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A black 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate is shown from the front at an angle.

How Will GMC Top the Sierra 1500’s Denali Ultimate Model?

It may seem like a foregone conclusion that each new model year of the GMC Sierra 1500 will receive a Denali trim. It’s a linchpin in the GMC lineup of vehicles and has been around for over 20 years as an optional model for the GMC Sierra. With the Sierra being GM’s alternative full-size pickup to the Chevy Silverado, one would think that it would continue to move forward in the area where most people would be compelled to visit a GMC Sierra 1500 dealer: the distinguished Denali.

Of course, the Denali is no longer the top trim for the GMC Sierra 1500. Not for the 2022 model year, anyway. Oh no, there is a new top dog in town. They decided to outdo and outclass themselves with a brand new trim for the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 in the form of the Denali Ultimate. It’s the latest in the line of luxury-themed features for the full-size, half-ton pickup truck. Whether or not it’s enough to be a longstanding trim beyond being a model year novelty remains to be seen, but it definitely leaves you to question: where does GMC go from here? Well, the next model year direction might surprise you, but the one after that will have its work cut out for it when it comes to topping what’s been achieved with the 2022 model year outing.

The Denali Versus the Denali Ultimate

We recently published an article about the difference between the Denali and the Denali Ultimate, outlining what you get with both vehicle models and what separates them from one another. As the name implies, the Denali Ultimate is the ultimate version of the traditional Denali trim, which was previously the top trim of the GMC Sierra lineup. What makes it so big and much more luxurious than the standard Denali? Well, a number of reasons.

The Denali Ultimate adds all-new unique exterior additions and interior updates. This includes the semi-autonomous driving mode Super Cruise, which is also featured on the uppermost trims for other select GM vehicles, including the Silverado, Silverado EV, and Hummer EV. Other highlights for the Denali Ultimate include exclusive wheels with Vader chrome styling, and the Alpine Umber interior, an alternative to the high-quality leather-appointed interior typically found in the standard Denali.

It’s not like the Denali Ultimate is all about making the standard Denali obsolete. It’s an option for those who want to take their luxury full-size pickup experience to the next level, and it makes complete sense. When the Denali is great, but you want something greater, consider the Denali Ultimate. The tech, the interior comfort, and the exterior styling all help justify what the Denali Ultimate represents on the market for the GMC Sierra 1500. But again, where do you go from here?

The interior of a 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate is shown from above the center console.

The 2023 Sierra 1500 Won’t Be About Pushing the Limits of Luxury

It’s hard to see over the mountaintop while you’re still climbing it, and in many ways, I think that’s where GMC is with the Sierra 1500. Over the course of multiple generations, it has continually and consistently been the go-to truck brand for those who want the best that a full-size, half-ton pickup has to offer. Whenever someone thinks of a “luxury truck,” they usually think of the GMC Sierra. It’s no shock that if you’re going to a GMC Sierra 1500 dealer for a luxury-themed pickup, you’re going to get the GMC Sierra.

While it’s been established that the Sierra is all about luxury, the Denali Ultimate pushes that to the next level. The lavish interior, the chrome exterior, the Super Cruise technology, and the massive infotainment cluster. But what’s next? Well, we know that the 2023 model year Sierra won’t be luxury-focused like the 2022 model year. Why? Because they’re moving in a different direction. That’s right, instead of focusing on upgrading the current trend of the Sierra being a luxury-themed truck, they’re moving in a more linear lane with the familiar territory that has been a strong focus of many automakers in recent years: off-roading.

GM for 2023, and by proxy GMC, has moved in a cohesive line associated with the current design philosophy of the automaker’s truck brands, including focusing on off-road functionality. We saw this with the Silverado’s ZR2 addition, the all-new off-road themed 2023 Chevy Colorado, the Sierra’s revamped AT4X, and the new AT4X AEV Edition set to debut for the 2023 model year. That design philosophy is staying consistent for yet another year, coming off of the introduction of the Denali Ultimate, and in many ways, it makes sense. It gives buyers a year to saturate in the features and technology of the Denali Ultimate, relishing in what it has to offer as opposed to quickly following up with something new in the luxury-themed design scheme. But when it is time to introduce something new, how do you top the Denali Ultimate?

The Next Evolution of the Denali and the Future of the Sierra 1500

When the competition has focused so heavily on other points of contention within the pickup market, it’s not hard to corner a specific theme and stick to it. However, the Sierra 1500 is slightly moving away from its luxury theme for 2023 to focus on off-roading. But what about 2024 and 2025? If it’s not overhauled as an EV, will it settle with the standard Denali updates? Perhaps we could see a new color exclusive to the Denali? Maybe we could get some new wheel stylings and a few interior updates? Or will it go for broke on something big like the 2022 Denali Ultimate trim did?

Well, there’s always the possibility of the updated and latest iteration of Super Cruise making its way into the upper-end trims. We could also see some new styling cues inside and out and, of course, the typical interior features that help make the Denali feel luxurious and comfortable. When it comes to infotainment, I don’t know if they could make the information cluster any larger than it already is. It’s already rocking more than 40-inches of digital display across the entire front dash. Does it need to be bigger? Maybe they’ll find a way to make the entire dashboard a digital cluster.

Then again, maybe it’s not about making the interactivity bigger but more streamlined. We’ve seen more minimization in dashboard designs to accommodate better and more fluid interactivity. Fewer dials and knobs and more user-intuitive access make everything easier to access and control. With the interior material styling, I’m sure they could find some new way to light the pickup enthusiast market on fire with something striking and lavish, but there’s only so much you can do with leather. Maybe the focus would be on new power and front passenger seating configurations with massage and lumbar support.

A silver 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate is shown from the rear at an angle after leaving a GMC Sierra 1500 dealer.

The Future of the Denali Is Wide Open

The possibilities are somewhat endless when it comes to upgrading the Denali experience or considering how that experience gets upgraded. The other thing is that the possibilities are also quite varied to get gearheads and luxury truck enthusiasts to head to a GMC Sierra 1500 dealer to grab the latest model year truck with something striking and fresh. Well, that is whenever the newest Denali revamp happens. For now, Sierra 1500 fans will look forward to the truck focusing on off-road features, but 2024 could usher in a return to focusing on luxury updates, whatever they may be.

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