SANTA BARBARA, CA — Let's hope that the “Industrial Precision” themeCorp. designers are using to craft forthcoming GMC products doesn't deviate too much from the brand's current physique.
GMC has the best-looking trucks in GM's lineup, and it doesn't threaten that reputation with its latest entrants, the Sierra C3 pickup and Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali sport/utility vehicles. They work equally well as either sleek street machines or tough backcountry haulers. The trucks prove their mettle in a Southern California test drive that features a variety of driving environments, including a traffic jam in Pismo Beach (no, we didn't take a wrong turn at Albuquerque).
The slow drive in traffic works out fine, though. The gradual pace gives everyone a better chance to look at these sleds — the full-chrome grilles with hundreds of small inlets, the smooth hood lines and the headlamps' crystal cavern-like appearance. The sides feature a whisper-of-a-line over the wheel hubs, and no abrupt corners that would draw more attention to these vehicles' mammoth broadsides.
Inside, Sierra C3, Yukon Denali Yukon and XL Denali (formerly Suburban) feature a single-port 6-disc CD player, a redesigned instrument panel with white dial pointers and teal-colored gauge cluster backlighting. OnStar and a driver information center are standard, and there are various audio system enhancements, such as the SUVs' 11-speaker, 250-watt stereo. Second row captain's chairs are available with XL, and so are sunroofs on all the models.
Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali are powered by the same engine offered in the Cadillac Escalade SUV — GM's new 6L Vortec V-8 with 320 hp. That's more than what's offered by's counterparts. And the powerplant performs admirably. Although not particularly punchy, considering the minimum curb weight of the Yukon/Yukon Denali is 5,450 lbs. (2,472 kg) and 5,850 lbs. (2,654 kg), respectively. Despite being so large, the SUVs ride and react well, thanks to the Autoride automatic shock damping adjustment system, 5-link rear suspension with coil springs, fully boxed frame and torsion-bar front suspension. Only full-time all-wheel drive is offered.
People in warmer climates might want the option of not paying for awd, especially considering the hefty base sticker price: $46,650 for Yukon Denali and $48,185 for the XL.
Sierra C3 also has a hefty sticker price. It starts at $38,305, which seems outrageous for a fullsize pickup, any way you cut it. GM bills it as a pickup that offers on-road performance and international flavor, but a manual gearbox is not an available option. What kind of performance consumers are they aiming for?
The good news for GM is that Sierra C3's substance makes up for some of the missteps.
There is a nice combination of hauling capabilities and raw speed (0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds); GM squeezed five more horses out of the 6L V-8 powerplant for a total of 325 hp. The suspension's capacity has been increased and the Z82 heavy-duty trailer package is standard. In fact, there are only two options: running boards and an engine block heater.