Many people picture the spectacular beaches and iconic cityscapes of areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco when they think of California. But the diverse terrain of areas outside of the major cities is truly a wonder to experience. Just beyond the chaos of the Silicon Valley, exists the lush Redwood forest area of the Santa Cruz Mountains that look closer to the planet of Endor than they do to Rodeo Drive. We took the latest in luxury trucking, the 2018 GMC Sierra Denali, for a weekend escape to this magical place. Would we be able to find the rough-and-tumble truck underneath all of the chrome wheels, plush leather seats, and Wi-Fi? Or is this city truck simply not made for an adventure in the wilderness of California?
On The Exterior
The GMC and Chevrolet twins have always played the also-ran role to the mighty Ford F-150 in the US. This latest styling update is bigger and bolder to try and steal some attention away from the refreshed 2018 Ford truck. The GMC Sierra Denali is especially striking with a huge “look at me” chrome grille, LED-framed headlights, and some of the most handsome stock 22″ wheels on any truck, ever. Our 4WD Crew Cab tester was draped in Dark Slate Metallic paint that matched the natural color where the green of the Redwoods met the deep blue sky. There is no arguing that this $64,000 truck is made to let the other contractors at the local diner know that you’ve “made it.” Power-folding chrome side steps and a new cornerstep in the rear bumpers made for easy ingress and egress of both the cabin and the 6.5′ bed.
Out In The Wilderness
Once you’ve climbed into the cabin, you are greeted with quality black leather and faux-wood plastic trim. Don’t expect European quality in the materials throughout the cabin, but the stitching and overall design are pleasing and heavy on utility. The center console is truly cavernous and ready to keep any electronic devices or even smaller animals close at hand. The seats are comfortable for longer trips and feature the “Denali” logo prominently on the headrest. A sunroof and power-sliding rear window help let a little bit of the mountain air pass through the cabin on the drive into town.
Under the hood, the Sierra Denali makes use of a powerful 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. The refined and luxurious appearance of the Denali hides the fact that this truck can melt rubber from a stand-still. Staying in the power band up a curvy mountain highway is no problem for this Sierra, but it does lose some steam on the open highway. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smooth but prefers to stay in the tallest gear when cruising around 70MPH, needing quite a bit of encouragement to downshift. Preparing to pass involves digging the spurs deep into this prize pony by smashing the accelerator pedal to the floor and forcing the Sierra to find a proper gear.
There is enough power to move the Denali just fine, it is simply the throttle and transmission tuning that could use some tweaking. The GMC Yukon Denali with the 6.2L V8 recently upgraded to a new 10-speed transmission and the reviews are glowing. We hope this update makes its way to the updated 2019 Sierra Denali platform that should debut on March 1st, 2018. This will be a crucial launch for the brand as the Denali trim now accounts for nearly a third of all GMC sales. After some time with this 2018 model, we can understand why. The 2018 Sierra Denali is the reason that more European luxury buyers are moving to full-size American trucks. They offer a ton of utility, with enough comfort and space to rival even the largest luxury sedans.
Cabin In The Woods
The perfect weekend escape to the Redwoods in a luxury truck isn’t complete without a cozy cabin to match. Just south of Los Gatos, CA, within the Soquel Demo Forest, exists a tiny cabin with enough amenities to enjoy nature without dealing with all the nature-related vexation. The hosts, Louise and Eric, were fantastic and Eric built the compact, yet roomy, cabin himself.
See the photos and information below if you would like to enjoy a similar experience. Also, sign up for Airbnb here to receive a $40 travel credit on your first stay.