In any job, there are bound to be some days that are just better or more exciting than others. For instance, I feel certain GMC’s research and development department enjoyed the days it spent testing a new carbon fiber Sierra bed by throwing cinder blocks at it, dropping 450-pound steel drums in it and revving a snowmobile with medal studs on its track to full throttle while the snowmobile sat in the GMC’s bed.
I imagine those days were a little more exciting than those spent developing a new valve stem.
GMC touts its carbon-fiber composite bed as less corrosive, more scratch, dent and corrosion resistant, and it cuts around 60 pounds of weight over a traditional steel bed. And there is no need for a bedliner.
Buyers can opt for the carbon fiber bed as a part of the CarbonPro package available on the Sierra or off-road tuned Sierra AT4. It is a pricey add on at $8,965, but there are plenty of other desirable features in the package. It also includes an upgraded sound system, HD surround vision, a clever rearview mirror that displays the image captured from the rear camera, 22-inch black wheels, power sunroof and power retractable running boards. Also included are safety features in the form of forward collision alert and lane keep assist, along with adaptive cruise control. There is also a massive head up display readout that can show drivers speed, lane-keeping data and the truck’s side and forward/downward angles for towing or off-road excursions.
For the exclusivity of saying your truck’s bed is imbedded with carbon fiber, an industry first, you also get GMC’s MultiPro tailgate. It is not often you will see a manufacturer tout a tailgate as its most noteworthy feature — like many GMC ads have done — but the MultiPro is seriously functional and, well, just pretty cool.
Press one of the two buttons on the upper portion of the tailgate and it lowers conventionally, but the second button is where things get really ingenious.
With the tailgate down, a gate can be raised vertically to provide a backstop, so to speak, for longer items that cannot fit in the bed with the tailgate raised. The same function can also be used when the inner gate, a smaller tailgate without the traditional version, is lowered. The smaller gate can also be affixed horizontally to create a small work surface.
Users can also lower the inner tailgate for easier reachability into the bed, because just like toast always lands butter side down, items in a truck bed always shift to just out of your reach. From that position, a step can be lowered to keep your pant seams intact when you need to get inside the bed.
And just to add to the functionality, there are even Bluetooth compatible speakers in the tailgate.
The Sierra is mechanically identical to its Silverado cousin with three available engines. A 5.2-liter V8 is standard and offers 355 horsepower with 383 ft.lb. of torque, and the optional 6.2-liter eight-cylinder increased those figures by 85 horsepower and 83 torques. Both are paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
My tester was fitted with the 3-liter Duramax turbo diesel which provides 277 horsepower and 460 ft.-lb. of torque as a $2,495 premium. I was smitten with this engine in the 2020 Silverado, and unsurprisingly, it is just as much of gem in the Sierra.
The turbo diesel is surprisingly sprightly and reactive, with its hefty torque punch getting the Sierra on the move quickly. Put the right pedal down and the Duramax responds immediately without any real perceptible turbo lag. The engine never seemed overly stressed in my week behind the wheel, even while overtaking on the highway. The 10-speed transmission was never flustered, either. Stop-and-go traffic, traversing backroads, building speed along a highway on-ramp or slowly navigating a parking lot, the transmission handled it all with smooth precision.
The four-wheel drive crew cab version I tested with the Duramax yields 26 mph highway and 22 in the city. For either mode of driving, the Sierra has a relatively comfortable ride with GMC’s adaptive ride control system.
Payload and trailering capacities are fairly similar for the three engines, with the 5-foot-8 box predictably having a lower payload over the 6-foot-6 box. The diesel power plant has a max trailering capacity of 7,400 with two-wheel drive and 9,000 pounds with four-wheel drive, with the two gasoline engines netting just slightly more. The Denali comes standard with a trailering package and trailer brake controller, auto-locking rear differential, a two-speed transfer case and trailer sway control.
The Sierra comes standard with an 8-inch infotainment screen running Chevy’s easy-to-use system, Android and Apple connectivity, Bose sound system, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless charging (in addition to USB ports and 120-volt outlets in the dash and bed). Standard safety features include rear-cross traffic alert and lane change alert with blind zone monitoring.
In addition to loads of storage space and cubbies, the Denali’s cabin has a large dosing of creature comforts, including dual-zone climate control, 10-way adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats, Forge leather-appointed seats and ash wood trim. However, only the latter two separate the Denali from well-equipped Silverado models, which begs the question, is the jump in price worth it over the mechanically identical Chevy?
A four-wheel drive crew cab Denali starts at $58,200, but my options-filled CarbonPro edition with the Duramax and premium paint rang in just under $72,000, which some could see as worth it for the added features and MultiPro tailgate.
I could open the doors of debate on the Denali’s price point, but I think it would be more fun to go outside and throw some stuff at the carbon fiber bed. You know, for research purposes.