2021 GMC Yukon Denali first drive review: From luxury pretender to legitimate contender

From the blue-collar Chevy Tahoe to the stately Cadillac Escalade to the GMC Yukon in

From the blue-collar Chevy Tahoe to the stately Cadillac Escalade to the GMC Yukon in involving, Typical Motors’ loved ones of large, truck-dependent SUVs has been a massive vendor more than the years. Even with their reputation, these vehicles have not necessarily been the most premium, multipurpose or passenger welcoming, while these shortcomings — and some others — have been resolved for 2021. Thanks to a considerably-wanted redesign, the GMC Yukon Denali has been transformed from a luxury pretender into a genuine contender. 

Independence day 

Arguably, the one most vital adjust created to these full-measurement loved ones-haulers is the addition of an impartial rear suspension, a little something rivals like the Ford Expedition have had for decades. Ditching the outdated reside axle allowed engineers to insert sizeable quantities of passenger and cargo place, but that is not the only rationale why it really is much more capacious. For 2021, the Yukon has developed. Its wheelbase is up by almost five inches and the physique has been prolonged by much more than 6.   

Altogether, these changes get you a whopping sixty six% much more space at the rear of the 3rd-row seat. Certainly, it is usefully roomy back again there, roomy plenty of to house a pair pieces of rollaboard luggage or a whole mess of grocery baggage. With all the things folded flat, you will find now just shy of 123 cubic toes of junk-hauling potential, a cavernous quantity of space that in fact would make the typical Yukon much more capacious and an Expedition Max, the prolonged-duration model that competes with the even even bigger Yukon XL. 

Augmenting that impartial rear, this GMC gives numerous distinctive suspension setups. Coil springs with passive dampers aid lessen-tier versions, but magnetic-journey shocks are also made available with coil springs. The top-shelf arrangement, having said that, features 4-corner air bladders and people fancy magnetic dampers, which is what my Denali tester has. 

Sadly, journey good quality just isn’t as good as you may expect. Even with fancy shocks and air baggage this auto feels unnecessarily rigid and plodding, probably thanks to the enormous 22-inch wheels. Going more than bumps, you still get some physique-on-frame jiggles, but reside-axle shimmies have been exorcised. The Yukon’s ass-conclude continues to be as planted as a entirely developed oak tree, even when driven more than awful washboard surfaces. Overall body roll in corners is nominal and the steering is serviceable. 

There is an absolute ton of place back again in this article.


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As they must be, this vehicle’s front chairs are hospitable for several hours at a extend, additionally they’re heated and ventilated. But at long very last, the Yukon’s rear seats supply a lot of convenience, as well. 

With their lessen cushions approximately chair-top earlier mentioned the ground, the next-row buckets are bottom welcoming and a lot adjustable. But many thanks to that impartial rear suspension, even the 3rd-row is downright coddling, a little something you could hardly ever say about the outgoing Yukon’s rear-most bench, which was a no-developed-man’s land. Grown ups relegated to guidance in the 2021 model will have small to complain about as you will find a lot of aid and masses of headroom and legroom. 

Inside improvements   

Location the Denali aside from lesser Yukons and the Chevrolet Tahoe is a unique inside and I’m not just conversing about shade and trim. The dashboard style and design is in fact distinctive, with exclusive air vents and a neatly integrated 10.two-inch multimedia display screen instead of a much more freestanding display screen of the identical measurement. 

Not negative, GMC, not negative at all.


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GM infotainment systems have been killing it recently and this one is wonderful. It boots up practically instantly when you start the motor and it responds with immediacy. There is certainly no lag or stutters when swiping as a result of menus or zooming in or out on the map. Aside from exceptional general performance, this multimedia array is plainly laid out and extremely simple to use. 

Integrated navigation is typical in Denali versions but optional on lessen-conclude Yukons. Throughout the range, aid for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile is provided, while SLT, AT4 and Denali versions also occur with a wireless charging pad at no extra demand (no pun intended).

Justifying its premium pricing, this GMC’s cabin is eye-catching and loaded with good quality components. Two types of leather are used, one with a great grain and a further that is considerably rougher searching. At initial, I assumed the coarse cow hide seemed a bit crude, like elephant pores and skin or a little something, but I have developed to like it for the reason that it really is used sparingly and provides a great bit of contrast. 

