Equestrian Living magazine was invited to take part in a weekend excursion to Saratoga Springs, New York, to preview the arrival of the next generation of GMC trucks, specifically the 2019 Sierra 1500 Denali pickup. The horsey location was chosen for equestrians who trailer horses.
A few days before the gathering, GMC delivered 10 “early-built” trucks to media people at locations on the east coast ranging from Maryland to me in Vermont. Then, everyone drove their fancy new trucks to meet at the Saratoga Polo Club for a delicious lunch and afternoon on the polo grounds. Unfortunately, the extreme heat and humid weather prevented the planned polo game from taking place, but it was replaced by an interesting demonstration by well-known professional Kuco Escapipe and a few of the college students he coaches from nearby Skidmore College.
However, the afternoon was not only about polo, but all about the truck. A GMC representative enthusiastically demonstrated all of the features and capabilities of the truck. His goal was to have a tailored experience, and he was able to speak to everyone’s interests. Knowing that our group was interested in trailering horses, he made a point of loading a two-horse tag-along with the weight of a horse. All of us had a chance to drive the loaded trailer. It was an easy tow; you could hardly feel that the trailer was behind you. We even tried driving through mud.
One of the features that I appreciated was the various settings on camera, with zoom and tilt functionality. You could see on either side of the trailer, look from above with an aerial view, and best of all, see the trailer hitch. Being able to see the hitch is especially helpful when you need to hook up a trailer when you are alone. Further easing towing and trailering tasks are an auto-electric parking brake and trailer theft detection, which sends alerts if the trailer is tampered with. Additional features include a multicolor head-up display, an improved infotainment interface (the Denali trim comes standard with an 8.0-inch navigation-equipped screen) and safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and low-speed automated emergency braking are available as well.
Whoever designed this truck definitely understands that you sometimes need to work in the bed. The Denali’s features are designed to ease getting in and out of, or reaching into the bed. The bed itself is carbon fiber lined with a permanent protective coating. Called the CarbonPro, it replaces the steel inner panels and floor with a carbon-fiber composite that GMC says better protects against dents, scratches, and corrosion and is 62 pounds lighter than the standard steel box. It has a number of places for tie downs and ways to place cross boards to allow for two-tier storage. Motorized side steps rise to meet you, and they also move rearward to allow easy access to the bed from the sides.
But the highlight definitely was the industry-first six-function tailgate, which GMC calls the MultiPro Tailgate. Its only available on GMC’s version, and its design is ingenious.
It has multiple positions to accommodate carrying supplies that might be longer than the bed, but—best of all—it transforms into steps, so you don’t have to clumsily climb up into the bed. There is even an option to have speakers in the gate for music at tailgate parties or on the job.
Best of all was the way truck felt on the curvy backcountry roads of Vermont. The ride is smooth, and the ease of handling made it feel to me more like a crossover SUV than a truck.
The Denali cabin is quiet, luxuriously comfortable, and all controls are handy and easy to access. Apple CarPlay worked easily with my iPhone, and the Bose sound system was crystal clear playing my iTunes.
All who attended the event agreed it that was great fun to be among the first to drive these brand new trucks. We didn’t want to return them when the weekend ended. As for me, my beloved 2002 GMC 3500 dually is feeling like an antique.