2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Review – Duramax and CarbonPro Deliver Rugged Luxury

By John Faulkner Clean Fleet Report; with photos and video by CarNichiWa.com

You Can Get What You Want

Trucks. Seem to be everywhere. People love them. Work or for play, there seems to be a truck for everyone. In 1975 The Tubes asked us “What Do You Want from Life?” although the Rolling Stones earlier told us “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

With the 2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 Crew Cab Duramax 4WD, you probably already know what you want in your life and, yes indeed, you can get what you want.

Our walkaround video, from the CarNichiWa.com YouTube channel, offers a closer look at the Sierra Denali’s exterior, interior, cargo bed, and engine compartment.

Power and Torque and Fuel-Sipping

Available in 2WD and with gasoline engines, Clean Fleet Report drove the 2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD, powered by a 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine. Pumping out 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque while mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the Denali smoothly slipped through the gears in a remarkably quiet manner.

The low diesel rumble greets you when using the ample torque to get off the line, but at freeway speeds it purrs, without constantly reminding you there is a powerful engine sitting only a few feet ahead of the cabin.

Weighing in at 7,200 pounds, the Sierra Denali 1500 4WD has a maximum payload of 1,810 pounds and can tow 9,000 lbs. These numbers are a bit lower than the sibling Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax, and the gasoline-powered Sierra Denali 1500s.

But for good reason. GMC decided the Sierra Denali owner would be more interested in better fuel economy in exchange for less payload and towing. Fuel economy for the 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel is EPA rated at 22 city/26 highway/24 mpg combined.

We saw that highway number and were confident it could be bested. Over 330 miles we averaged 26 mpg, but on a 100-mile all-freeway run with the adaptive cruise control set at 65 mph, we got an impressive 31.2 mpg. Obviously if pulling a trailer or climbing hills is more your thing, you will get lower mileage. But it is good to know that 30+ mpg is a real possibility for such a big vehicle. (Ed. note: The 2WD Sierra 1500 with the Duramax is rated at 30 mpg on the highway.)

On The Road: Smooth and Responsive

The Sierra Denali 1500 4WD, with nothing weighing down the cargo bed, was comfortable out on the road. The even acceleration and ease through the gears made it a breeze to drive in-town or on the freeway. Southern California freeways are paved with concrete and have been grooved for water dispersion.

The grooves work as designed, but this combination can make for a loud and bumpy ride, where it seems every seam is felt. While under the most severe road conditions the Sierra’s ride was a bit rough, but the truck did not transmit road noise, harshness and vibrations into the cabin. Aiding the driving is adaptive ride control and stabilizer control.

The power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, that provided excellent rear visibility, were quiet going through the wind. The brakes had almost no learning curve, and with the hydraulic-assisted brake system, including four-wheel anti-lock discs and electronic stability assist, brought the truck to confident stops. The electric-assisted steering had good road feel, with responsive steering and little body roll when pushed extra hard.

Bold Design

Our Sierra Denali test truck was equipped with the available CarbonPro trim line. CarbonPro designates that the cargo bed is made of weight-reducing carbon fiber.

The truck’s appearance was also enhanced by the White Frost Tricoat paint and 22-inch high-gloss black wheels. This combo was offset by the large chrome grille and the LED headlights and fog light surrounds.

The Sierra Denali came with the GMC MultiPro tailgate, which has six functions that make it extremely functional.

Excellent access to the box is made possible by the tailgate that drops down in one piece; has two built-in load stops; has a section that drops way down so you can stand even closer to the box and your cargo; a section that drops to create a full-width step that can handle 375 pounds; and lastly, for a cool factor, has a built-in Kicker audio system. The bed also has 12 cargo tie-downs, a 120-volt power outlet, speakers, and a bed-view camera with two trailer camera positions.

Features include LED lighting, and the box is made of multi-piece inner panels that replace a single panel design. The multi-piece design has allowed the usable width to be expanded by 6.7-inches. GMC also touts the tie-down rings, with the corner rings rated at 500 pounds.

