2021 GMC Sierra Denali Review: A Real Luxury Truck

In places like Miami Beach or L.A., you can impress people by driving around town in a fancy Italian sports car or a German-engineered sedan.

But in Texas, a pickup truck is the ultimate status symbol. It is not unusual to see people driving trucks that cost upwards of $70,000 and have more space than many New York apartments.

One of the most coveted pickup trucks is the GMC Sierra Denali.

I spent a week with the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab Denali and I understand why people love these trucks so much.

2021 GMC Sierra Denali Review: A Real Luxury Truck

What is Special About Denali?

2021 GMC Sierra Denali

The Denali brand accounts for about 20% of GMC’s sales, making it one of GM’s most successful sub-brands.

The term Denali was derived from native Alaskan’s name for the tallest mountain in North America (formerly named Mount McKinley). The generally accepted translation is, “The Great One.”

This is a bold choice for a vehicle nameplate, but GMC’s vehicles generally live up to the moniker.

In 1999, GM added the Denali nameplate to the top-of-the-line version of the GMC Yukon as an alternative to the more expensive Cadillac Escalade. 

Since then, GMC has added other vehicles to the Denali line up including the Acadia, Canyon, Sierra, and Sierra HD.

Vehicles with the Denali trim option carry list prices up to 47% higher than those of the regular models. For the 2021 GMC Sierra, the Denali Ultimate Package adds an additional $4,910 to the base price (before other options). But is this increased price worth it?

The answer is yes!

Denali has become synonymous with luxury, professional-grade craftsmanship, and a dedication to quality and performance.

Here are three benefits of the Denali brand.

Premium Interiors

Comfortable leather-appointed, heated seats, with unique trims and stitching detail, quiet cabins, soft-touch surfaces, and aluminum trim, are a few of the luxurious upgrades you’ll get in a Denali.

Bold Exteriors

From confident lines to signature styling cues, Denali vehicles make a lasting impression.

Key exterior design features include Iconic headlamps, beautiful aluminum wheels, distinctive chrome accents, and the signature chrome Denali grille.

You can also choose from a variety of luxurious exterior colors.

Latest Safety and Infotainment Technology

Denali vehicles offer a comprehensive suite of driver assistance and active safety technologies to help make you aware of potential hazards.

The GMC Infotainment System features luxuries such as built-in Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay compatibility, and Android AutoTM connectivity.

You can also get an optional 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot that lets you connect up to 7 devices. 

Overview of the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali

2021 gmc denali truck

First of all, I love the way this truck looks. The exterior is well designed and exudes luxury. The Cayenne Red Tintcoat and blacked-out 20″ wheels on my review model are a perfect combination.

To show off this truck’s beauty, I drove it to a high-end fundraising event. When I pulled up to the valet parking area, I saw a line of luxury and performance vehicles, some of which cost more than my house.

The valet who took my vehicle was instantly impressed.

“This truck is gorgeous,” he said. “You can have those Porsches and Benzs. This is my dream vehicle.”

I gave the valet a high-five and puffed out a chest a little more as I handed him the key.

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2021 GMC Sierra Denali Interior

gmc sierra 1500 interior balck

The cabin is huge and comfortable. My three teenage children easily fit in the back seat and my dad, who is 6’1, had plenty of headroom and legroom in the front seat. 

I like that you can adjust the 10-way power-adjustable bucket seats to find your perfect driving position.

I also appreciated the many storage options available in the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali.

sierra storage options

In addition to the standard center console and glove box storage, there are two storage compartments inside the rear outboard seatbacks and under-seat storage.

sierra storage

One thing I didn’t like was the tiny rearview mirror. It seemed out of place in this m cabin. The small size actually limited my field of vision while driving. I hope GMC installs a larger rearview mirror in future models. 

I also had to get used to the gear shift being on the steering column. Placing it there made room for the wireless charging pad, but I found myself reaching for the center column every time I needed to shift gears.

2021 GMC Sierra Denali Performance

gmc sierra denali truck

The Sierra is available with five different engines, three different transmissions, and rear- or all-wheel drive.

The base setup is a 285-hp V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic. The available 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 pairs with a six- or eight-speed automatic.

My test model was equipped with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive.

I appreciated the extra power boost when I had to accelerate on the busy Houston highways. 

I have to admit that I’ve driven trucks with a much smoother ride. Although I enjoy all the benefits of a truck, I don’t like to be reminded I’m driving a truck.

However, if you prefer your truck to feel like a truck, you’ll enjoy driving the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali.

As far as fuel economy goes, the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali is average. Standard pickup trucks range from 14 to 27 MPG (combined city and highway). The 2021 GMC Sierra Denali has a combined fuel economy of 17 MPG.

Final Thoughts about the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab Denali

sierra 1500 denali tailgate

If you’re in the market for a luxury pickup truck, then the 2021 GMC Sierra Denali is a great choice. 

It is well-designed with a roomy interior and several standard features including:

  • High-strength roll-formed steel,  durable bed floor
  • Standard spray-on truck bed liner 
  • Corner steps on bumpers with large footwells and anti-slip texture
  • Multi-function tailgate
  • Dual exhaust


  • Well-designed exterior
  • Well-equipped with standard options
  • Roomy cabin with lots of storage


  • Tiny rearview mirror limits field of vision
  • The ride is a bit rougher than other trucks
  • The gear shift on the steering wheel takes time to get used to
  • Average fuel economy

Price as tested – $71,910

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