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A blue 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate is shown from the front parked next to a rock face.

Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate and AT4X: Incredibly Advanced or Overkill?

We get it; the competition in the full-size truck segment of the industry is fierce, to say the least. Every year, auto manufacturers scramble to ensure their latest truck enjoys the latest technologies, features, and newest additions that will propel their product to the top of the “most wanted” list. Each year, it seems as though the stakes are even higher. An ongoing trend has been the addition of a luxury trim level as well as an off-road trim level. GMC just kicked things up a notch or two with the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 by introducing the Denali Ultimate and AT4X trim levels. Just when you thought nothing could top the Denali and the AT4, GMC ups the ante with the addition of an X and Ultimate. It’s a lot like building a guitar amplifier that cranks up to 11, which everybody knows is even better than an amplifier that only goes to 10. But is the addition of these trims over the top, or are they necessary upgrades that offer value to the driver?

Truck Owners Like Nice Things

As it turns out, truck manufacturers have been undeserving their customers for quite some time by not offering them the most luxurious truck they could create. Go figure; even truck drivers want the same luxury and comfort features available in the most luxurious sedans. Modern drivers are apparently quite willing to dole out big bucks for powerful pickup trucks with interiors that impress BMW and Audi owners.

It might come as somewhat of a surprise that truck owners demand the capabilities of a truck but also enjoy comfort and convenience. However, truck makers have been adding all sorts of features to their trucks over the years. It all started with the addition of infotainment systems, wood trim, and leather seats. Then they moved on to the addition of camera systems, safety features, heated seats, and more.

Of course, these comforts and features aren’t available across the board; you have to get the proper trim level. The Denali trim was introduced in 1999 and has remained a GMC staple ever since. When introduced, it was a GMC Yukon exclusive and a counterpart to the Cadillac Escalade. Over time, GMC would expand the luxury trim to include many of its models, including adding the trim level to the Sierra lineup in 2002.

A black 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate is shown parked outside of a modern home.

The Denali Ultimate

The Denali trim has always been the luxury version of GMC models. That is, it’s the trim level you choose if you are interested in leather seats, wood trim, and the upgraded sound system. But what happens when you need to garner even more interest in a trim level? Well, you amp up the name for starters. So while anybody would think it is impressive to be driving around in a Sierra Denali, driving a Denali Ultimate is that much better.

Name upgrade aside, GMC’s new luxury truck boasts an elevated exterior and expensive interior enhancements. A few of the impressive features and technologies offered in the 2022 Sierra Denali Ultimate include a giant 13.4-inch diagonal touch screen and trailering-capable Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance. But did GMC overdo it, even perhaps just a little bit?

Taking a look at the exterior of the Sierra Denali Ultimate, you will have to agree that it definitely does get your attention, and that’s not a bad thing. Regardless of the reasons you are buying a truck, looks are important. In addition to a sleek design, truck owners demand an aggressive look that drives fear into the hearts of the competition. So no, GMC did not go overboard with the exterior modifications.

Turning our attention to the interior, we see the Denali Ultimate cabin filled, and we mean filled, with leather and wood. The amount of wood trim in the Denali Ultimate requires a few cans of Pledge to clean the interior. The front seats are Alpine Umber full-grain leather with 16-way power-adjustable and massaging capabilities. The only way in which this is over the top is if you plan on using your Sierra for work purposes—cleaning out the interior after a hard day’s work is going to be a nightmare.

In terms of any infotainment system, you cannot argue that bigger is better. And while a massive screen in a sedan can look somewhat out of place, it fits quite well in the Sierra. When you add in the digital instrument cluster and 15-inch head-up display, you wind up with more than 40 inches of digital display. But is that over the top? We think not when Toyota has added a 14-inch screen to the Tundra and the F-150 now offers a 15.5-inch display.

A red 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X is shown off-roading on a rocky trail.

The AT4X

When you are in the market for a half-ton truck, you are probably looking for something that boasts impressive towing capacities and offers a powerful drivetrain. Of course, there are also those who will want their truck to perform very well in off-road conditions. The Sierra AT4X is built for just that.

The exterior of the AT4X is quite similar to the Denali Ultimate, with just a few tweaks here and there to give it a varied look. Again, truck drivers are concerned about how good their truck looks, so the updated lights, grille, and bumper of the AT4X are welcomed. We can’t fault anyone who drives a stylish truck, so this is in no way over the top.

The Sierra AT4X boasts everything you would expect in an off-road truck. It has excellent clearance, front and rear spool-valve dampers for off-road handling, and front and rear locking differentials. Really, you would expect that from any truck that is billed as off-road ready. But the Sierra AT4X also offers a steel transfer case shield and rock sliders, which is something you don’t see in similar trucks. If you are serious about the mountains that you climb, then you don’t think this is too much.

The interior of the Sierra AT4X is almost as luxurious as the Denali Ultimate. Like the Denali Ultimate, there is plenty of wood and leather and 16-position adjustable massaging seats. You also enjoy a massive infotainment system, power sunroof, and 12-speaker Bose premium audio system. Some might wonder if this is just too much, especially if you plan on using your truck for off-road adventures. But then, we are sure that off-road enthusiasts will agree that these features are perfect for their application.

GMC is Pushing the Boundaries

The Denali and the AT4 trim levels have been a huge success for GMC, so it makes sense that they would take them a step further, or six or seven steps further as the case may be. The attention to detail is quite impressive. While other automakers are satisfied with adding leather trim to their top-end trims and maybe a slab of wood across the dash for good measure, GMC went to town and spared no expense in the trim upgrades. There is a lot to love about the Denali Ultimate and AT4X trim levels, and if you are serious about the quality, style, and performance of your pickup truck, then you simply cannot ignore these new trims.