GM’s new full-size SUVs have always been reference points for the segment.
Pricing for the 2021 Yukon starts at $58,548 in Canada, $52,695 in the US.
For the first time ever, the Denali trim is truly unique.
There are many auto critics in Canada and the US. And all of us have our favorite cars/SUVs/segments and we all have our opinions based on our experience or preferences. Despite this, with less than a handful of exceptions, we all have a soft spot for GM’s full-size SUVs. For this review, I sink my teeth into the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali.
The appreciation for GM’s GMT1XX platform-based full-size SUVs runs the entire gambit of models. Some lean towards the Tahoe, other the Yukon while some lust over the Escalade. No matter the badge on the massive front grille, there’s one for all tastes. Most impressively though is that all generations of these trucks are appreciated and loved.
I reviewed the 2021 Chevy Tahoe Z71 last year and you should know that I preferred its personality over that of the Yukon – it’s truly a matter of personal taste. In my case, I’m one for all things subdued and Chevy’s grille is tamer. In fact, this might have more to do with the Denali’s exclusive touches as I have to say that the Yukon AT4 is a stunner.
For years, the Denali version of the Yukon was little more than badges and accessories, but this has changed for 2021. Not only does is it carry its own grille, unique wheel designs (including 22-inch units), and quad tailpipes, but it finally has its own distinct dashboard layout. Opting for a Denali has never brought GMC Yukon customers closer to owning an Escalade.
A Denali-trimmed Yukon is always recognizable especially when painted White or, in my tester’s case, Black. The new exclusive interior is a notch above the Yukon where the 10.2-inch central touchscreen is integrated into its surroundings for a more complex and robust look. More importantly, the combination of leather and wood delivers an appropriately premium presentation.
Room and luxury
And luxury and space are extremely generous. Whatever row you may find yourself in, there’s a sufficient amount of room for legs, elbows, and heads. The better spots are in the second row where the split-folding bench slides and reclines. The truck’s width is especially evident when a full-size adult can sit between two large baby seats. A shortcoming back here is that there are no rear window shades – items you will find in far less expensive midsize and compact SUVs. The greatest piece of news for cargo-space-hungry owners is the third row now folds into the floor as opposed to the trunk’s floor. As such, the boot can now hold over 2,000 litres of gear behind the second row or about 30% more than previously.
The premium spots are up front. The large seats are comfortable and there’s more than enough space to empty out both a purse and your fanny-pack. HVAC controls and infotainment menus (with redundant buttons) and extremely user-friendly with a premium touch – proving that a complicated interface does not equal first-class.
For $80,348, the non-XL Yukon Denali also features a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, an 8-inch IP display, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and more attitude than any other premium SUV. Throw in the Ultimate package, as tested, with its 22-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, power running boards, and more and well, there’s nothing amiss. Or nearly for $93,000.
Another unique feature included with the Denali badge is the delightful 6.2-litre V8. Its 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque are delivered with comforting smoothness. However wonderful this engine may be however, and even though it casts a shadow on the nobler 5.3-litre V8 and its 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque, its extra power isn’t felt. But there are gobs of power, nonetheless.
The standard 10-speed automatic transmission might be partially responsible for this as its efficiency of operation is generally impressive. Its programming enables the engine to bask in its ideal rev-range for ideal and rapid throttle response. No matter your driving style or selected drive mode, an average of at least 15L/100km is to be expected – this is an expected reality for a vehicle that weighs over 5,500 lbs.
No road trip will be too long
The Yukon’s girth is part of what makes it so agreeable to drive. That, and the optional (as part of the Ultimate Package) Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive suspension with Magnetic Ride Control dampers makes the SUV wondrously comfortable and surefooted. It can also raise or lower the truck by a total of 4 inches or 50mm for more ground clearance or easier access. And ground clearance will come in handy when testing out the 2-Speed Autotrac transfer case.
Truly, driving this SUV is empowering. Its steering is heavy and thankfully precise and I admit to enjoying the stopping power and pedal response. Best of all is the serenity that reigns supreme onboard for passengers while the driver has superb V8 power connected to a very refined driving experience.
Pick your brand and go with it
As I noted in my Tahoe Z71 review, GM’s trucks own a 25% share of the market and it is quite safe. In my opinion, it will grow. From here, it’s a matter of selecting from Chevrolet, GMC, or Cadillac.
In conclusion, skip the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia.