Mucking about on Cypress’ Hills & Saskatchewan’s Great Sandhills in GMC’s 2016 Sierra Denali

Photos + Words. Angus MacKenzie

One wouldn’t call  a truck handsome in most cases. Words like utilitarian, manly, boxy, huge, truckster-esque, adequate get thrown about, but handsome rarely makes the grade. After driving GMC’s 2016 Sierra Denali about Alberta’s southern places, I feel it does indeed deserve the handsome moniker.

Sporting 5.35 m tall side paneling the Denali, with its punched/bevelled/embossed wheel arches, the 1500 Series truckster stands confident in the ElkWater Lodge parking lot. With the help of a direct injected, 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas engine, the $65,000 CDN hauler had no problem with the 3 hour run from Calgary to Medicine Hat. Transferring power to the road via a nicely geared 8-speed autobox, the responsive V8 brings 420 horsepower & 460 lb.ft. of torque to the table when needed. GMC’s proven 4-wheel drive arrangement meant no getting stuck in the Great Sandhills sandy roadways.

Brakes on the Denali proved excellent in the city but gave up a bit too much distance from higher speeds. The suspensional bits were nicely dialed in for most highway and city outings. Washboard roads leading from Elkwater/Cypress Hills to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan did put the suspension setup to the test. Given the firm setup for load carrying, giggity washboard negotiations weren’t unexpected. Always a trade off these things.

Inside the 2016 Denali its more urban comfort than work-truck minimalism. Seating performance after 3 hours was commendable, as were the many techy bits, seat coolers and audio components. Noise levels from road and wind were surprisingly low for such a flat-faced truck of a thing. Ride height obviously takes away some F1 cornering abilities, but considering the size/weight, etc, the Denali delivered a positive truck-going experience.

Rear seats deliver more than enough room and support to keep guests friendly for longer trips. And when it comes to hauling crap, the 1500 Series Denali can load up 1,727.33 litres of the stuff. At a tick over 6.0 metres in length, the Denali barely fit in the driveway, with just a hint of its arse poking onto the sidewalk.

Our trip this past July took us from Calgary to Medicine Hat, down to Cypress Hills, over to the Red Rock Coulee through Hutterite country to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan; and then another 180km up to the Great Sandhills. All told, the handsome black Denali of the Sierra name, performed remarkably well over a mixed and diverse range of road surfaces and terrains.


Source: GMC Canada


Posing atop higher level grasslands, GMC’s 2016 Sierra Denalia runs a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas engine, using an aluminum-block plus direct fuel injection w variable valve timing…all good for 420 horsepower & 460 lb.ft. of torque


Photogenically adept, the 5500 lb 2016 Sierra Denali poses under an imposing sky in southern Alberta

2016 Sierra Denali overlooking Alberta's great southwest

Overlooking Alberta’s great southwest, the Denali can pull up to 11,700 lb w a maximum payload of 1660 lb

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More luxury than truck utilitarian, Sierra Denali’s insides are all good Photo. GM Canada

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Our 1500 Series Denali performed exceptionally well over a diverse range of roads Photo. GM Canada

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Sierra Denali’s crew-cab configuration has more than enough room for five

sandhills mirror

Lone tree stands up to the ever shifting sand of Saskatchewan’s Great Sandhills


Saskatchewan’s Great Sandhills cover over 1,900 square kilometres


In spite of its Tatooine-like terrain the Great Sandhills are used to pasture up to 16,000 head of cattle during a 7 month grazing period


Great Sandhills Tiger Beetle making its way across the dunes


Great Sandhill Tiger Beetles are known for their warmth and hospitality


Red Rock Coulee’s oversized bowling ball boulders, known as concretions were formed millions of years ago when sand, calcite and iron oxide formed and hardened around stuff like leaves, bones etc. Like giant earth pearls, waters flowing around the rocks added more deposits, which stuck to and enlarged the formations like an onion


Located some 50 km south of Medicine Hat, Red Rock Coulee features some of the world’s best examples of ‘Concretions’…


Split apart Red Rock Coulee spheroid, or concretion, exhibits unique wear formations


Diverse range of floral and fauna populate the Red Rock Coulee space


Bits of concretions dot the site


Perfect profile section shows the onion layering of a larger spheroid/concretion


Split spheroid, some of the earth-roids measure up to 2.5 metres in diameter


Shot west of Cypress Hills on a high altitude plain, the 4-wheel drive Denali shows off its modeling chops


My dad could’ve labelled the cloud formation but my meteorological learnings remain weak…Denali arse and hindquarters on other hand looking good


Great Sandhills, a true geological anomaly in a land of flat-landers and cow-tippers


Great Sandhills of Sask are located roughly 2 hours north-east of Medicine Hat, or closer from Speedy Creek


They call him Mr. Tibs


Maple Creek, SK, for all your kitchen kitsch needs


When anodized German pepper mills just won’t do


Maple Creek SK museum, home to many fine birds and things of an old nature


Marvelube, the farmer’s go to choice for motor oil


Scratching the felt old-school, an old-world turntable on display in Maple Creek’s modest museum




The US has its Homeland Security, Maple Creek has its musket-armed Home Guard

Denali's 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas engine is good for 420 horsepower & 460 lb.ft. of torque

Denali’s 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas engine is good for 420 horsepower & 460 lb.ft. of torque

(129 Posts)

Canadian born automotive & architectural photographer. elemente magazine was born in 2006 as a Canadian national design publication . It remains as an online entity.

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