Friday, November 30, 2001

Driving a full-size pickup with a stretched cab usually requires a sacrifice especially for those spending lots of time in the city. That downside is lack of maneuverability in tight places.

GMC has found a solution to the problem and has fitted its premium bull in a china shop with ballerina slippers. The 2002 Sierra Denali flagship, which replaces the C3 at the top of the line, can dance through a cramped parking lot with the grace of a small coupe. It’s like a mutant with super powers, separated from mere mortal trucks by an four-wheel-steer system called “Quadrasteer.”

This industry-first pickup 4WS system is a highlight among a list of features that allow Sierra Denali owners to go truckin’ in high style. Wearing a $43,385 price tag, this premium half-ton pickup keeps a buyer who wants the ultimate truck from having to check all the option-list boxes. Among its pluses are a luxurious interior; all-wheel drive; 6-liter Vortec V-8 engine; OnStar navigation system; 17-inch, bright-aluminum alloy wheels; ZX3 Ride Control suspension; and Quadrasteer.

It’s no gimmick: Quadrasteer makes a full-size pickup behave like a compact coupe. Lots of multistage, forward-reverse maneuvering takes place in a pickup owner’s typical day, but Quadrasteer reduces this inconvenience. Even lane maneuvers, U-turns and trailer towing are easier.

The Quadrasteer 4WS system combines conventional front-wheel hydraulic power steering with an electrically powered rear-wheel-steering system.

In low-speed maneuvers, rear wheels turn in opposite directions from the front wheels. In higher-speed maneuvers, rear wheels turn the same directions as front wheels.

Numbers most telling of Quadrasteer’s nimbleness are Sierra Denali’s 37.4-foot turning diameter vs. 46.2 feet with Quadrasteer turned off. This is a 21 percent reduction a turning diameter comparable to a Saturn coupe’s (37.1 feet).

Quadrasteer agility also is clear when towing a trailer. Selecting 4WS towing mode modifies the system to cope with a trailer. Lane switching is crisper and the trailer feels like it’s an extension of the truck. Four-wheel steer also offers advantages in highway driving. It increases stability, reduces body sway in lane changes and minimizes oversteer potential.

Chassis improvements over its C3 predecessor also come with the package. Sierra Denali rides on a higher-capacity rear axle. Paired with a heavy-duty rear brake system, this beefier axle gives the gross vehicle weight rating a 400-pound boost. Adding a 4.10 axle ratio to the improved rear end also increases trailer-towing capacity by 1,300 pounds for a 10,000-pound total. Stability and an athletic stance are other attributes. Quadrasteer requires a wider rear wheel track, with Sierra Denali’s growing 5 inches beyond its siblings.

Power to these wheels is provided by a 6-liter Vortec V-8 engine. This power plant generates 325 horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque. It’s linked to a four-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and a full-time all-wheel-drive system.

Adding stability when trailer towing is a ZX3 Ride Control suspension, standard on Sierra Denali. It’s activated with a tap of a dash-mounted button, which switches the ride to firm for improved trailering and handling, or smooth for cruising comfort.

Smooth mode combines with plush seating to offer passengers a high comfort level. Front buckets with inboard armrests and folding rear bench are sheathed in rich-look, tone-on-tone leather. Passengers also are pampered with a premium sound system that includes a six-disc CD player and switches that allow rear passengers to control the tunes.

Sam Mancuso, GMC Sierra brand manager, touts the Sierra Denali as the pinnacle of the Sierra brand the “ultimate full-size, half-ton pickup truck in the industry.” He also labels Sierra Denali a “game changer,” and in the pickup game it’s Quadrasteer that’s scoring the big points.


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