2021 GMC Yukon Denali Review

If I were to play in a TV commercial from the Super Bowl for the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali, I would first load my smiling, all-American kids in the brand new three-wheeled SUV, plus my dog ​​with his shiny fur and playful paws, before turning towards the camera. Seriously, and perhaps after folding my arms to lend gravitas and telegraphing how sincere I felt, I would say that, just like a modern truck, families grow up and so do their needs.

Now, I do not have a cohort of powerful sons, or a dog for that matter, but I do have a meaningless attraction to large luxury sofas that my lifestyle really does not require. Still, my attention has skipped over the Yukon in the past, sandwiched as it is between Chevrolet’s serious Tahoe and Cadillac’s glittery Escalade.

My motivations have been simple. The previous truck trio was based on a fairly old-fashioned body-on-frame construction, and my feeling was that you either go cheap and prioritize the maximum number of vehicles per dollar, or you load it up on technology and leather. For the fifth-generation Yukon and its like, however, General Motors switched to a new hybrid unibody-on-frame platform with independent rear suspension.

GMC also effectively turned Denali into a signature version of the Yukon. Yes, you get a higher level of standard kit inside, but there are sheet metal changes outside and a different dashboard inside than its SLE, SLT and AT4 siblings.

The result is a more distinct, more memorable SUV and a larger one. Over 6 inches longer than the outgoing Yukon, almost 5 inches of that increase goes to the wheelbase and in particular the space for third-row passengers and luggage space. Both my big sons and their beloved puppy would be happy, especially with the increase in legroom for the last row.

It’s easy to sniff at the Yukon over its cheaper Tahoe siblings, but in Denali form, it’s the Cadillac Escalade that makes the more exciting comparison. Like Caddy’s new truck, the Yukon Denali 2021 will feature a 6.2-liter V8 and a 10-speed automatic, along with an optional 4WD and a 2-speed gearbox, plus standard Magnetic Ride Control. The $ 11,255 Denali Ultimate Package throws in air suspension and huge 22-inch wheels, among a host of other features, further narrowing the gap with the Escalade.

With 420 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm to potluck, the V8 has little power. It will pull up to £ 8,000 with the right option as well; The Denali Ultimate package also includes the Prograde Trailing System, traction control, an in-vehicle trailer app, trailer brake control and extends the standard blind spot warnings to suit whatever you pull. This is in addition to the usual lane assistance, automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking and collision warning, crossing traffic and pedestrian warnings and front and rear parking assistance.

As the powertrains go, this V8 and 10-speed combo is a syrup-like in all the best ways. The power is only there when you ask for it, with barely a whimper from the well-tamed double exhaust; the gearbox may have strange little gears to shift between its positions, but it neglects imperceptibly through its gears. Really dirty asphalt can cause some shaking to the cabin, but the new platform avoids it turning into that familiar old body-on-frame shimmy, while MagneRide helps prevent the Yukon from rocking like a boat.

In short, it goes like an Escalade, only the 2021 Yukon Denali starts at $ 71,400 (plus $ 1,295 destination) in 4WD form, and even my “Ultimate” version still landed at $ 83,495 all-in. It does not even get you into an Escalade Premium Luxury 4WD from 2021, which means that you have to settle for the bass-specific Luxury tuning and its strangely spartan feature list. I refuse to let my cheeky-but-lovable offspring be ashamed in that way at the school gate.

GM’s 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel with its identical but previously arriving torque is not only an option but also a little cheaper. After driving it in the 2021 Escalade, I can say that it is a nice alternative to the V8, although the improvements in the economy are dampened by the fact that none of the engines will win any awards among environmentalists.

The EPA says you can get 14 mpg in the city from the V8, 19 mpg on the highway or 16 mpg combined. They are both unimpressive and inadequate.

There are many buttons and screens in the Yukon Denali’s cab. A 10.2-inch infotainment touch screen in the center console; a 15-inch head-up color screen; an additional 8-inch screen embedded in the driver’s instrumentation; and the Ultimate package also includes dual 12.6-inch touch screens for entertainment. However, they lack the wow factor of Escaladen’s curved OLED. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless are standard, and there is a wireless charging pad for your phone.

GMC’s latest infotainment system – shared with other GM vehicles – has improved in a good way, and this latest iteration is clearly designed, easy to navigate and quick to use. Still, you will press physical switches and turn on real knobs for many things. The plumbing system is not short on buttons, although GMC gets the credit for making it super easy to switch to adjustment settings for the back, while the panel to the left of the steering wheel is positively scary with what feels like an abundance of controls.

Denali trim surrounds it with nice leather and real wood with open pores, even though the Jet Black interior of my test car felt dark. GMC offers much easier alternatives which – although they may require a little extra care from my sports scholarship-winning children when they pull on their muddy boots and uniforms – are much more welcoming. It’s a shame you get the same buttons on the steering wheel that you would get in a Tahoe, even if it’s not that the Escalade really does better there either.

Despite everything I like about the Yukon Denali, there are still some odd decisions. Unlike in the new Escalade, you can not have the superb Enhanced Super Cruise with its hands-free file management and automatic file change. In fact, even just standard adaptive cruise control is optional at GMC, which seems bizarre considering the price tag. Options are also GM’s camera-based rearview mirror.

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