The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 sees a few upgrades for the new model year to make it a premium-level pickup truck. Add the Denali package, and the Sierra even rivals some luxury cars for comfort.
The 2015 model year adds a handful of updates to the GMC Sierra 1500, the premium truck maker’s half-ton pickup truck. A new V8 engine debuts, as does a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The Denali trim level we drove also adds a standard spray-in bedliner and a new magnetic ride control suspension system.
The 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 is a capable, well-made truck with a solid reputation for premium-level interiors that are mated to work-ready exteriors and powertrains. Both two-wheel and four-wheel drive are available. A V6 and two V8 engine options are available and body styles range from regular (two or three seat) cab models to extended and crew cab trucks that seat up to six. Bed sizes range from 5-foot-8-inch short beds to full 8-foot beds. Trim levels include base, SLE, SLT and Denali, depending on the cab configuration chosen.
The hallmark of a GMC truck is its squared-off, yet premium appeal with a lot of chrome accenting. Some of that has been downplayed for the new Sierra, but in the Denali trim as we drove it, limousine black with heavy use of chrome, is still a popular package. This look might put off some, but it’s proven popular for the brand and GMC continues with it unabated. It’s a combination of strength and showiness that really hits the mark for many.
Standard Sierra trucks have a wide crossbar grille that’s decked out in chrome.
The Denali trim adds its unique rounded mesh chrome grille instead. Chrome bumpers and chrome accents on the wheel wells, running boards and along the door sills are also the norm. Big, squared wheel wells with matching square bulges tower over the tires and wheels on the truck’s sideline. Everything about the 2015 GMC Sierra denotes power and panache.
Our Denali package included the optional 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. Chrome-accented steps and the rear bumper cutouts for easier bed access are standard. The power sunroof is an option we also enjoyed.
Cargo bed sizes are offered based on the cab size. A 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 with a standard (Regular) cab comes standard with a 6-foot-6-inch bed and has an 8-foot long bed option. Extended cabs come standard with a 6-foot-6-inch bed as well. Crew cabs also have the 6-foot-6-inch bed, or a 5-foot-8-inch short bed with built-in fittings for an in-bed camper. All beds come with spray-in bedliner and tie-downs. Some, such as our Denali test model, have a locking ‘EZ Lift-and-Lower’ tailgate.
Few trucks can match the interior of the 2015 GMC Sierra, especially with the top Denali package. The base model includes a lot of amenities and creature comforts, however, that shouldn’t be forgotten. At all levels, GMC trucks are premium-level for the segment. This shows the most in the interior.
Seating in the front is well made and comfortable without being soft. Materials are greatly improved, however, with more soft-touch plastics and better leather throughout. Our test Sierra Denali featured interior quality that matched or exceeded many luxury sedans we’ve driven.
Options such as heated seating, the huge storage compartment under the center armrest – with extras such as tablet/notebook storage, file folder hangers, and the movable drink holders – are all great updates. The IntelliLink infotainment system, variations of which appear in Chevrolet, GMC, and other brands, is top shelf and among some of the best in the business.
For the driver, instrumentation is clear and easy to read with a lot of information being available at any given time. In upper trims, variable instruments such as pitch/yaw-angle gauges for off road, trailer brake information and a lot more can be had. Small, digital readouts are also present for engine oil pressure, water temperature and fuel are also there, as is a handy compass. To the left of that are controls for trailer braking, 2WD and 4WD shifting and lighting.
In the extended and crew cab models, rear seating is very comfortable. In the crew cab, the back seat rivals the front for comfort and includes more adjustability than expected. In both, the rear seats fold up to allow flat access to the floor for storage or large items in a split-fold configuration that lifts the seat bottoms upward. Thanks to new plastic-covered loops, installation of child safety seats is also much easier in the rear than it’s been before.
The base engine for the 2015 Sierra 1500 is a 4.3-liter V6 that outputs 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. It can be had in rear- or four-wheel drive. Maximum towing with this engine is 7,200 pounds, an excellent capacity for a six-cylinder truck.
The EPA gives this engine and transmission combination in the Sierra a rating of 20 mpg combined (18/24 mpg city/highway) with rear-wheel drive and 19 mpg combined (17/22 mpg) for four-wheel drive.
Standard on the Sierra SLT and Denali and optional on other trims is a 5.3-liter V8. This outputs 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque through the same six-speed automatic. Towing with this engine is rated at 11,200 pounds. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg combined (16/23 mpg) for the rear-wheel drive Sierra and 18 mpg combined (16/22 mpg) for the four-wheel drive model.
Optional on the SLT and Denali trims is a new 6.2-liter V8 engine that offers 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This engine turns a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Towing is rated at up to 12,000 pounds. The EPA rates this powertrain combination at 15/21 mpg city/highway, or 17 mpg combined. Our test truck with this engine proved to be powerful, capable and sure-footed.
Most of the technology in the Sierra 1500 centers on GMC’s IntelliLink system. With the 8-inch touch screen (a 4-inch screen is standard in lower trims), this infotainment system becomes an easy-to-use interface that offers plenty of tech options. It can be slow to respond and voice control is often iffy.
Synching a smartphone and playing music or making phone calls is relatively breezy, though, and most common things such as navigation and radio tuning are a snap.
Our Denali trim package came with no less than five USB ports, an auxiliary audio input, a spare SD card slot for music (the other was for the navigation) and more. A 110-volt outlet up front plus four 12-volt plugins throughout the cabin finish off the extreme amount of connections available with the Denali package.
Standard in all GMC trucks is Chevrolet’s OnStar system with automatic crash notification, roadside assistance and other services. Other standard safety equipment is robust and includes trailer sway control. Options such as a rearview camera and forward collision alert are available.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2015 Sierra with a top 5-Star rating overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-tested the Sierra 1500 for the moderate-overlap frontal offset, giving the truck a top rating of “Good.” They have not tested it otherwise.
Regular cab, base model 2015 Sierra 1500 pickups start just below $27,000 with most buyers landing in the middle ground trim levels and cab configurations at the $35,000 to $40,000 range.
Given the upscale fittings and premium interior of the Sierra, that price is not out of bounds with the rest of the market. The top-fit Denali as we drove it, however, rang in at a mind-boggling $57,820, delivered, making it a very expensive truck. Top packages from rivals run high as well, but none are that expensive.
If your pickup truck purchase is to buy a working vehicle, you may need to go elsewhere to find a more cost-effective choice. However, if your truck is as much for personal use as it is for work, then the GMC Sierra is a good option.
Like most luxury vehicles – and no mistake, the GMC Sierra 1500 is a premium and luxury vehicle – the cost-effectiveness will be in the eyes of the beholder rather than the accountant’s ledger.
For high-end truck buyers who need a well-built, comfortable truck suitable for work, play and the daily commute, the 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 is a solid choice. Most buyers are likely to end up in higher trims if personal comfort and usability are a must. The Sierra hits those marks well.
Compared to rivals like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra, we’d give the Sierra high marks for its no-nonsense comfort and excellent fit and finish. The interior of the Sierra Denali has no rival. In terms of capability (towing and hauling), the Sierra is on par with its competition in all respects, but the interior is what truly sells this truck.