2017 GMC Sierra HD Review

Making Hard Work Simple

The words luxury and truck only recently began to be uttered in the same sentence, and in that short time, the array of posh pickups available has exploded.

At GMC, nearly 50 percent of its trucks that find their way into customer’s driveways are sold in Denali trim, the top-notch package that looks to infuse high-level luxury features into each truck, SUV, or crossover sold.

New for 2017, GM has updated its HD pickups from both Chevy and GMC with an all-new 6.6-liter V8 Duramax diesel engine, keeping its numbers relevant in what seems like a constant battle for torque supremacy going on between the Big Three. With already proven levels of luxury, is this powertrain update enough to keep the truck in contention with its biggest competition, that being the brand with the blue oval on the hood?

Visually, there is one big change to the truck, but it’s also functional. Every GM HD with the Duramax diesel will now have a hood scoop, feeding a ram-air system that lets the engine ingest cooler air that has had the moisture removed. Chevy says that this is helping the engine put out its maximum power in a wider range of circumstances than before. Power numbers are up significantly as well.


GM is back in the torque wars. The redesigned engine keeps its overall layout, bore, stroke and name, but just about everything else has been upgraded to provide more power while also curbing emissions by about 35 percent. In the horsepower department, the 445 horses provided are segment leading, while the 910 lb-ft of torque available from 1,550 rpm to 2,850 rpm trail behind the competition by a small margin.

In the towing wars, GM goes conservative, with a max tow rating of 16,400 lb for the 2500 and 23,300 lb for the 3500, not coming close to the more than 30,000 lb offered by both of its competitors. But this is a calculated decision. Rather than chase massive numbers, GMC says it focuses on the bulk of its customers who are regularly towing between 12,000- and 15,000 lb. And that’s not just a marketing line.

Smooth Hauling

Pulling a fifth-wheel travel trailer around the hills of Utah with a 3500 dually gave us a chance to see how exactly the truck pulls and it didn’t disappoint. Granted, the trailer we towed tipped the scales at a little more than 7,000 lb, not exactly pushing the rig, but the power felt barely affected by such a load. Accelerating up steep grades was no issue for the powertrain, banging off quick well-timed shifts.


But as many truckers know, coming back down the grade can often be more nerve-wracking than heading up, but not so with the GMC. Switch into tow/haul mode, hit the exhaust brake toggle switch and the truck essentially does the rest. By tapping the brakes, you’re letting the computer know that you want to hold a desired speed, and it will automatically use a combination of the transmission, brakes and exhaust brake to keep your rig at a manageable speed. Holding 30 mph all the way down seemed easy for the truck during our testing. And to make things even easier, you can simply set the cruise control and the truck will do the rest, making sure to hold that speed.

This one feature embodies what this truck is really all about: keeping things as simple as possible for the driver, despite the load on the back. And GMC has thought of just about everything.

Last year, a new feature known as digital steering assist was introduced that is able to adjust the effort of the power steering system, allowing it to be light in parking lots but heavy on the highway when on-center feel is important. But the system goes another step to provide ease of use by counter-acting the crown in the road without the driver needing to pull down on the wheel.


Driving empty or loaded down the interstate, it becomes clear quickly that only minimal input is needed in this wheel to keep this truck tracking straight.

Taking a page from the Ford Super Duty’s book, GM has introduced a new camera system that is available as an option, although this system seems superior to the one offered by its main crosstown rival. Cameras mounted to the underside of the mirrors show you exactly what’s beside the truck, including what’s beside your trailer. What is unique is that these cameras automatically turn on when the corresponding turn signal is activated, and if you so choose, the camera can stay on with no speed restrictions. Besides these two, there are also cameras that can show the bed and an extra lens that attaches to the rear of a trailer, connecting with the truck wirelessly to display what’s behind your towable.

The way this truck drives just melts miles, and it doesn’t hurt that the interior isn’t a bad place to be.

