Line One
Personal Wheels
General Motors’ heavy duty half-ton pickups

Land Line readers drive trucks. Not just the big rigs you use to earn your living, we’re talking about what you drive as your personal transportation. Nationally, truck-based vehicles account for half the vehicles sold in America. Professional truckdrivers have about 75 percent of our personal transport on truck platforms. The general public buys a large number of SUVs and vans. Professional drivers overwhelmingly prefer pickups.

Since the 1980s, trucks have become truly luxurious work vehicles. General Motors has been at the forefront of this trend. The 2002 Chevrolet Silverado HD 1500 crew cab and 2000 GMC Denali extended-cab trucks offer almost every comfort and convenience GM has to offer, including features formerly found only on luxury cars. I recently had the opportunity to drive and compare them.

The Chevy has traditional four-wheel drive and GM’s powerful 6.0-liter 300 hp pushrod V-8 engine, with GM powertrain’s heavy-duty automatic transmission. It has an oil life monitoring system that tells you when the oil actually needs changing, seatbelts integrated with heated luxury leather seats, heated outside mirrors, a self-dimming inside mirror, a leather steering wheel, aluminum 16-inch wheels with fat 245/70 tires. With its 300 hp engine, this half-ton pickup can carry as much as 3,100 pounds. Its GCWR is 16,000 pounds. It can tow a 10,300-pound trailer.

The 2002 Denali, the update of the 2001 GMC C-3 no longer in production, has the forward opening half doors that make the extended cab accessible from both sides, and features found on no other truck, including everything the Silverado has. Power from the 6.0 liter V-8 is raised to 325, and torque is 370 foot-pounds, 10 more than the Silverado. The drivetrain has a first gear 23 percent lower than the Chevy’s and a faster final drive ratio: 3.73, compared to the Silverado’s 4.10. I found the Denali was quicker off the line, and delivered almost 1 mpg more than the Silverado during our test, about 16 vs. 15. I hesitate to give exact numbers because roads, speeds and loads were different.

The Denali has full-time all-wheel-drive so you have it instantly when you need it. Normally, the drive proportions 38 percent of the torque to the front wheels and 62 percent to the rear. The transfer case uses a viscous coupling and opposing discs attached to the output shafts. Silicone fluid transfers torque from slipping wheels to those with traction. The transfer is so smooth, you never feel the torque shift. As much as 300 foot-pounds, or 81 percent of the engine’s total output, can be transferred.

Our Denali has urethane side cladding to protect the body and the Michelin LT265/70R17 tires on six-spoke aluminum wheels. Brakes are massive four-wheel discs, previously available only on three-quarter-ton trucks and larger. This truck stops as well as it goes. And it does go! We got it to 60 miles per hour consistently under nine seconds. GM’s official figure is 8.3.

Our test Denali hauls, too. Its gross vehicle weight rating is 6,800 pounds, and the GCWR of 14,000 pounds lets it tow 2,700 more than the Silverado.

This truck is far more than a powerful platform. Its interior has leather bucket seats with eight-way adjustment, bi-level heat, power lumbar and power side-bolster adjustments. The driver’s seat has two memory settings, keyed to individual remote controls. Entry and exit, already good because the all-wheel-drive truck sits lower than the 4WD Silverado, is made easier by the chrome tubular steps with integrated mud flaps.

The driver information center in the dash can be programmed for fuel, trip and vehicle information, with a telltale function that shows total miles and maximum speed for the last 15 days. Automatic headlamps delay and how the truck signals when doors are locked or unlocked can be changed. Automatic door locking, a safety feature to some and an annoyance to others, can be turned off.

Delco’s premium six-speaker sound system, standard on the Denali, includes a six CD changer with audio controls on the steering wheel. There are two headset jacks and remote audio controls for the rear seats, which, while not luxurious, will do for children or for adults on short trips.

Just before press time, I got a few minutes in a Denali with optional QuadraSteer, the new four-wheel steering system that enhances lane-change stability and cuts several feet off the truck’s turning circle. We’ll have more on this in a future Land Line.

Let me wrap up with impressions of both of these heavy-duty half-tons.

If you’ve got a family or a work crew to transport, check the full four-door crew cab. With the Silverado, you have enough luxury to be as comfortable pulling up to valet parking as loading tools on board. And the GMC Denali beats that. If you like gadgets and finger tip control, the Denali is for you. Both ride surprisingly well, with the edge in both handling and ride comfort going to the lower-riding Denali. There’s a significant price difference, but each offers a great deal for the money.

Paul Abelson is Land Line’s technical editor and freelances from his office in Lisle, IL.