Following on the heels of its cousin the Chevrolet Silverado's release, GMC took the wraps off its 2019 Sierra, with an obvious focus on the upscale SLT and Denali models. That's no surprise: nearly 30% of all GMC sales last year wore Denali badging — a record high — and Denali/SLT models now account for 87% of Sierra crew cab pickup sales.
Both those models are expected to go on sale this fall. For motivation, the Sierra gets updated 6.2L and 5.3L V8 engines, which feature start-stop functionality and, depending on power demand, can now shut down up to seven of their cylinders when running for fuel savings. Also new for 2019 is a 3.0L inline 6-cyl. turbo diesel engine option; the bigger V8 and diesel will be mated to a 10-speed automatic.
The 2019 Sierra sets itself apart from its cross-platform brethren with some advanced and distinctive features, and again, that's mainly concerning standard equipment on the Denali and SLT that's optional otherwise. Start with a rear bumper with integrated steps built into it and head slightly north to the truck's snappy new tailgate, which according to General Motors required more design and validation hours than any the automaker has produced prior to this.
It shows. The Sierra's available MultiPro tailgate, standard on the Denali and SLT, offers power operation that can be triggered from the key fob. When opened flat, the upper part of the gate's bed-facing paneling swings up to become an extended "load stop" tail that can help secure long cargo items. An inner gate cutout can fold down 90 degrees for easier bed access or further converts via the load-stop flap into a step that holds up to 375 lbs.
Try that same maneuver with the main tailgate closed, and the inner gate — yes, also motorized — acts as a higher-tiered load-stop device that extends the box's storage length. With the step/load-stop flap folded down flat, the tailgate cutout offers a work surface you can stand at with, say, a laptop.
It's such a feature-loaded tailgate that GMC released this special video explainer:
Following up on that with similar special branding, a CarbonPro pickup box will be available later this year on the Denali. It's made of carbon fiber, another industry first GMC claimed with the Sierra, and sheds 62 lbs. vs. the pickup's standard steel box. It's also more resistant to dents, chips and corrosion.
The steel box got some attention as well. It's bigger than the '18 Sierra's, with 63 cu. ft. of cargo volume on the new truck's short-box configuration. It's also tougher, GMC said, since it's made of a 50% higher-strength steel alloy. The updated bed now has more tie-downs and an optional 100-volt outlet.
Compared to the '18 model year, the new Sierra is "larger in virtually every dimension" including a bigger cabin, with more headroom and legroom up front and nearly 3 in. of additional legroom for occupants in the rear seat, when configured with one. But it's lighter, too: even without the carbon fiber bed, GMC found its way to a nearly 300 lbs. in weight savings with materials choices such as an aluminum hood, tailgate and doors.
GMC also said it gave a beefier presence and a more "confident," "broad-shouldered" stance to the new Sierra, and part of that comes from wheels with bigger tires that are pushed out closer to the bumpers. The truck also gets "a larger, more dominant upright grille, a taller hood, and a bolder, more pronounced take on GMC's C-shaped lighting signature," the automaker said in a release.
On that last note — the lighting — GMC also referred to the daytime running lights as "blades," but if that's the analogy, it's more like scythes bordering the headlights like mirror-image C's on each side. The Denali features LEDs up front in the headlights and fog lights, taillights and other lighting elements, with special lenses designed for "almost crystalline" clarity, the OEM said.
The '19 Sierra equipment options include some notable technological additions and innovations. A multicolor head-up display is configurable to show vehicle data in a 3x7-in. space on the windshield such as GPS directions and speed, and an available 8-in. diagonal touchscreen media/infotainment system is designed to look and work similar to a smartphone's.
The Sierra's also got an optional new rear camera that can display a live view in a portion of the rearview mirror; it's a higher-resolution camera that can be tilted or zoomed in and out. Along those lines as well is an available ProGrade trailering system complete with its own app that guides a user through hooking up a trailer step by step. With that and its rear trailer views that can be displayed on the media screen, GMC said the system "brings more confidence to the towing experience."
Once again, the trailering system is standard on the SLT and Denali. Another refinement you'll find on the Denali is an adaptive ride control suspension system that GMC claimed monitors road conditions constantly and how the chassis is responding to them, and the system can make adjustments every 2 milliseconds.
Click through the slideshow for views of the 2019 Sierra and some of its feature highlights.