The 120-volt power outlet is a useful feature, as are the trick tailgate, integrated bed steps in front of the rear wheel openings, and the corner steps on the bumper outer edges. The tailgate can also be power operated, up and down, by the key fob, an interior button, or a touchpad on the tailgate.

The MultiPro Power Steps, or running boards, automatically extended when the doors open, and retract when closed. This very helpful feature makes for convenient access to the first and second row seats.

Stepping Inside

If you can drag yourself away from the trick tailgate and versatile box, the welcoming interior is where you will spend most of your time. Our Sierra Denali had an attractive two-tone interior of Dark Walnut and Dark Ash Grey.

The perforated, leather-trimmed seats were firm and comfortable, with the power heated and ventilated front buckets separated by a center console large enough to hold a laptop.

The 60/40 folding rear seats, with heat for the outbound passengers, can easily hold three full-size adults. The power rear-sliding window was a nice feature, along with dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel (with audio controls), and a wireless charger for mobile phones.

The standard rear vision camera worked well, providing clear, wide images on the 8.0-inch color touchscreen, that also was home for navigation, OnStar® and the Bose® Premium Sound System. The seven-speaker system filled the cabin with sounds from the AM/FM/HD radio, Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto™, and SiriusXM®. Bluetooth handled voice communication for hands-free phone and audio, and Siri Eyes Free. Multiple USB ports and an auxiliary power outlet kept everything charged and ready to go.

The instrument panel gauges were easy to read, and the radio passed the Clean Fleet Report minimum driver safety test as it had volume and channel selection knobs.

A note regarding OnStar®: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the trial service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

Also on our Sierra Denali was the 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot that can connect multiple devices and has a 50-foot range. If you are packing the family for a road trip, then the Wi-Fi is a must to keep the backseat crew happy, occupied and quiet.

Safety and Convenience

The Sierra Denali has a total of six airbags for the front and rear seat passengers, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, trailer sway control and hill start assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), on the Driver Alert 1 package included Automatic Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Front and Rear Park Assist, Lane Change and Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Even the driver’s seat vibrates to let you know something about your driving isn’t just right.

Other safety features included Surround Vision with two trailer camera views, a bed view camera, a rear camera mirror and a multi-color 15-inch diagonal Head-Up Display. The latter is a safety feature that we feel should be standard on all vehicles. If auto manufacturers and the government are serious about reducing distracted driving, then the head-up display is a proven technology that will help greatly.


Clean Fleet Report’s 2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab had a base MSRP of $58,200. With $12,555 in options, including the CarbonPro Edition and Duramax engine, the total came to $70,755. All prices do not include the $1,595 destination charge.

Observations: 2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 Crew Cab Duramax 4WD

The 2020 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 Crew Cab Duramax is the fourth generation Sierra, which was completely new in 2019. What makes this truck stand out from its sibling Chevrolet Silverado Duramax is the MultiPro tailgate and the nearly indestructible carbon bed.

It used to be that diesel engines were only found in heavy-duty trucks. No more, though, as they are popping-up in more light-duty trucks, and are having an impact on the segment. The 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel is the most efficient engine offered in any GMC Sierra pickup. It matches the torque of the 6.2-liter V8 gasoline engine, offering a smooth power plant that can get more than 30 miles to the gallon on the highway.

While large cabin is nicely appointed, some competitor’s interiors have a more contemporary design and use better materials. This is not a reason to shy away from the GMC Sierra Denali when you are truck shopping, but more of a note that this segment is being fiercely fought, even down to the leather and plastics in the cabin.

John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Clean Fleet Report. He has more than 30 years of experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.

Sierra Denali press fleet vehicle provided by GMC Division of General Motors. Prices and vehicle information applies to U.S. models at the time of posting, not including destination, taxes, license, etc. All product information, including prices, features, and specifications, is subject to change without notice.

Story (text) © 2020 Clean Fleet Report – This review is reposted with permission on CarNichiWa.com

Photos and video © 2020 CarNichiWa.com