Every model year of a vehicle brings changes with it. Sometimes it’s as simple as optimized engine tuning or a new color palette. Often enough, a mid-cycle refresh will include exterior style updates and new interior tech. Grand changes – significant style or technology shifts, inside or out – are usually reserved for new generations. However, the not-all-new-for-2022 GMC Sierra 1500 is arriving with a truckload of upgrades, despite being a mere mid-cycle update! It’s hard to decide what to be more excited about. Is it the new technology that the popular pickup will distribute to the masses? Or maybe it’s the brand-new pinnacle trim levels of Denali Ultimate and AT4X? No, it’s probably the upgrade that comes as a tremendous relief to Denali fans nationwide – the completely revamped interior! I could carry on for way too long about all the highlights of this truck, so let’s just dig in!
Brand Within a Brand
The most popular Sierra 1500 trims have been Denali and AT4, taking 45% of sales in total, so it makes sense that GM would offer a higher tier for each of the sub-brands in 2022. The young AT4 sub-brand hit the market with sharp style but not a ton of cred; while it’s still no Ford Raptor or Ram TRX, the new Sierra 1500 AT4X will go a long way to changing that image. Then there’s Denali, the luxury sub-brand within GMC that’s supposed to be the gold standard for quality, yet which had fallen significantly behind Ford and Ram with its dated interior – until now. The Denali Ultimate makes a real case to be considered alongside (if not above) pinnacle trims from its competition thanks to massive material upgrades and excellent technology updates that truly stand out from the crowd.
What About Sierra 1500 Limited?
Thanks for the reminder! There’s yet another style for 2022, the Sierra 1500 Limited. It’s only available until Spring 2022 or so, when the refreshed 2022 models should reach dealer lots. What’s so special about it? Absolutely nothing! It’s the 2021 model carried over to fill the gap until the real 2022 trucks hit the road, a la the Ram 1500 Classic. If the 2022 updates don’t thrill you, but the slightly lower price of the 2022 Sierra 1500 Limited does, I guess this is the new Sierra for you, but otherwise…just, why?
Isn’t There a New Pro Trim, Too?
Well, yes, there is Pro trim, a new name in 2022, and it sounds cool, but it’s really describing what it’s made to be – a professional truck work. The Pro trim was formerly named the Sierra trim, which is to say that this is the base work truck model. The 2022 interior and tech update doesn’t apply to Sierra 1500 Pro trucks, either, but at least it gets a new base engine to separate it from 1500 Limited. The old V6 has been dropped, and the 2.7L high output turbo has been updated to improve torque and reduce NVH (that’s Noise, Vibration, Harshness). It may only have four cylinders, but this new base engine is nothing to scoff at with 9,400 lbs of towing capability and the best gas mileage of the lineup! Seriously though, that’s not a reason to pick Pro trim. Once again, it’s less interesting than the name implies.
I’m Starting to See a Pattern Here…
If that’s because you just hopped into a brand-new 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate (that’s 21 syllables, you’re welcome), then awesome! Otherwise, let me redirect your train of thought because the new details about the 2022 truck, which are actually new, are as exciting as an adventure through the Alaskan wilderness. Speaking of which, that’s what you’re looking at inside the new top-tier Sierra – a topographical map of Mt. Denali itself, the highest peak in North America, is laser-etched in the open-pore Paldao wood trim and embossed in the Ultimate Alpine Umber full-grain leather seats of the Denali Ultimate trim.
If it sounds like you’ve heard this before, thank the Sierra’s stablemate, the new GMC Hummer EV. That electric super-truck has topographical maps of the Sea of Tranquility across its interior (one small step, indeed). And that’s not the only Hummer EV feature that’s making its way to the Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate – it also comes standard with the latest version of Super Cruise, GM’s hands-free driving technology with lane changing capability, currently available on 200,000 miles of North American roadways.
