Base Price: $48,785

Price as tested: $62,859

This week, we're driving the Cadillac of full-size pickups, namely the 2012 GMC Sierra Denali 2500 Crew Cab 4WD. As a member of General Motors' family of tough trucks, our Sierra Denali came with $13,000 in options, most notable the Duramax Diesel engine and Allison 1000 series automatic transmission.

The proven 6.6.-liter Duramax turbo-diesel, designed in a co-op with Isuzu years ago, costs an additional $7,195. When coupled to the Allison 6-speed automatic for $1,200 more, you end up with a vehicle that can pull anything you hook behind it. Making towing breeze are built-in trailer brake controller, heavy duty trailing equipment, trailer sway control and much more. Thus, from hauling a travel trailer for a weekend of camping to some lightweight work like dropping the kids off at school, GMC Sierra Denali is ready for your every need. Also, if you don't need a diesel, prices start at $29,100 for a 2500HD regular cab with 6.0 Vortec V8 gas engine.

Behind the wheel, Denali offers a sturdy, yet comfortable ride. An independent torsion bar front suspension, which differs from the competitor's solid front axles, combines with two-inch wider rear leaf springs. Denali also trumps the competitors in ride height, while a Z85 handling and trailering suspension upgrade is standard fare.

Sierra Denali attributes include the aforementioned "Cadillac like" ride that nearly hides the fact that you're behind the wheel of a 7,391 pound truck. Surprisingly, Denali's sturdier chassis features a 66-percent stronger steering knuckle and more beefy precision forged front upper control arms. The fully boxed frame design is reinforced, and a skid plate package is standard.

Inside, luxury is clearly the major intent. Everything from heated and cooled leather seats, rear vision camera, Bose stereo, all the powers, tilt, cruise, power adjustable pedals and much more are standard equipment on Denali. Our tester also featured the $2,250 Navigation system with touch screen and XM Navigation traffic. Other options included a power sunroof for $895, six-inch chrome tubular chrome assist steps for $689 and beautiful 20-inch forged polished aluminum wheels for $850. This brought the final tally to $62,859.

The hood is easier to open thanks to the lower ride height, where the powerful Duramax Diesel sits. Back in 2009, Duramax produced 365 horses and 660 lb. ft. of torque, but in 2011, GM engineers tweaked camshaft profile, induction, exhaust and then gave a bit more boost to the Garrett turbo to arrive at 397 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and a whooping 765 lb. ft. of torque at just 1,600 rpm. Our tester's 4WD system relies on GM's proven electronic shift transfer case and HD locking differential.

Anticipate roughly 680 highway miles from a 36 gallon diesel fuel tank for an average of 18.8 mpg. Official EPA averages were unavailable, but expect way less while towing and in city traffic. All safety features are standard, from curtain airbags to giant 4-wheel disc ABS brakes. GM's Stabilitrak also features a hill start assist that aids when towing heavier cargo.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 153.7 inches, 7,391 lb. curb weight, 10,000 lb. GVW rating and a 3.73 rear axle ratio.

In summary, GMC Sierra Denali 2500 diesel is one tough truck that can do it all. If you're in this market for a truly heavy duty workhorse that will dub beautifully as a family hauler, check with your GMC dealer now for more details and buyer current incentives.

Likes: Power galore, comfort, looks, versatility, Denali features.

Dislikes: $62,000 pickup trucks may not offer much return on investment in the long run.


(Greg Zyla writes a weekly syndicated auto column)