Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins, Photography by Garvin St. Villier
The formidable Yukon has always been a top selection for urban dwellers, larger families, and individuals that typically roll with crews or teams. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in your association that didn’t own a Yukon or its Tahoe counterpart. With the latest 2021 generation models, expect more fandom since GMC reformed the icon from the ground up with added style, a bevy of innovation, and distinguished comforts more akin to the likes of Escalade and Range Rover HSE than Armada and Expedition.
Since I had previously tested the off-road-tuned and amplified Yukon AT4 edition, I looked forward to the dichotomy between the two since the Denali variant introduces you to luxurious features and extensive chrome packaging, such as the massive grille that flexes from a mile away. My loaner arrived in a unique Midnight Blue Metallic exterior shade and Dark Walnut and Ash Gray interior trimmed in woods and leather. But you have to pay to play since MSRP starts at $71,400 and $83,795 total, including the $11,255 Denali Ultimate Package and $1,295 destination charge.
I was so enamored with ride smoothness thanks to Magnetic Ride Control and an Air Ride Adaptive Suspension and the power and performance of the 6.2-liter ECOTEC3 V8 (420-horsepower) and 10-speed automatic pairing that I continually made excuses to drive the stately SUV as often as possible. When accelerating, Yukon Denali drivers can select the transmission’s “Low” mode for added thrust. Newfangled gear shift tabs, which GMC dubs Electronic Precision Shift, saves center console volume and advances the Denali into a new innovative future. Many automakers are deleting the traditional gear shifter for push-button and rotary dials. For efficiency, an impressive Duramax 3-liter turbo-diesel achieving 700-plus miles is on the way. Amazing!
“GMC Yukon is the full-size premium SUV that’s made to be used,” said Duncan Aldred, Vice President of Global Buick and GMC. “The new Yukon delivers what customers value most – premium features, purposeful technology, and all-terrain capability.”
The Denali Yukon stands tall and certainly attracts attention for its size and Denali Ultimate Package features. Some of the additions include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, 22″ aluminum rims, power-retractable running boards, the previously mentioned Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, Adaptive Cruise Control, Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, and several other highlights. GMC also throws in the $2,490 Rear Media and Navigation Package with dual 12.6″ entertainment screens. But I don’t see a need for it as kids and teens are glued to their devices. Other vehicle touches are the impressive LED headlights, opening tailgate window, a prominent tailgate spoiler, and quad exhausts tips.
Before stepping up into the inspiring cabin, automatic running boards power down when the doors open and tuck themselves in when the doors close. Genuine hide inlays line the triple storage doors, wireless charging keeps your devices energized, and rear USB-c and standard power outlets in the third-row maintain passenger happiness. Of course, the GMC 10.2” infotainment center is far more advanced than the outgoing unit. It integrates large knobs, tabs, and touchscreen to control audio, Nav, apps, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, etc. The 15″ multicolor Head-Up Display animates the Yukon’s speed, navigation, and distance between the vehicle ahead. Second-row and third-row seats can be conveniently laid flat and lifted by switches on the front overhead console and in the rear cargo area. Moreover, a 14-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround augments your tunes. The high-performance system features AudioPilot 2 Noise Cancelation Compensation Technology, Centerpoint 2 Signal Processing, speakers located within the A and D pillars, and a Richbass woofer custom-engineered in a cargo area enclosure.
Safety remains at the forefront of the Yukon Denali’s DNA with GMC Pro Safety Plus that includes Lane Keep Assist, Front Pedestrian Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front and Rear Park Assist, HD Surround Vision, and Safety Alert Seat that vibrates when you switch lanes without signaling, which insinuates that you may have dosed off. OnStar Services and 4G LTE Wi-Fi is also available.
The 2021 GMC Yukon Denali is refreshing and refined to the core. It’s huge and could be a nuisance at times when parking in crowded lots, but all other attributes quickly overshadow that one inconvenience.