We recently ventured north of the border with GMC and found ourselves in the quaint town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. After successfully completing our Newfoundland initiation ceremony which involved kissing a large codfish (yes, really) we were ready to experience the redesigned 2019 GMC Sierra Denali and all new Sierra AT4. We set out to do a scenic drive around the region, try out some off-roading and get expert tech demos to truly understand what these new trucks have to offer.
With the 2018 Sierra Denali still fresh in our minds from our drive a few months ago, we were anxious to hop in and learn what’s new and improved for 2019. On top of a better driving experience, we were ambushed (in a good way) by all the new technology in the Sierra Denali and the off-road capabilities of the new AT4 trim. These are the 5 top improvements for the 2019 GMC Sierra.
When you see the new 2019 Sierra in person for the first time, there's no doubt that you’re looking at a premium truck. The redesigned styling is bigger and bolder from top to bottom. The Sierra Denali's wheels have been moved closer to the corners and have been outfitted with larger tires to look more aggressive. The truck's body also grew in size and functionality, offering three additional inches of legroom in the rear seat.
The 2019 Sierra features less chrome, more grille
The interior of the Sierra is far from neglected in the 2019 redesign. The spacious cabin boasts premium materials including real aluminum for all trims, though the interior remains quite dark. The Sierra Denali we drove showcased real open pore ash wood trim and Forge leather seating. With extra legroom in the crew cab models and several new storage compartments, there's more room for both your passengers and all their gear.
2. Industry-First Technology
There was no shortage of new tech in the 2019 Sierra compared to the 2018 model we drove earlier this summer. The first update we noticed was the rear camera mirror which turns your mirror into a high definition display. We'll admit it took us a while to get used to seeing everything so crystal clear in our rearview, down to the rocks on the road. By the end of the drive, it started to feel more natural and we started to appreciate the confidence it gave us when we needed to check our surroundings and make sure it was safe to pass (locals are in no rush to get where they are going).
The next upgrade that caught our eye was the all-new head up display which was not available during our drive in the 2018 Sierra Denali. The 3x7 inch multicolor, HUD clearly shows your speed, the speed limit, the lane keep assist and even an inclinometer in the windshield.
Although we choose to try off-roading instead of towing on this trip, we did get a demo of GMC's new trailering app which gives you a step-by-step guide to getting your trailer set up. With the app, you'll be able to store information such as trailer type, miles, and maintenance. For those of us who love checklists, there's a pre-departure checklist to make sure the trailer is connected correctly. GMC is also making sure your trailer stays with its rightful owner with their trailer theft detection technology.
The trailering system gives you even more piece of mind with cameras galore. Hitch Guidance with Hitch View is a rearview camera system which shows you guidance lines for the truck and also the trailer hitch. It's a valuable tool, especially for those who are new to trailering.
3. Driving Performance
If you think that the upgrades of the 2019 redesign are mostly cosmetic, you'd be wrong. The 2019 Sierra Denali we spent our time with was equipped with a new 6.2 Liter V-8 engine and new 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine serves up a noticeable 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
A new addition for 2019 is the available Dynamic Fuel Management system that the GMC Sierra shares with its cousin, the Chevy Silverado. Dynamic Fuel Management activates and deactivates cylinders depending on driving conditions. This helps improve efficiency without disrupting the driving experience (we didn't even feel the changes as we drove).
The handling of the 2019 Sierra was smooth and we found the steering to be improved from 2018. The Denali trim offers Adaptive Ride Control which noticeably improves responsiveness and driving refinement. Even as we loaded up the bed with heavy fishing supplies, the brakes were capable and responsive. Best of all, on our way back from our long day on the road, even after almost 2 hours straight of driving, we felt no fatigue.
4. MultiPro Tailgate
In order to demonstrate the all-new MultiPro Tailgate feature in the 2019 Sierra, GMC had us make a stop in the historic town of Harbour Grace, made famous by Amelia Earhart and her flight from here to Ireland. Unlike Earhart, we weren't there to fly a plane or make history, but instead to play local fishermen for the day.
We were presented with bulky and awkward items such as giant fishing nets, wooden planks and large Yeti coolers to load up and tie down in the bed of our Sierra Denali. What seemed like a daunting task for newbie fishermen like us, turned out to be mostly painless thanks to GMC's MultiPro tailgate which is new for 2019.
This industry-first tailgate has 6 different positions and configurations to make loading and unloading the pickup box easier. We found the full-width step was our favorite feature for loading all our gear.
MultiPro Tailgate Positions
1) Primary Gate: Opens with a key fob or manually.
2) Primary Gate Load Stop: Keep long items like wood planks from sliding.
3) Easy Access: Fold down the inner gate to easily reach into the box.
4) Full-Width Step: Fold the inner gate to form a sturdy step to help you reach in and load.
5) Inner Gate Load Stop: Stop items from sliding when using the second-tier bed storage.
6) Inner Gate With Work Surface: Allows second-tier loading for long items or a handy workspace.
5. Off-Road Ready AT4 Trim
We decided to save the best for last. Out of all the major changes for 2019, we were most excited to try out the all-new AT4, intended for some serious off-roading. And it certainly did not disappoint. The AT4 was all set up to welcome us to St. John’s and we’ll be honest, we were not expecting this rugged truck to look this refined. As a GMC designer put it, someone can pull up to the fanciest country club in the AT4 and they won't get any strange looks. The exterior styling immediately commands attention with dark chrome finishes, dark-tinted wheels exclusive to the trim and body color grille, door handles and bumpers.
The interior combines sporty style and practicality with dark leather seats embroidered with AT4 badging, and real aluminum finishes on the center stack and steering wheel. Despite its sophisticated and sleek styling, the AT4 wasn't built to just sit and look pretty, it was made to play in the dirt. This meant we had to take it out on a mild off-road course in Heart’s Delight, Newfoundland to see what it can do in its natural habitat. As we drove it over some dirt roads and hills, we noticed the AT4 sits higher thanks to a 2-inch factory lift improving ground clearance.
The AT4 comes with either an 18-inch wheel with all-terrain tires or mud terrain-rated Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires or a 20-inch wheel with all-terrain tires.
The technology in the AT4 made navigating the hills Heart's Delight effortless. Going up a hill, the Surround Vision system allowed us to see what’s on the other side. The Hill Descent Control then provided a smoother descent on rough surfaces. As Midwesterners, we’re much more familiar with flat terrain than hills, and we appreciated this technology in our off-road adventure.
We had a great time driving the 2019 GMC Sierra in these unique surroundings and playing with all the new features. With the redesign of the Sierra and the addition of the AT4, GMC has pulled out all the stops for their customers. Anyone looking for a premium truck with the latest tech and a comfortable ride will not be disappointed in the 2019 Sierra Denali, starting at $54,700. Those that want some more off-road chops should go with the 2019 Sierra AT4 once it's available later this fall.