Posh Pickups

Opting for the Denali package brings along amenities like 20-inch wheels and body-color bumpers to make sure folks on the outside of the truck know what it is, but it’s inside that the package shines. A gorgeous customizable eight-inch driver display provides info in a clean, engaging way, while wireless phone charging, stitched leather seats and chrome trim are what really put the tuxedo on this truck.

Besides the Denali-specific upgrades, GMC simply lays out its interiors well for functionality and ease of use. Large switch gear and a simple to use infotainment system once again add to this HD’s ethos: keep it simple. Even tactilely, GMC pays attention, with excellent feeling rubber wrapped buttons on the steering wheel and large switches on the center stack presenting options, such as the exhaust brake, simply and easily.


Pay the Price

In the U.S., a basic GMC 2500HD will leave dealers for $35,085, though load it up with dual rear wheels, the Denali package, four-wheel drive and all the interior amenities like a rear seat entertainment system and the price climbs to just north of $70,000.

Sticker shock on trucks is common these days, but that is right in line with what luxury HDs are selling for these days, and actually undercuts the new Ford F-350 by a fair amount, as that truck can easily crest $80,000 with all the option boxes ticked.

In Canada, a GMC Sierra 3500 Denali starts at $73,870, while a base model GMC HD costs $41,930.


The Verdict: 2017 GMC Sierra HD Review

With the new Duramax under the hood, GM is simply offering more confidence when hauling in what was already a comfortable, stylish truck. Combine the extra power with a few new gadgets, and this truck adds up to one of the most comfortable big pickups on the market.

  • desuhu

    They’re just pricing these trucks out of reach of the average buyer, which is why we’re still driving our 2003 Silverado 2500HD with duramax/diesel and get 22 solo and about 12 towing a 15,000# 5th wheel. With only about 130,000 miles on this truck, it will have to do until we decide to hang it up and quit rving.

  • Mark Walker

    I’m with you on that. Still have my 2008 2500HD and it’s purring like a kitten. Love that truck. Paid for and reliable. Who needs a few more gadgets, especially for the price.

  • Bull Winkle

    I thought my 06 2500 4×4 with the LBZ optional diesel was a monster at 365 hp and 665 ft lbs of torque! LOVE that truck for a highway ride. Noting finer on the road,but it is a monster to try to drive in the city and park in parking lots. Most of the parking spots today are just about as wide as the truck,and with the 8 ft bed and extended cab,the truck is longer than the room I have to steer it into the parking spaces. So it gets saved for road trips and pulling a trailer.

  • That_Guy_in_Texas

    I agree.
    I did just buy a 2016 GMC 2500 4×4 a few months back, but it is my first truck….and I love this thing. I went all out and bought the Denali, knowing I will keep forever.

  • wcked1

    The Denali trim is just a way for GM to make a lot more money without really adding a lot of utility.

    This is strictly my opinion, but 20 inch wheels on an HD pickup makes about as much sense as a screen door on a sub. I had a 2008 Sierra 1500 Denali. Back then it was the only model available with the 6.2L V8 and came with AWD standard. While it’s not an HD, the current Denali 1500’s only offer minimal upgrades from the SLT and the 6.2L V8 is now a $2,500 “upgrade” that was previously included in the Denali price. The total price is now just ludicrous and I wouldn’t consider paying extra $$ for it.
    I bought a 2015 2500 HD but opted for the SLT model. It basically has everything the Denali has at a LOT lower price. I specifically DID NOT want the 20 inch wheels. The customizable display of the Denali is just another expensive gadget that will cost a ton to fix if it goes bad.
    To be honest, I also prefer the SLT grille to the over the top Denali grille and I think the standard SLT HD wheels look a lot better than the plain Denali wheels (why can’t GM design decent looking wheels? My 2008 Denali had the absolute ugliest looking wheels and the wheels on my 2002 Sierra were hideous – fortunately I chucked those long ago – still have that truck and love it.)
    I paid $54,000 out the door for my 2500HD SLT with sunroof, collision avoidance, running boards, and just about all the other goodies. I’ve thought about buying a new 2017 2500HD but they are as rare as hens teeth even now and it makes no sense to me to buy a truck that will be “last year’s model” in another 5-6 months, assuming you can even get one in the near future.

