In the truck world, few things matter as much as capability and versatility. With multiple upgrades, new comfort equipment and extra safety features, the new 2012 GMC Sierra HD line of trucks are claimed to be some of the most capable machines on the market. We took a top spec Sierra Denali 2500HD and decided to put it through its paces and see just how well it stands up to the competition.

Being that this is the Denali model, our truck came packed with all sorts of fancy goodies. On the visual side of things we have a massive chrome grille, chrome trim pieces and body colored bumpers. To add some extra visual pizzaz, our big pickup came with 20-inch wheels, a power sunroof and 6-inch chrome tube steps. While the standard Vortec V8 is more than capable of hauling around all this extra jewelry, a big truck needs a big engine and ours had one. The engine in our 2500 is none other than the 6.6-liter Duramax turbo diesel. With nearly 400 horsepower and 765 lb/ft of torque there are very few things it can’t pull. Of course to get the most from any engine you need a good transmission, so we also have the optional Allison 1000 6-speed automatic.

Photos Copyright Christian Moe ©2012

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To increase the ability of the Sierra HD, a variety of enhancements have been made for 2012. Larger rear springs and U-bolts, revised rear axle tubes and shock tuning, as well as revised pickup box cross sills and other structural enhancements combine to push the Sierra HD to the top of the class. The effect of all these combined upgrades give the Sierra HD best-in-class maximum towing capacity (23,000 lbs), maximum payload (7,215 lbs) and gross combined weight rating (GCWR 30,500 lbs). To make easier use of this capability, the Sierra HD has several convenience features aimed at improving the ease of towing. Hill start assist makes starting on a grade a much less nerve wracking scenario, while the trailer sway control helps prevent your trailer from trying to outrun the truck. The smart exhaust brake and automatic grade braking help to ensure your load never gets away from you, and the integrated trailer brake control coupled with the intelligent brake assist and larger brakes make sure coming to a halt is accomplished quickly and safely.

All this power, capability and chrome, doesn’t come cheap though. Our Steel Gray Metallic Crew Cab tester rings in with an as-tested price of $62,859, including destination. That is more than $14,000 over the base 2500 Denali, and a staggering $33,000 over a base 2500HD. Ignoring the price, one things is evident the moment you see this truck; it is very impressive. From its extended length, to its leather interior and its diesel engine roar, this truck is like few vehicles on the road.

The interior is wide and accommodating, even for rear seat passengers. The front thrones were covered in leather and featured both heating and cooling. The dash is covered in wood similar to that found in the Acadia Denali we reviewed earlier this year, but the mahogany colored wood looks much more natural than the gray of that SUV. The center of the dash is dominated by a 7-inch touchscreen navigation unit with the climate controls and various trailering buttons below that. While the organization and switchgear is good, we just wish GM would have used a higher quality plastic in the surround. We just expect better in a $60,000+ vehicle.

One thing is for certain though, the first time you press the accelerator with any sort of fervor you will forgive many of the trucks minor transgressions. The full force of the near 800 lb ft of torque comes on in big chunks very early in the rev range. It’s a feeling so powerful you would swear, with enough traction, you could make the earth spin backwards. We decided that with any truck you can’t actually review it without hauling or towing something, so we did. There just so happened to be a Subaru Outback that needed to be moved.

If there is anything truck does well, its tow. While the 6,000 lb combined weight of Subaru and trailer is far from the 13,000-pound capacity of the truck, we were still very impressed with how easy the haul was. The phrase, ” Like there was nothing back there.” couldn’t be more true for the situation. We may as well have been pulling a helium balloon. Not only did the engine not realize a Subaru was attached to the back, the fuel gauge didn’t notice either. With an observed 16.8 mpg on the 37 mile drive, fuel economy was more than acceptable considering we were towing nearly as much weight as the truck itself.

Our truck was also equipped with a 4WD system that we felt needed to be tested. We found a remote area in the area near the mountains where they had piled dirt after a construction project and a multitude of quad-bike tracks let us know that this could be a good testing ground. A quick twist on the dash mounted knob alters the transfer cases to put us in the selected mode, and off through the dirt we went. We have to say that while we were out of the trucks natural territory, we were surprised with how well the Sierra found grip when there seemed to be nothing. Of course this truck isn’t suited to any serious off-road adventures thanks to its extended wheelbase, but if you ever found yourself in a low traction situation, this Denali should be able to pull itself free.

The GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD has been an enigma to us. Putting such plush amenities in a such a large truck that is so well equipped for working seemed like an odd choice, and even the engine seems to be over-equipped to handle anything that a buyer would ever need. That said, there is no denying that this truck is able to serve multiple purposes with its clash of luxury and capability. Last year when we reviewed the 2011 model we found the truck to be extremely capable and luxurious, but it seemed out place to have interior appointments in a truck so powerful. That still stands today, but just like last year, we can’t help but love the overpowered engine and juxtaposed cabin/purpose. The 2012 Sierra Denali 2500HD is utterly pointless, amazingly powerful and incredibly wonderful.