It’s no secret that we love high performance pickup trucks over here at LSX Mag. So when we got word that a daily-driven GMC Sierra Denali build was underway that featured SCT Performance ECU tuning and a badass female behind the wheel, we were quick to find out what was going down over in Indiana.
Photo Credit: Johnny Coyt
HR Specialist, Kelsey Bylsma, knew right away that the pickup pictured here was precisely what she had craved her entire life. Growing up on a farm had left the Indiana native with the mindset that trucks weren’t just a mode of transportation or a tool of the trade, they were a part of life. Ergo, a pickup truck was the only vehicle she had ever wanted, and while several other automobiles have come prior to today’s topic of conversation, nothing has ever come close to providing Kelsey with the level of enjoyment that this Sierra Denali has delivered.
Unearthed last March, this 2016 GMC Sierra Denali came with everything Kelsey had wanted and then some, including a hulking 6.2L L86 V8, which in stock trim generates 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. “Gen-V” engine accounted for and truck obtained, mods got underway no more than a few weeks after the pickup was picked-up. Kelsey started with a spray-in bed liner, a T-Rex black billet grille, bed cover, 22-inch GM Performance satin black wheels, and an S&B Performance air intake. From there it was on to choosing an exhaust, which proved to be more of a challenge than previously predicted due to the staggering number of aftermarket options. After searching for what seemed like an eternity, a CORSA Performance dual black chrome-tipped exhaust was selected based upon the throaty exhaust burbles it produced and the performance gains it provided for GM’s 6.2-liter V8 engine.
When asked about the reasoning behind going with a Denali version of GMC’s Sierra truck lineup, Kelsey replies, “Having the creature comforts was important because this is not only my everyday vehicle but also our family hauler. Plus, having the 6.2-liter and the 8-speed transmission provided us with a lot of room for future mods. When we bought the truck, I knew we wanted to make more performance-based mods. We talked with David Griffin, our tuner, about what we wanted to do long-term… retain a lot of the OE drivability, but increase horsepower and torque.”
And increase horsepower and torque they did, which materialized after some serious research and the sourcing of a BDX Performance Programmer by SCT Performance, which Kelsey tells us “checked all the boxes and then some.” By capitalizing upon the bolt-on setup already attached to the Denali, the BDX Performance Programmer has given Kelsey loads of performance perks, all while permitting the flexibility to adjust tunes down the line when future modifications materialize. She says this programmer has also allowed the adjustment of transmission shift points and electronically deactivated the Denali’s DOD.
Tuning tweaks made, and 32 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque unlocked, Kelsey says she has noticed that the SCT Performance BDX tune has made her Denali a substantially better driving vehicle in every aspect. “Since the truck has been tuned shifting has become smoother, which provides better ride quality. The additional throttle response performance has made my daily commute that much more enjoyable too… the increase in horsepower and how quickly it gets up to speed really puts a smile on my face.”
We contacted SCT Performance to discuss its take on this project and received this answer in response. “Our Calibrator, David Griffin, custom-tuned the truck using Advantage and a BDX. We do not have a preload for this one, so… custom tuning.“
When asked who she owes turning her vision of the perfect pickup into a 6.2-liter dyno-rolling reality, Kelsey is quick to respond. First up is David Griffin of GriffTuned, who doubles as SCT Performance’s calibrator, and who unlocked all manner of hidden performance perk. Next up is “The Wraporcist,” who handled the vehicle’s 3M vinyl install, and was followed by Back 2 Beautiful Auto Detailing, which tackled all things ceramic coating and detailing. Finally, there was Johnny Coyt, who snapped all of the photographs of Kelsey’s pickup, both on and off the dyno.
When asked what might be next for her 6.2-liter powered luxury pickup, Kelsey is just as eager to explain that she is just getting started. Despite having just unleashed quite a bit of hidden power, more high-performance mods look to be right around the corner for the young truck enthusiast, starting with American Racing 1 7/8” long-tube headers. After that, she plans to secure a GM Performance big brake kit, and have a Brian Tooley Racing (BTR) PDS Stage 2 cam installed. and. There’s also talk of truly deleting DOD once and for all, before outfitting the family rig with a 2.9-liter Whipple Supercharger, which would provide the sort of pickup truck performance gains that Kelsey ultimately craves.