  • That_Guy_in_Texas

    “The Denali trim is just a way for GM to make a lot more money…”

    Not a “lot,” I don’t think. And yes, you pay a little extra to be “special,” but it’s not like you don’t get anything for it. And every manufacturer under the sun does this, though, and has for decades. That’s why they have different models, with different levels of trim, and always with some features that are only available by purchasing the more expensive packages.

    I didn’t start out wanting a Denali. In fact, I tried hard to avoid going with the most expensive model. I definitely wanted a sunroof, so that meant SLT, minimum. After adding the other features I wanted, it was no more than $3000 less than the Denali, if that. If I’m already spending $58k, another $3k for some (mostly) cosmetic perks is not too far out of line. Besides, I definitely like the look of the Denali much better than the SLT, which looks exactly like the other two models.

    All said, I paid $61,000, total, for my 2016 2500HD Duramax 4×4 with every upgrade but the upgraded sound system and rear entertainment system.

    On the 20 inch wheels… I could not agree with you more. I can’t stand the look of big rims. I lifted mine a few inches, added 37″x12″ tires, but only 18″ wheels. It looks so much better with a lot of tire and not a lot of rim.

    And I never chase after the latest models, that’s silly. Especially at these prices. I’ll drive my 2016 until the Duramax gives up and then get another one… Duramax, that is. 🙂

  • quit yur sniveling!

    I ordered a 2017 3500 4×4 Denali HD DURAMAX in OCTOBER 2016 and recieved it on December 30th, 2016. This is not a dually either and I ordered it with a long bed and camera system. I luv my NEW Truck!!!!!!!

  • Dick Day

    I bought a 2016 Denali Dually Diesel in November. I really like it. My fiancee and i tested all of the gm models and the Denali was the only one that did not bother her back because of its llimo style ride. Don’t understand why but the cheaper models just rode like trucks. Getting prox 13 mpg city and 17-18 highway unloaded. WIll be betting a fifth wheel/toyhauler this year and hope to start traveling more. Use the denali for hauling materials for a building we are restoring and it is great for that.
    Was thinking of waiting for a 2017 with the increased power/torque but i figure those improved power will come at a cost when it comes to fuel consumption. The 2016 has enough power for me and what i want to do with it. Big problem is trying to part this monster in a shopping center or restaurant parking lot. Went out and bought a 17 RAV 4 hybrid for getting around locally and i love it to. getting 31-35 mpg. The electronics on the rav are much more sophisticated than the denali. love both vehicles.

  • Gary Lee

    I have the 2017 Chevy version with the D-Max. Owned it for the past month & a half. Nice truck. Fully boxed frame with integral hitch receiver (adapter for the class III resides in a storage compartment right above the glove box). Engine compartment is packed- literally. Fuel filter is a cartridge type (like the old 6.5 diesels) and resides under the truck, just in front of the fuel tank. In-tank fuel pump that puts out 60 psi pressure = no need for a lift pump. (Hope that thing is reliable). Mileage is, as usual, proportional to the weight of your foot. That said, @ 64 mph, in cruise with little to a slight quartering tail wind, I’ve pulled 25-26 mpg at least twice now- which is reported on the information center (middle of the Instrument cluster) on both “last 25” and “last 50″ mile settings- empty 8 ft bed w/tail gate UP. Don’t care for the wide opening in the front bumper as the trans cooler is exposed and has already gotten nailed by road debris a couple of times. 17” 265/70 off road tires with aluminum wheels. I also question the location of the DEF tank- it hangs about as low as the frame behind the right-front wheel. Haven’t pulled anything heavy; it’s currently more of a highway driver as I add 600 miles/wk to the odometer. Sure hope it’s worth the price I paid for it. After 15 years with my ’01 D-Max and 440K miles, it was time….