Matching that leather, this Yukon’s a variety of switches and dials look great and really feel higher in good quality. Even the dashboard-mounted electronic shifter is an sudden winner. Comprised of buttons and toggles, it appears to be like fiddly, but it really is simple to access and intuitive. About the only thing that is low-cost experience in the new Yukon is the windshield-wiper/change-signal stalk, which, in common GM trend, is as rubbery as overcooked rooster.   

Lifestyle-sized adults will now easily healthy in the Yukon’s 3rd-row seat.


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A pair of twelve.6-inch next-row enjoyment displays are provided in the pricey $11,one hundred eighty Yukon Denali Best Deal, which also bundles features like people 22-inch wheels, electricity-retractable functioning boards, 4-corner air suspension and adaptive cruise handle. Crisp and responsive, these touchscreens make it simple for travellers to eat their beloved media, additionally they even have access to the vehicle’s navigation technique so they can set a desired destination in for the driver.   

In case you wanted nevertheless a further display screen in your existence, Yukon Denalis also characteristic a fifteen-inch multicolor head-up display screen. It is really super legible, even in sunlight, and it really is simple to alter the positioning and brightness by way of a couple of focused buttons on the dashboard.

A mostly pleasurable drive 

3 engines will be offered in the new Yukon. A 355-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 serves foundation duty when a 6.two-liter unit is optional, while typical on Denalis. Smooth functioning and tranquil, that massive-ish-block V8 packs a punch, 420 horsepower and 460 pound-toes of torque to be precise. 

Both gasoline engines are offered right now, but in advance of the conclude of the year, GM’s superb 3.-liter Duramax inline-6 diesel uncovered in the Silverado and Sierra fifty percent-ton vehicles will also be made available in the Yukon, which could be a gamechanger. No matter the motor, a 10-speed computerized transmission is typical products. 

Eight-cylinder engines are just wonderful, and the Yukon’s 6.two-liter unit is a delight, equally sleek and strong.


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Underway, this new Yukon’s general performance is superb. My tester’s 6.two-liter V8 is silken and a lot powerful, while I do desire it had a bit of exhaust rumble, for the reason that it sounds like, perfectly, quite considerably absolutely nothing. As for the transmission, it really is just as delightful, shifting well and seamlessly. But it really is sort of funny, with so quite a few gears it often feels like a constantly variable transmission for the reason that the RPM fall adhering to just about every upshift is miniscule. 

In accordance to the EPA, this Yukon Denali must deliver fourteen miles for every gallon in metropolis driving and 19 on the highway. Mixed, it really is rated at a scowl-inducing sixteen mpg. The good thing is, in serious-earth, combined driving I have managed to conquer that determine, averaging all over eighteen, which isn’t quite as terrifying. 

Remaining the measurement of a Navy destroyer and weighing much more than 5,800 lbs in 4-wheel-drive Denali trim, you won’t be able to expect this SUV to have cat-like reflexes. It is really undeniably massive and weighty, but it isn’t going to really feel fairly as great as it in fact is. Creating my tester a touch less complicated to handle is a host of adjustable camera angles, which give you a 360-degree perspective of the auto, additionally parking sensors and a rear-perspective camera mirror.   

As you may expect, the new Yukon gives a lot of driver aids. Things like computerized crisis braking, pedestrian detection and computerized higher beams are all typical. Denali versions are also graced with blind-place monitoring and rear cross website traffic inform, but curiously, factors like that camera mirror and adaptive cruise handle are optional. Definitely, they must be typical at the rate GMC is charging. 

Your land yacht awaits.


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A luxury rate tag 

So, how considerably do they want for a 2021 Yukon? Perfectly, a foundation, rear-wheel-drive SLE model begins all over $fifty two,000, which is a completely reasonable determine. In reality, relying on trim, charges have both remained the identical as very last year or crept up a little bit, by not much more than $700. But in comparison, my tester rolled off the assembly line in Arlington, Texas with a window sticker of $eighty three,420, which includes $1,295 in desired destination rates. That’s a good deal of scratch, pretty comparable to a lessen-end Mercedes-Benz GLS or Lincoln Navigator, vehicles this GMC in fact has some prospect of competing with now. 

With additional inside space, bigger refinement and much more tech, the new Yukon Denali is greater than at any time. If you have acquired deep pockets and like what you see, look at your community GMC dealership, for the reason that they’re offered right now.