GM’s GMC brand has become the latest to join the field of automakers toying with unibody-based trucks under the skin of its Denali XT concept, driven largely by the upcoming 35-mpg CAFE requirements. Based on GM’s global rear-wheel-drive architecture that’s spawned the Holden Monaro, Ute and Commodore, as well as the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro, the Denali XT takes its overall design cue from the Ute, which has been sold in Australia in various forms since 1951, albeit in a 2-door body style. (In effect, the Denali XT harkens back to the Chevy El Camino.)
The idea to develop the Denali XT was conjured up by Warrack Leach, a GM designer based in Australia, who designed the latest generation Holden Ute. “We had just finished the production Ute and I was looking for something to do and approached my boss and suggested we have a look at a two-row pickup using the global rear-drive architecture and see what we could come up with,” Leach says, noting the concept went from sketch to the Chicago auto show floor in 28 months. After tossing the idea around within GM’s global design ranks, Leach was given the go-ahead, albeit not for the Holden brand, but for GMC.
In order to develop a package that would be more accommodating to U.S. buyers, Leach raised the cowl 15 mm from the Ute for improved interior space, while lowering the roof for a more aggressive stance. Most of the exterior surface language hints at the future direction for GMC with a more “mechanical” appearance, according to Leach. “The headlamps are very slim and technical-looking, which plays to GMC’s ‘Professional Grade’ engineering theme; I wanted to have great bulged wheel arches that express the wide stance…and a long dash-to-axle ratio, which is a traditional performance rear-wheel drive proportion,” Leach says. “At the back we wanted a pickup tailgate configuration that was more exciting and performance-oriented, and this one has a clamshell effect when it is opened.”
GM plans to seriously study reaction to the concept over the coming months and reportedly could have the truck in production in less than 30 months if given the green light. That schedule could be accelerated since the platform has already been validated, along with most of the components. Leach admits the bumper offsets and roof height may have to be modified before production, but most everything else is ready for prime time.
GM’s mid-size Lambda crossover platform family—GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave—gains another sibling with the introduction of the ’09 Chevrolet Traverse. The Traverse gains unique styling from the A-pillar forward, including a bespoke hood, headlamp, grille, and fog lamp design. “We wanted this to have a faster nose, not a big truck face,” says Bryan Nesbitt, who heads GM’s North American design. The tailgate has unique tail lamp cutouts that mimic those of the Camaro. The interior of Traverse is also differentiated from its siblings with a twin-cockpit design and dual binnacle instrument cluster. Traverse will be the first non-Saturn-badged vehicle to roll off the line in Spring Hill, TN, later this year. Another notable item is under the hood, where GM has packed its 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 that debuted in the ’08 Cadillac CTS, rated at a maximum 286 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque.
GMC’s ’09 Sierra joins GM’s two-mode hybrid line-up late in 2008, helping to boost fuel economy by upwards of 25% and helping the automaker achieve tightening fuel economy regulations, not to mention helping customers cut their fuel costs. The two-mode (see AD&P June, 2006) is mated to a 6-liter V8 capable of all-electric driving up to 30 mph and of providing a 6,100-lb. towing capacity in two-wheel-drive configuration.—KMK