Test Drive: GMC Sierra Pickup Exudes Luxury

Not that long ago, it was considered eye-popping to price a vehicle at $100,000 or more. 

While that's not exactly the the norm these days, it’s become more and more common. This comes at a time when 60% of consumers planning to get a new car say affordability is impacting their purchase decision, according to a recent study by GfK AutoMobility.

Nearly half (47%) of affected intenders -- and 29% of those who plan to buy in the next 12 months -- report that they will postpone their purchase by more than one year. 

With the average price of a new car approaching $50,000, and many buyers still paying MSRP or above, affordability remains top of mind for millions of car shoppers. 

Money worries are having a big effect on near-term millennial auto intenders, with 66% reporting that price is impacting their car purchase decision, per GfK AutoMobility.

Almost four in 10 (37%) near-term millennials say they would cut expenses in other areas to afford a new vehicle, while 31% say they would switch to a lower-cost model, and 29% plan to look for longer-term financing.

One vehicle that might be out of range for many of those buyers is the GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate. I recently had the opportunity to test drive the $81,355 pickup truck for a week -- and while it had many bells and whistles, it’s not for everyone. 

On the plus side, it has wireless Apple CarPlay. I’m at the point where I feel like this should be standard on all vehicles, so I was happy to see it here. Just like voice-to-text on your smartphone, you can use the interface to dictate voice messages. 

There was some garbled text. It was unclear if the fault was my not speaking slowly and clearly enough, or the truck’s 12-speaker Bose Premium Series with Centerpoint surround sound not picking up all my speech. It was a minor thing, though, and more amusing than annoying. 

Another plus is the opulent interior, which includes full-grain leather massaging front seats and a premium microsuede headliner.  A  laser-etched, open-pore Paldao wood is on the dashboard and nods to the topography of Mount Denali throughout the cabin.

On the downside, it’s quite a large vehicle to maneuver and park. The configuration I drove (crew cab with a short bed) is about six inches longer than a GMC Yukon XL SUV. While its 6.2L diesel engine is a workhorse, it gets terrible gas mileage: 22 city and 27 highway.

While Super Cruise is standard on the Sierra Denali Ultimate, the vehicle I drove didn’t have the hands-free driving feature due to industrywide microchip shortages. GMC says it is currently building Denali Ultimate trucks equipped with Super Cruise that are making their way to customers soon.

If you really want a six-figure pickup truck, you can hold out for the GMC Sierra EV Denali next year. But you might have to wait a while.  Reservations for the $107,000 electric pickup were filled and closed just 15 minutes after it debuted last October.

There's been a rapid increase in vehicle prices and an even quicker rise at the top end,  says Duncan Aldred, General Motors’ global vice president for Buick and GMC, Hummer EV.

"It's pretty amazing,"  Aldred told Automotive News. "A few years ago, when we were planning Hummer, the amount of vehicles sold over $100,000 in the entire industry was not that many. Now, that has radically changed in the last three years.”

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