There is something to be said about obscurity or anonymity. For those of you who can remember when big luxury SUV’s came on to the scene in the early 2000’s anyone who was slightly famous or wishing to flex (I think that’s what they say now a days) drove either a Lincoln Navigator or Cadillac Escalade. But what is only slightly less well known is that for those that wanted luxury in a big SUV there was another option ballers looked at. This option was low key and understated. It allowed its owners to be equally pampered, but, fly under the radar of peering eyes; it was the Denali. A nicely appointed and slightly dressed up SUV with a 6.0L V8 that kept its occupants out of the lime light as they drove away from the night club or concert.
Over the past two decades the Denali name plate has grown into GMC’s own sub Luxury brand; infiltrating all model lines for GMC, from the Sierra to the Terrain. However, the granddaddy remains the Yukon. The all-new 2021 Yukon is bolder with a significant redesign of the front fascia. With a more prominent grill and sharper led headlight design, the Yukon looks aggressive and commanding. Under the hood the Yukon Denali comes standard with a 6.2L V8 with active cylinder deactivation to improve economy. It produces a healthy 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The tester seen here came with the optional 3.0L Duramax Diesel I6 producing 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque available from 1,500 rpm makes towing a breeze. The Duramax is quiet and responsive, matching perfectly with the Denali trim and giving you over 1,200 km of range on a full tank. This glorious power and range reaches the ground via an all-new 10 speed automatic with an active response 4wd system that monitors traction demands and routes power to any wheel that demands it.
To ensure occupants are pampered during your trip to the local clubhouse the Denali rides on independent 4-corner air ride suspension and magnetic ride technology. It makes mincemeat of pot holes and road imperfections. It further lowers the Denali during exit and entry and can be manually controlled for ease of loading and unloading. While driving the system can add up to 2 inches of clearance during off-roading and lowers the Denali for better handling and efficiency at speed. The system operates admirably in controlling the Denali and its significant mass. Body roll and lean are managed well and the Denali keeps composed when pushed, but, you must not forget that you are pushing nearly 5,900 lbs. of weight.
Step inside and the Denali continues to impress. There is a Yukon Denali specific instrument cluster with acres of stitched leather seating and surfaces. The environment feels opulent and well-appointed with touches like satin finished aluminum and exposed grain wood. The seats are lounger comfortable and you could travel hundreds of miles without feeling fatigued. The combination of quick access analog controls and digital interfaces make for a pleasant user experience. GMC’s infotainment system is quick, responsive and user friendly. It offers wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The system also offers Amazon Alexa. The system allows for a GMC first, phone projection system. Rear seat occupants are greeted with a pair of 12.6 inch touch media screens and captain seats that allow for the users to sync videos and content via USB or HDMI. Space is a foregone conclusion. With a 122.9 cu. ft. of space your Yukon will swallow everything you can through at it. If that’s not enough the Yukon XL ups the space to 144.7 cu. ft., however this adds an additional 15 inches of length to the Yukon.
Behind the wheel the Yukon Denali is responsive, despite its size. It’s not meant to defy the laws of physics, but, rather provide ample thrust when required like any luxury vehicle should. Whether it’s the 6.2L V8 or 3.0L Durmax the result is the same and when combined with the new 10 speed automatic shifts are imperceptible. The Magnetic Ride system and Air Ride Adaptive suspension swallows miles and miles of any road surface without the driver or occupants feeling anything. Now the ultimate question. Is the Yukon Denali a vehicle for everyone? The simple answer is no. The Yukon Denali is a purpose built vehicle for a specific buyer. A person who wants an executive office on four wheels that will allow you to conduct meetings in refinement while you take your business partner or would be client to the Cowboys game. Alternatively, you need to haul your family, the camper and all your gear to the lake for a week long of fun. This is the demographics of the Yukon and as it achieved this goal in quiet contemplation 20 years ago, it continues to do so today.