Vail, Colorado. The idea behind this brief drive event was not to discover the all-new 2021 GMC Yukon Denali’s overall performance or refinement. If I was to report anything on these elements, I’d be grossly exaggerating the value of the time I got to spend behind the wheel of the all-new Yukon Denali.
The driving exercise was meant solely to demonstrate the inherent value of the available Active Response 4WD system. As a reminder, there are three components involved in creating what will turn out to be a seamless added safety and drivability feature for Yukon owners.
These components are Magnetic Ride Control, a four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension as well as an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential and an active center differential. On the short course we traversed, we put the AWD system to the test on icy surfaces, one side at a time. Essentially, the wheels on the left (or the right) were on a patch of ice and, with AWD left in Auto, we simply rolled off the slippery surface.
While this is a very common test, the Active Response 4WD’s instant response and the complete absence of wheel spin (with the standard 22-in Bridgestone Alenza) made me understand that GM’s taken the Yukon’s off-the-beaten path potential to the next level. The rear electronic Limited Slip Differential (eLSD) imperceptibly sends torque to one side or the other – this should turn into an asset on dry pavement also. I look forward to finding out firsthand.
Furthermore, the accompanying four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, which from its normal position, can lower or raise the ride height 50mm either way, improves approach and break-over angles to match semi-serious off-roaders or aid with ingress and egress. Its activation is nowhere near as sophisticated or extreme as what Mercedes-Benz offers with its available E-Active Body Control suspension but it will do the trick.
What I also discovered are controls, throttle and braking, that require far less pressure to activate. On the uphill climb portion of the “trot”, bringing the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali’s to a complete stop midway up called upon a very light touch to the large pedal. Same went when accelerating from this position where brushing the go-pedal was all that was needed to move.
During the whole drive process, we were accompanied by a GMC representative. Throughout the manoeuvres, I brought up the fact that I was saddened by GM’s decision to drop the column-shifter in favour of button-activated transmission controls. He stated simply that both the “shifter” and heightened pedal sensitivity were a direct result of who buys these trucks – they certainly aren’t bushmen or “truck” drivers; they are well-to-do typical moms and dads. These people love their large luxury SUVs.
With a reached top speed of 31 mph (50 km/h), if only for a second or two, I cannot comment on steering response or handling but I can say that, much like the controls, steering is very light. I can also report that the magnetic ride dampers kept occupants well isolated from the rutty, snowy and icy surfaces we drove on.
The takeaway from this very brief jaunt at the wheel of the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali confirms, as best as it can, that the truck will fulfill Denali shoppers’ and buyers’ every whim. Plus, it is now more capable and, as far as I’m concerned, is more attractive inside and out than it was. Oh, and the 6.2-litre V8 still makes wonderful music.
The new Denali will arrive first, setting the stage for the remainder of the Yukon line. Given that it accounts for a huge portion of Yukon sales, GMC’s made it the best ever Denali.