The 2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate is an epic ATV hauler

Hauling a big-bore ATV is no small feat for a light-duty pickup, especially when that four-wheeler is the monster Polaris Scrambler XP 1000 S. Payload ratings and springs suited for people moving as much as they are for moving mountains makes for a hit-or-miss experience in terms of how well the truck does with nearly a half-ton of added weight in the bed. But for a 2500-class truck, hauling a quad is pretty simple: Load it up, tie it down, and go. That makes the question for the 2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate, not a matter of whether it can handle the job, but whether the luxuries help justify the near-$95,000 price tag.

Is Ultimate worth the name?

In all fairness, I didn’t think the Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate was worth its $80,840 (as-tested) price tag. Naturally, that meant approaching the 2500 Denali Ultimate with skepticism, especially after having very recently spent a week with the near-perfect Ram 2500 Rebel. The Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate had its work cut out for it in convincing me of its merits.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The 6.6-liter turbocharged V8 Duramax diesel engine and Allison transmission it’s paired to are both fabulous. Power is endless, shifts are reassuring, and the level of refinement is supreme for a powertrain that a few generations ago still felt archaic. In comparison, the aforementioned Ram 2500’s engine is substantially louder, but also a little more responsive. There’s no complaints with the GMC’s engine though; it’s well beyond what most truck buyers will ever need, which makes it laughably under-stressed even when loaded down with the heavy ATV that I put in its bed.

Severely underwhelmed by my menial test…

Speaking of, the truck only burned about one-third of a tank of diesel over the 250 miles I put on it, half of which it spent carrying the big Polaris four-wheeler. That’s excellent fuel economy, and while I suspect the gauge was a bit optimistic, I don’t doubt the 36-gallon tank would help the truck run well over 500 miles on a single fill. That’s excellent news for those long treks in the saddle with a trailer in tow. Better even is the torque, which makes climbing highway hills a non-event altogether.

As for how the Sierra’s bed manages the ultra-wide Polaris Scrambler XP 1000 S, it simply couldn’t have cared less. Usually, ATVs’ tires fit between the wheel wells, frequently scrubbing the sidewalls to fit. Due to the Scrambler’s extra width, we had to drive it over the wheel wells so the front tires would be parked back on level ground. No issue for the Sierra. Quad tied down and ramps stowed underneath the ATV, we could even close the tailgate to its halfway mark. On the road, the truck was entirely unphased by the weight. Unfortunately, visibility is compromised, as is to be expected, and understood that it will be such, but the digital rearview mirror becomes useless as the camera sits next to the third brake light, thus just giving you a view of the quad’s nose. It might help at night if you want to check to make sure your cargo is still there, at least.

Whole ‘lotta money…

As a truck, the Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate is fantastic. The ride quality is even reasonably supple, it’s quiet at speed, and of course it does truck stuff brilliantly. But here’s the problem for potential buyers. Is the Ultimate package worth it? As a reference point, I built a similarly-optioned Denali on GMC’s website. Given, it doesn’t have the huge infotainment system of the topographic-themed interior, but the MSRP of the truck came to $87,210. A lowly SLT with as many options as can be tacked on runs around $82k. What the Denali Ultimate brings to the table just doesn’t cut the mustard in my book.

For example, the grab handle used for climbing into the truck is wrapped in leather, but only about half of it, which leaves cheap plastic exposed at either end. Then there’s the Bose stereo, which is quite underwhelming in how it sounds given the level of insulation the truck provides from the road. Worse is the stereo built into the Multipro tailgate, which simply sounds like a cheap speaker bought off Amazon. Aspects like these make you question the need for them at all, which is a bummer on a truck that’s otherwise quite nice and that costs this much.

I get the Denali portion; it does bring additional niceties that make it special and a better place to spend time than the trims below it. To justify the Ultimate package, you either need to really be a diehard GMC Denali fan or one of the National Parks its name is derived from.

In the end, the 2024 GMC Sierra 2500 Denali Ultimate is best suited for those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel with decent weight in the bed or on a trailer. Whether the Ultimate is worth ponying up the extra dough for over a standard Denali is a question that prospective buyers will have to answer for themselves, as from our point of view nothing gained by stepping up to the Ultimate trim is worth spending extra for. As-is, the Sierra 2500 is a great truck, one excellent at effectively everything it sets out to accomplish, and it makes for an incredible ATV hauler.

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