especially when fully loaded - stop more confidently and deliver a smooth, quiet driving experience that you have to experience to fully appreciate."

While we aren't sure about bonding process, we're definitely ready to punish the independent front suspension with some dedicated terrain time.

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