First-Drive: 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate

GMC tosses us the keys to the all-new GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate to see what is premium luxury as well as Super Cruise.
GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate easter egg
The exterior of the GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate has plenty of easter eggs for owners to find. Steven Olsewski

I recently had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the all-new 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate with Super Cruise. The Sierra Denali Ultimate is billed as the most luxurious and advanced Sierra that GMC has ever produced.

Walking up to the Sierra Denali Ultimate for the first time, you start to notice differences and improvements over traditional Denali models. The traditional chrome Denali grilles have been switched out to an Ultimate exclusive dark Vader chrome. 

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Front Grille
The Vader chrome on the grille and GMC badging is exclusive to the Denali Ultimate. Steven Olsewski

The Vader chrome can be described as a smoked chrome or a dark nickel finish. It drastically improves the luxury appearance of the truck and is carried through the GMC badging on the grille and tailgate.

One other difference on the Denali Ultimate is its exclusive 22-inch low-gloss black aluminum wheels with machined accents. The wheels definitely give the truck a premium look — a look that a traditional aftermarket wheel would do.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate CarbonPro Bed
The CarbonPro bed on the Denali Ultimate has cut-outs and extra tie down locations for dirt bikes or a motorcycle. Steven Olsewski

The bed of the truck comes standard with the CarbonPro carbon-fiber composite bed. The CarbonPro bed is made from a carbon-fiber composite material that provides scratch, dent, and corrosion resistance. One feature of the CarbonPro bed that is great to see, especially as an off-roader, is the indentations on the cab side of the bed designed for tires of dirt and street bikes, along with two additional tie-down locations.

A luxury pickup wouldn’t be anything without the GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate’s standard 6.2-liter V-8 engine. One nice feature in the powertrain department is the available 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel engine, but regardless of engine choice, it is paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission.

The exterior looked great, along with all the refresh features for the 2022 models, but the interior is what makes the Sierra Denali Ultimate next-level.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate front seats
The GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate’s premium leather interior is a step up from traditional Denali models. Steven Olsewski

Luxury Interior

Opening the doors on the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate, you can see the amount of luxury put into the truck, from the topographical-map patterns and GPS coordinates of Mount Denali throughout the interior to the Alpine Umber interior featuring full-grain leather seating and authentic open-pore Paldao wood.

The level of detail and attention that I noticed while sitting in the truck for the first time was unparalleled to anything on the market. If you have ever been in a Denali, you know that the materials speak luxury, but the materials used in the Denali Ultimate take that up a notch.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Rear Seats
The rear seats on are just as decked out as the front on the GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate. Steven Olsewski

The leather used in the Denali Ultimate feels soft but durable and is on both the front and rear seats. The front bucket seats feature heated and ventilated 16-way power adjustments with massagers.

The pickup features full-grain leather-wrapped door panels with etched stainless-steel speaker grilles on both the front and rear doors. This was very important to the design team at GMC because they wanted to ensure that the premium luxury experience is carried throughout the truck.

The four-wheel-drive and light controls in the AT4X. Steven Olsewski

There is no shortage of tech in the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate, which features more than 40 inches of combined digital displays: 12.3-inch diagonal digital instrument cluster, 13.4-inch diagonal infotainment screen, and 15-inch-diagonal multicolor head-up display.

Rounding out the interior of the truck is a 12-speaker Bose Premium Series with Centerpoint surround sound. Centerpoint is a proprietary Bose algorithm to analyze the stereo signal and convert it into multiple channels, enabling greater detail when reproducing music from nearly any source.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate side view
The GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate is set up for both work and play. Steven Olsewski

Driving with Super Cruise

Any review isn’t complete without getting behind the wheel, but this drive would be a little different thanks to Super Cruise. Super Cruise functions with GMC Connected Services and uses real-time cameras, sensors, GPS, and lidar map data.

Super Cruise is available on more than 200,000 miles of compatible roads in the United States and Canada. It isn’t available on every road or side street but on major highways.

The Denali Ultimate has engine options
The Denali Ultimate has engine options with both the 6.2-liter V-8 and the 3.0-liter Duramx diesel engine. Steven Olsewski

I headed out in the Denali Ultimate to test Super Cruise on I-5 in Southern California. Engaging the system was not extremely difficult, but it did require multiple steps, including engaging adaptive cruise control. 

Once engaged and in Super Cruise, it takes over and continues driving, and will also change lanes if the auto lane change is activated. Giving up control to a vehicle can take some getting used to, but the system is safe.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Wheels
The black wheels with machine accents are exclusive to the Denali Ultimate. Steven Olsewski

I had an instance where the truck was getting ready to auto lane change, but the vehicle behind me changed lanes and accelerated to pass me. The Super Cruise system picked up the movement of the other vehicle, stopped our lane change, and waited until it was clear for us to change lanes.

The Super Cruise system not only relies on lidar map data, but it also uses numerous sensors and live time data to keep you safe. I am not one to give up control behind the wheel, hence why I do not co-drive off-road racing, but the system could react faster than I could and monitored everything around the truck, whereas a human simply can’t.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Mt Denali
The interior and exterior of the Denali Ultimate pay homage to Mount Denali with its topography and coordinates. Steven Olsewski

For those worried about others with this system falling asleep or being distracted, the system monitors all of that. The Driver Attention Camera system detects that the driver is paying attention to the road ahead monitoring both of the driver’s eyes, head movement, and location.

It is extremely hard to explain how well the system works without getting behind the wheel, so if you are on the fence, I highly recommend that you test-drive a vehicle with Super Cruise to see how well the system works.

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate MultiPro Tailgate
Easy access, bluetooth speakers, and stairs are all possible thanks to the MultiPro tailgate. Steven Olsewski

Final Impressions

Overall, the GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate is a step up in the luxury pickup market. After owning a Denali myself, I felt that the improvements and step up in luxury were noticeable. It isn’t just talk: The materials in the truck are truly an advancement from traditional Denali models and something that will be able to be seen and felt in showrooms.

The addition of Super Cruise and the wide array of technology included makes this a luxury truck that gives something back to you. Sit back, enjoy the seat massagers, and enjoy a safe ride. 

GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Beach
The GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate was fitting on the beach in Southern California. Steven Olsewski

The starting price of the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate is $82,795, including a $1,695 destination fee. If you are in the market for a luxury pickup, this is definitely the most luxurious pickup I have seen in recent years.