Back to Online Towing Guide Home Page
Towing Tests
Video Tips
Online Towing Guide Towing Blog
Vehicle Maintenance
State Towing Laws

2005 GMC Sierra Crew Cab Denali

Height of Luxury

GMC’s Sierra Crew Cab Denali hits a high mark in the luxury truck market.

Leather seating. Thick-pile carpeting. Custom instrument cluster and console. All-wheel drive and standard 17-inch wheels with optional 20-inch “dubs.”

Just reading some of the features on GMC’s new Sierra Crew Cab Denali may have you believe we’re talking about a European sports sedan and not, well, a pickup truck.

The above are a few of the more notable features on GMC’s 2005 Sierra Crew Cab Denali, a truck as suited to coddling its passengers in decadent comfort as it is to clawing across snow-packed roads and hauling boats up launch ramps.

It’s safe to say the Crew Cab Denali doesn’t drive like a German sports sedan, but for a truck capable of towing 8,100 pounds, this GMC is among the best in terms of ride quality and handling.

For example, the Denali delivered a downright nice ride in town. Here in Ventura, Calif., the city streets are often missing patches of asphalt, which expose either old concrete or gravel. There are also innumerable large gaps in road seams, tar snakes and, of course, rather rough sections of concrete on Highway 101.

The Denali soaked up all but the largest of the bumps and kept them from jarring passengers. Even on the bumpy sections of freeway, which bring out the worst in the trucks we test, the Denali offered a ride that’s easy to live with every day. No doubt the 143.5-inch wheelbase helped, as did the double A-arms and torsion bars up front, and the three-leaf springs at the rear.

With a boat in tow, the ride was softer, which caused the rear end to undulate a bit more over wavy sections of freeway. We were pulling a 24-foot Nordic, which weighs 6,500 pounds on a trailer, some 1,600 pounds under the Denali’s towing capacity. Perhaps some more compression and rebound damping in the rear shocks would help without sacrificing ride comfort.

However, we can’t say anything negative about the engine. Capable of 345 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 375 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm, the 6.0-liter Vortec spun up to 4,400 rpm to maintain 60 mph up a 2-mile-long, 7-percent grade. Drop the cruise setting to 55 mph and the truck would torque the load uphill in third gear at about 3,500 rpm.

That may not sound like much, but consider that the Denali gives up 17 horsepower and 25 foot-pounds of torque to the Ford F-250’s 6.8-liter V-10. Yet it felt stronger when pulling the same boat.

It also netted better fuel mileage, even with all-wheel drive and a 4.10:1 rear axle ratio. Without a boat, around town, the Denali averaged about 14 mpg. Obviously, fuel mileage dropped while towing.

What’s more, the truck was a fairly spirited performer. We took it from zero to 60 mph in the 7-second range, which is impressive for a 5,500-pound vehicle. The cable-less, drive-by-wire system provided crisp throttle response and excellent tip-in acceleration. At the ramp, it was easy to modulate the throttle smoothly.

Thanks to its all-wheel drive, the Denali never spun a tire, at the ramp, around corners or accelerating through gravel. According to GMC literature, the system splits engine torque, roughly 60 percent to the rear wheels and 40 percent to the front. In addition, the rear axle has a locking differential for increased traction.

As nice as it was, all-wheel drive may be superfluous for Southern California or other warm climates where it doesn’t snow. Two-wheel drive is available on the four-door Sierra, but all-wheel drive is standard equipment on the Denali. In other words, if you want a Denali, you get all-wheel drive.

The Denali’s has an “advanced vacuum-boost brake system, which provides excellent stopping power for high deceleration stops and improved pedal effort and feel during normal operation.”

The system appears to be an electronically controlled vacuum-accumulator tank on the brake booster. Pedal effort was minimal but braking power was strong. Antilock mode worked smoothly and quietly, in gradual engagement and panic stops, with very little tire chatter. Like lots of vacuum-boost systems, it felt a tad spongy. The truck made acceptable lane changes in antilock mode and remained north-south in its lane during straight-line panic stops. Nice engineering.

You also get some great features on the Denali. In addition to the aforementioned leather seats, custom dash and console trim and thick-pile carpeting, the Denali comes with color-matched exterior door and tailgate handles, body-side moldings and mirrors. You also get tubular chrome running boards with integral mud guards and a Denali-specific grille and lamps. We could have done without the running boards. The truck’s ride height was such that they weren’t necessary for ingress and they soiled your pant leg on egress. They would be the first thing we’d remove after we drove home from the dealership.

We loved the optional rear-seat entertainment system, which added $1,295 to the price. The system came with a 7-inch flat screen that flipped down from a console on the headliner, two wireless infrared headsets, a wireless remote control and three sets of auxiliary audio/video inputs.

Up front, the Denali came with a six-disc CD changer in the console and XM satellite radio, which added $325 to the price tag. For your money, you get a year of XM service, and if you like, you can include the monthly XM fees in your GMAC financing after the first year.
GMC literature says there’s room for up to six passengers in the Denali but we think five adults is about as many people as we’d squeeze into it. The requisite self-behind-self test was a little tight for 6-plus footers, but not cramped.

If you need a luxurious four-door truck that offers premium amenities and a decent ride, the Sierra Crew Cab Denali is a fine choice. If you need something that can tow up to 8,100 pounds and offers the traction of all-wheel drive, the Denali delivers that, too. It’s a great choice if you can afford only one vehicle—and can’t afford to make any sacrifices.


EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City... 12 mpg
Highway... 16 mpg

0-60 towing... 15.77 seconds
40-60 towing... 8.61 seconds
0-60 non-towing... 7.32 seconds
40-60 non-towing... 4.42 seconds

Engine... 6.0-liter Vortec V-8
Horsepower... 345 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque... 375 foot pounds at 4,000 rpm
Compression ratio... 10:1
Transmission... 4L65-E four-speed electronic automatic

Axle ratio... 4.10:1
Fuel capacity... 26 gallons
Tire size... P265-70R-17
Brakes... Four-wheel disc with antilock
Suspension... Front: Independent, dual A-arms with torsion bars; Rear: three-leaf with live axle

Curb weight... 5,478 pounds
Tow rating... 8,100 pounds
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating... 7,000 pounds
Gross Combined Weight Rating... 15,300 pounds

Overall length... 230.2"
Maximum width... 78.5"
Wheelbase... 143.5"

Base price...$41,735
Price as tested... $44,205

1994 Nordic 24
7,500 lbs.

Customer service... 800-462-8782
Web site...


Home | Choosing a Vehicle | Choosing a Trailer | Maintenance | Hitch Types | Towing Guidelines | About Us | Contact
Online Towing Guide ©2010 Quench Media, LLC