Heavy duty 3/4-ton and 1-ton pickup trucks are made for hauling and towing, right? That’s still true, but they’re also built for luxury. And there is no trim level more luxurious than the Sierra with the Denali trim level from GMC.
Now for 2024, GMC has updated the Sierra Heavy Duty line-up, including raising its own bar for features and materials with the Denali Ultimate trim. We’ve covered the 2023 Yukon Denali Ultimate and the 2023 Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate before, and now the same trim has been applied to the big brother pickups.
GMC has given the Sierra 2500 and 3500 heavy duty trucks a makeover for 2024, and if you guessed the new truck is more powerful, looks more macho with bigger wheels, and has a more prominent grille, then go crack yourself a beer. You understand the pickup truck market.
As I mentioned, the 2024 Sierra HD looks even more masculine and worky than before, which is saying something. It’s not like it wasn’t already a tough-looking truck. But this year you’ll get an updated front grille and bumper area, new wheels with a 22-inch option, more color choices, and a nifty animated lighting display when you approach the Sierra with the key in your pocket.
Beyond that, you can choose from a regular cab, extended, or crew cab. It’s worth noting that buying up to the heavy-duty line gives you the option of a much nicer truck with a basic 1-row cab. Few buyers choose that these days, but if you want an 8-foot bed for your hauling needs, but you don’t want a truck that’s longer than a city bus, the standard cab might make sense for you.
The 2024 Sierra HD also gets new interiors on most of the six trim levels in the line-up. Denali Ultimate is added, and it adds a new level of luxury over the standard Denali. If you buy up to Denali Ultimate, you’ll enjoy the full-grain leather upholstery and open-pore Paldao hardwood trim. The leather extends to the door panels and the rear seats, and the front seats offer heat, ventilation and massage.
Here’s a confession: I used to think massaging seats were silly, and just an example of automakers trying to think of something, anything, to differentiate themselves and justify higher prices. But I’ll tell you something else, too: once you’ve had heated massaging seats on a day when you’re feeling beat up from a bunch of physical labor, you’ll never want to be without them again. Sure, I admit I’ve gone soft and decadent, but you’ll have to fight me and kick my robotically fondled buttocks to change my mind.
The 2024 Sierra HD automatically comes with a 6.6-liter gas V-8 engine, but you can opt for a 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel for about $10,000, plus or minus a few bucks depending on the trim level. You also get the Allison 10-speed automatic transmission with the diesel, and for a little extra, you can also get the Allison transmission with an integrated power takeoff for farm equipment.
The diesel engine is good for 475 horsepower and 975 pound-feet of torque. With 10 gears to choose from, and low range 4WD because the Denali only comes with 4WD, there’s really nothing you can’t pull. Worth noting, the 3500HD with dually rear axle will pull up to 36,000 pounds, but if you get the 2500, you’ll have to be satisfied with 22,500 pounds of trailer.
Also worth noting is that there’s no place in the United States where it’s even legal to tow that much weight with a standard driver’s license. So it’s really unlikely you’ll ever have to worry about trailer weight as long as you own this truck.
As a heavy-duty diesel of appropriate gross weight, the Sierra HD is not subject to EPA fuel economy ratings, but real-world testing yielded a combined average of about 15 mpg for the Duramax. That’s unloaded and without towing anything, by the way.
Safety and Technology
As a heavy-duty truck, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offer crash test ratings for the Sierra 2500. But suffice it to say that as long as force equals mass times acceleration, you’re in just about the biggest, most massive thing on the road.
The basic safety gear present in all new vehicles is all there. This includes forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection, auto high beams and following distance indicator. Optionally, you can add blind-spot monitoring that extends to your trailer and rear cross-traffic alerts. These are so basic now that it’s a little bit odd that GMC is charging extra for them.
GMC also offers some excellent options for trailering, including the “transparent trailer view” that shows you what’s following behind your trailer, if you invest in a camera back there. This comes along with 14 different trailer views, all of which are useful.
There’s also a weight alert that tells you if you’ve likely exceeded the trailer weight rating. If you did, it’s probably because you’re attempting to tow a neutron star. You can also get adaptive cruise control that works while trailering, which is great but as someone who’s been towing substantial loads for about 30 years, it would still make me nervous to trust the adaptive system.
If you buy the high-end trim, you expect to have some fancy tech, and GMC delivers. The Denali Ultimate comes with a 13.4-inch, tablet-style touchscreen. You also get the optional 15-inch color head-up display and a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with the Denali Ultimate trim. It all works very well, and the audio sounds good. If you need it, the system is compatible with both wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, and there’s a wireless charging pad.
Driving the Sierra HD is generally good, but I found the suspension to be a bit bouncy on bumps. Normally the selling point of a 3/4-ton or 1-ton pickup is that they soak up the bumps really well, but the Sierra seemed to err on the side of being too firm. Perhaps if it had a trailer putting some downforce on the rear end, it would smooth out.
The 6.6-liter diesel engine is nothing less than fantastic, and it’s well-mated to the Allison 10-speed transmission. For as big as this truck is, it’s also fast, and you’ll have no trouble believing in that 22,500-pound towing capacity. If I had to tow a big trailer across country, this would be a great choice to arrive feeling fresh and alert.
When it comes to steering and handling, the Sierra does as well as a big heavy-duty truck can do. No one’s cross shopping this rig with a Maverick, right? It’s as good as any comparable truck, and they’re all much better than trucks of even just a few years ago.
2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate Specifications
|Dimension||L: 250.1 inches/W: 81.9 inches/H: 79.8 inches/Wheelbase: 158.9 inches|
|Powertrain||6.6-liter turbocharged diesel V-8 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission and 4WD|
|Fuel Economy||15 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||475 horsepower and 975 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $42,200; As tested: $94,835 including $1,895 destination charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The Denali and Denali Ultimate trim levels are their own animal at GMC, and they’re only about $1,000 – $2,000 apart, so you might as well go Ultimate. The Ultimate package adds the head-up display, a power sunroof, the camera-based rear-view mirror, and you get the option of retractable running boards. So why not? You’re already spending in the vicinity of $90,000. You might also check out the Denali Black Diamond Package, which gives you most of the same stuff. If all this is just too much money, you can choose other GMC trims down to $42,200 for the most basic Pro trim with the 6.6-liter gas engine. As always, GMC is all about options.
2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate – Frequently Asked Questions
What do you get with the Denali Ultimate trim?
Leather-appointed, heated and massaged driver and front-passenger seating, real hardwood trim, large tablet style infotainment, navigation, suede-like headliner, sunroof, camera rear-view mirror and more.
Is the Denali or AT4 better?
They’re different. The AT4 offers more off-road features, while the Denali is more luxurious. You can get both packages on most GMC models.
Is the GMC Sierra better than the Chevrolet Silverado?
GMC and Chevrolet trucks are mechanically identical. The only significant difference is that GMC is a premium luxury variant.