- Stylish and flashy
- Refined driving experience
- Smooth diesel power
- The latest software is buggy
- New digital meters do not add much
- Still need better interior materials at this price
The 2022 GMC Yukon XL Denali Duramax is not easy to miss. As big as a house and as heavy as the band Gojira, it’s equipped with wheels so huge and chrome accents so bright, your Boomer neighbors will throw out words like “dubs” and “bling” to describe it, as if it’s 2002 again. Despite its larger-than-life personality, GMC has steadily improved the Yukon since its 2021 launch. While the headline change this year is the new Yukon Denali Ultimate Edition, GMC also rolled out some changes to the Yukon Denali’s infotainment suite, and that—plus the fact that we’ve yet to hadn’t tested a rear-drive diesel Yukon XL – spurred us into the driver’s seat in this example.
What’s new with the 2022 Yukon XL Denali?
While it’s easy to discount the changes to the 2022 Yukon XL Denali as just “new screens and a little Google,” they’re a bit more extensive. Perhaps realizing the mundane GM infotainment system left something to be desired, the 2022 Yukon Denali now features the same Google-based infotainment system as the GMC Hummer EV Pickup. This new suite has the Google Maps functionality we all already used via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus access to the Google app store, and it lets you sign in with your Google account to seamlessly transition from computer to mobile to car. GMC also updated the Yukon Denali’s instrument cluster—it’s now a reconfigurable 12.0-inch digital display paired with a 15.0-inch head-up display.
The Yukon XL Denali is available with two engines; The 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 in our GMC is the standard engine, and a 6.2-liter gas V-8 costs $1,500. You’ll trade the shouty 420-hp V-8 for the rowdy Duramax’s 277 hp, but the diesel’s V-8-matching 460 lb-ft of torque and 23 mpg EPA combined rating (vs. a paltry 16 mpg for the 6.2 ) make it an easy victim. All Yukons have a 10-speed automatic transmission.
How does the Yukon XL Denali Duramax work?
We’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like the experience of a V-8—if there is, we probably don’t want to meet them—but the Yukon XL Denalis Duramax is such a lovely engine that we don’t miss the classic GM small-block eight-cylinder. The inline-six is a torquey, smooth-revving engine that doesn’t get out of breath like many other diesels. If it weren’t for the 10-speed auto’s quick, decisive, almost imperceptible shifts and the Duramax’s soothing purr, it would be easy to call the experience electric.
However, the rear-drive diesel Yukon XL Denali is slower than the gas-powered version. We clocked it at a respectable 8.0 seconds to 60 mph and 16.2 seconds through the quarter mile at 85.4 mph. We haven’t tested a 6.2-powered Yukon XL Denali, but a mechanically identical Cadillac Escalade ESV hit 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 95.2 mph. In the real world, the differences must be so small as to be irrelevant. You don’t buy a Yukon Denali to go fast—you buy it for the cozy, luxurious experience.
Inside the Yukon XL Denali
And on that, the GMC starts to falter a bit. The basics are good, as the Yukon steers well and its ride quality is firm but forgiving—thanks to the MagneRide dampers and air springs for taming the 22-inch, er, “studs.” However, the quality of interior materials is on the wrong side of the luxury ledger, which is especially hard to ignore given this Yukon’s $84,420 sticker price.
As for the new software, well, it’s hit or miss as well. The good news is that the Google integration into the main center infotainment display is generally successful. Signing in with your Google account is easy, and the Maps feature accurately replicates the phone app. The screen can be a little slow to respond at times, but assuming GMC keeps up with software updates, this could likely be improved in the future.
The new digital instrument cluster is also a nice addition, but its biggest shortcoming is that it doesn’t add any new functionality – it just replicates analog gauges digitally. There are a handful of layouts available, but they just present the same data in different ways. We also had some software bugs with the display, including that it wouldn’t load data like driving mode or tire pressure when exercising what little customizability there is in the system. GMC missed a huge opportunity to leverage its new Google integration into an experience that rivals Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital dashboard display.
The GMC Yukon XL Denali’s new technologies are promising if imperfect; however, they are unlikely to be a large purchase price in the first place, so there is some leeway to be granted. And while GMC (and GM as a whole) still needs to improve the quality of its interior materials in high-end vehicles, the Yukon XL Denali Duramax largely succeeds in being a comfortable, roomy, nice-to-drive SUV that can’t be ignored.
Looks good! More details?
|2022 GMC Yukon XL Denali Duramax Specs|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$84,420|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, RWD, 7-speed, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L turbodiesel direct injection DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|POWER (SAE NET)||277 hp at 3,750 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||460 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm|
|PERSONAL WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6,036 lb (51/49%)|
|Length x width x height||225.2 x 81.0 x 76.5 inches|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.2 sec @ 85.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 feet|
|SIDE ACCELERATION||0.70 g (average)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.1 sec @ 0.55g (average)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/27/23 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||644 miles|