2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate Interior Review: Better by a million miles

We were right. So were customers. Basically, everyone who took one look at the interior of the current GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado generation and immediately went "not good enough." Possibly followed by "not even close" and/or laughing. The Silverado cabin was especially egregious in the top-of-the-line Sierra Denali, which slapped some token bits of "wood" to the doors and center console sides and called it a day. It didn't even get the Silverado High Country's bronzey trim surrounding the touchscreen. Absolutely nothing about it said, "I am competitive with just about any Ram 1500 or, to a lesser extent, a Ford F-150 King Ranch or Platinum."

That changes with the 2022 GMC Sierra.

Do I really need to explain why the "After" (up top) is so much better than the "Before" (above)? I do not. The better question is: is it better or at least as good as the Ram and F-150 now? Yes!


And! GMC actually upped the game further for 2022 by adding a level beyond the Denali: the Denali Ultimate. While both Denalis share a common design with each other and the also-new Sierra AT4X, that design is different than what you'll find in other Sierras and every redone Silverado. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time the Silverado and Sierra have had such substantially different interiors. True, they're still awfully similar, but by GMC/Chevy standards, it might as well be night and day.

You can see the difference below: Denali Ultimate left, Silverado High Country right.

Is one design better than another? I don't think so, but they are indeed different, which is great.

BUT! Remember, this is the new Denali Ultimate we're talking about here. That means it goes beyond the regular Denali.

First, this "Alpine Umber" color with "Forge perforated leather seat trim" is only available on the Denali Ultimate and the only color available for the Denali Ultimate. It has a bit of the King Ranchy/Long Horny feel to it without going so far into cowboy land. I dig it. The regular Denali offers Jet Black or "Atmosphere/Brownstone" (shades of brown).

This leather then features white piping and super-cool baseball-ish contrast stitching. I would like to reiterate at this point that the Sierra Denali's previous idea of a luxury aesthetic upgrade was strips of wood-looking plastic. What's the word I'm searching for? Ah yes. "Effort."

But wait, there's more!

Everywhere you look, the Denali Ultimate features this topographical pattern embossed into leather or, ever-so-cooly, engraved in the real wood trim. It is joined by the coordinates for Denali, the mountain.

It appears in the door trim, the map pockets, all outboard seat backs and the little rubber tray in the middle of the center console armrest that GM sure seems to love. While this could be considered going overboard, it's actually quite subtle, especially when you consider how vast the interior is. Also how borderline tacky some of those cowboy-ish competitor interiors can be.

I dig it.

There are also some awfully nice metal Bose speaker grilles.

There's been a serious gauge improvement. Above left is the current-generation Sierra Denali as it originally appeared. It had that big, color center screen sandwiched between some awfully plain, parts-binny gauges. The new instrument panel is all digital. It not only looks better, but it also means the Sierra can further differentiate itself visually from the Silverado (instead of the original Sierra's octagon gauge surrounds, the Silverado's were round).

Sierra Denali Ultimate IP is above left, the Silverado High Country's is above right.

Note, however, that is only one of the Sierra's available designs.

The photo side-by-side with the Silverado would be the "Classic" view. You can then somewhat see the subtle variations for each layout: Classic, Progressive, Digital and Clean. "Layout" would be the operable word as the general look and design are consistent.

Moving onto other screens. All but the base Sierra gets this 13.4-inch width-oriented touchscreen that runs off the Android Automotive OS. The base Sierra gets last year's totally acceptable 8-inch touchscreen running GM's totally acceptable OS, but also comes wrapped in last year's not-entirely-acceptable dash design.

I'm not sure Android Automotive is better than any number of other infotainment systems, but it's easy enough to figure out, looks good and is certainly competitive with Ram and Ford's big interfaces. It should also be said that all three trucks go with different jumbo screen layouts: GM is widescreen, Ram is portrait and Ford is big-old box. I can't see how the latter is superior, but there are arguments to be made for both widescreen and portrait.

I would also like to note that the radio interface is totally normal and easy to use, unlike some other new-fangled tech interfaces (BMW and VW).

Here's the Sierra's navigation system. Yep, it's Google Maps. This means it's smarter than the typical navigation system and comes with a voice-activated search function that's miles better than the usual native navigation. The problem is when you don't have cell data available, which is a totally normal occurrence here in the Pacific Northwest -- especially in those places where people drive trucks. In order to enter in an address without cell data, you'll need to have the foresight to pre-load map data. Maybe that isn't a big deal, but it's not something you'd have to do with a typical native navigation system.

There's also a head-up display. It is big and pretty. This is one of the layouts. Moving on.

Look Ma! No column shifter! That's right, the Sierra and Silverado get this monostable shifter design for 2022. Press button on side and push forward for Reverse, pull back for Drive. Push top button for Park. This type of shifter design has been in various vehicles for more than a decade now, but will be totally foreign stuff for a legacy GM truck buyer.

The new shifter does rob some storage, but the old console wasn't exactly cleverly organized (especially compared to the Ram and F-150). The new forward bin is good for storing whatever, I found the middle one perfect for sunglasses, and I'm a big fan of GM's inclined wireless chargers that utilize space so much better than a flat pad. Note that the Silverado's trail brake controller is on the dash (roughly where the Sierra Denali's start/stop button is) and therefore gains an extra shallow bin of questionable use. Don't think you'd miss it.

The dash may no longer be drab, blobby and generally ugly, but it's still just as functional with these carry-over double gloveboxes. Stylish and sensible! Who'd have thunk it possible?!?

The Sierra still has these hidden back seat bins. If there are any existing GM truck owners with these, please let me know if you've ever used them. And, more importantly, if they're actually useful.

Let's go to bed. Err, the bed. I'll have a separate post that goes into GM's MultiPro tailgate further, but for now, I think it's an exceptional feature. Better than Ford's "man step" and Ram's weird multi-function split tailgate (that I think I've only seen once out in the wild). It makes a huge difference when pushing things into the bed or hauling them out, or when needing to climb up and down into the bed.

This Sierra Denali Ultimate also had the available Kicker sound system embedded within the step. I sadly didn't get a chance to test it out.

And finally, here's another special-to-Denali feature: the Carbon Pro composite bed. It sorta looks like the dash of a BMW i3 and it's definitely different than the normal selection of Rhino lining, plastic or bare-ass metal. I did not test its durability beyond placing 18 bags of mulch inside.

And once more because GMC should be thoroughly applauded for not only coming up with a quick fix for its wildly underwhelming truck interior, but making it such an excellent fix.

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