GM’s “thing” in recent years has been that they have the best trailering tech in the business, and Super Cruise only builds their case. That’s because this version also features hands-free trailering, setting it lightyears ahead of any other truck’s automated driving capabilities! Also new for 2022 is a GVWR Alert, which will let you know if you’ve done the math wrong (or haven’t done it at all) and have surpassed your truck’s payload capacity. These add to the in-vehicle trailering app and 14 available camera views to crown GMC as the hauling and trailering technology king of 2022.
Back to the Denali Ultimate. Two more fabulous things to discuss before we move on: the screens and the seats. The 2022 Sierra 1500 offers over 40″ of total screen space for drivers: a 12.3″ driver information cluster, a 13.4″ infotainment touchscreen (both standard on all but Pro trim), and a 15″ multi-page HUD (standard on AT4 and Denali trims) combine to provide as much screen space as a living room TV. It’s not too much further before drivers start to feel like Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit from all the displays and voice assistant-controlled systems at their disposal! Nobody else comes close to offering this much screen space, and these pieces – every one of them delightfully configurable and practical – are at the core of the total overhaul that GM has executed to bring the Sierra’s interior into the modern age with technology, style, and materials befitting of Sierra’s price tag.
Lastly, there are the seats. I already mentioned the leather, but it’s really what’s on the inside that counts. The front seats of the Denali Ultimate trim are heated and ventilated as a matter of course; what isn’t typical about them is the best-in-class 16-way power adjustability and the built-in massagers for both seats, ensuring that front passengers experience the ultimate comfort and relaxation while their truck drives itself all those long highway miles.
Okay, Now I Get It…
That’s right, the exciting, new-sounding names are for boring trucks, and the uninspired rehashes of existing names are for exciting trucks! It is so for the 2022 Sierra 1500 Limited, Pro, and Denali Ultimate, and so it is for the new AT4X trim. In a nutshell, AT4X takes the regular AT4, stuffs it with the mechanical upgrades from the new Chevy Silverado ZR2, and then hand-picks some of Denali Ultimate’s premium features for inclusion as well. The result is a genuine professional grade off-roader!
The AT4X is a truly special blend of off-road capability and on-road luxury. The bona fides are legit, with the segment’s first combination of front and rear electronic locking differentials starting off the list of mechanical upgrades. A 2″ lift and Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers (think: Ford GT, Camaro ZL1 1LE, and Colorado ZR2), plus unique springs, lead to more wheel travel than a standard AT4 and sublime damping adaptability to all kinds of road conditions. And I can’t neglect the two-speed transfer case, which adds Terrain drive mode to the features list. This is GMC’s super-low-gear rock crawling mode, set up on AT4X to execute “one pedal driving,” a feature typically seen on electric cars but used here to simplify the complex technical driving that rock crawling entails.
The AT4X Sierra has off-roading chops for sure, but it’s not all rough play. Well, if it is rough play, you’ll at least receive an immediate pampering treatment since it also comes standard with those 16-way adjustable and massaging seats from Denali Ultimate. The Obsidian Rush interior, with Vanta black ash wood trim and black leather throughout, lacks only a little bit of the panache that Denali Ultimate’s brown hues imbue, and the AT4X also features a special Bose speaker system standard. I haven’t mentioned that yet, but the 12-speaker set is specially developed to create a concert hall feel inside the crew cab and compensate for background noise to minimize disruption. All that in an off-road-oriented pickup truck.
Don’t Wait for the EV
I mean, by all means, wait for the EV – it can’t be long after the Silverado EV is unveiled in January 2022 before the Sierra gets one, too – but the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 refresh is almost as good as an all-new generation release. I didn’t even cover the cavernous and durable CarbonPro truck bed or Duramax diesel engine, which is finally compatible with the Max Trailering package to lay claim to best-in-class diesel power and best-in-class 4WD towing at 13,000 lbs (a 4,000 lb improvement over the 2021 Sierra 1500). I almost can’t believe that I’m this excited over a regular pickup truck, never mind one at the mid-cycle refresh with an EV on the horizon, but here I am, geeking out over $75,000+ gas and diesel-powered pickup trucks. If I was in the market, I’d be reserving mine tonight.