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2015 GMC Yukon Denali First Drive

The 2015 GMC Yukon Denali is as chrome-tastic as ever, but offers added interior refinement and a better ride quality.

What It Is
A comfortable, versatile, and chrome-loving SUV for those who want a strong presence on the road.
Best Thing
Smooth ride and top-of-the-line comfort.
Worst Thing
High price tag, subtle interior orientation from lower models.
Snap Judgment
The 2015 GMC Yukon Denali gives the current Escalade a run for its money.


Often overlooked in the auto industry, GMC caters to a unique consumer taste. General Motors' number two volume brand has always been known for its refinement, professional-grade vehicles, and high loyalty among customers. GMC is building on this reputation with the introduction of the all-new 2015 Yukon full-size SUV lineup. The automaker invited us to drive the top-of-the-line Yukon Denali, so we took it for a spin down the roads of Napa, California.

Although it shares its sheetmetal with the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the Yukon Denali brings refinement and exclusivity to a new level. Thoughtful interior changes enhance this SUV's overall appeal against more mass market SUVs. But the most important upgrade here is an all-new 6.2-liter V-8 that is exclusive to the Yukon Denali.

Walkaround

The new Yukon Denali looks remarkably like the old one, but General Motors made subtle yet effective changes. All-new lighting in front gives the car a fiercer look with standard HID headlamps. New body lines across the vehicle and a rear spoiler add to a sportier appeal for this next-gen SUV. Tow hooks are no longer visible on the front face of the SUV, giving it a little more refinement. As always, the Yukon Denali is bedecked with chrome, but doesn't go as far as the Escalade. Buyers will likely appreciate the Yukon Denali for its strong presence on the road, but also one that isn't too ostentatious.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Sitting Down

I was impressed by the car even before I sat down. When opening the door, a large chrome step emerges from the bottom of the car to help drivers and passengers enter the vehicle easily. Once inside, you will see pretty much the same exact layout as the Tahoe and Suburban, but with a little bit of added refinement. Instead of plastics, the Yukon Denali features real aluminum and real wood accents throughout the cabin. The seats, while feeling nice to the touch, are also comfortable and supportive on long drives. Denali buyers will enjoy heated and cooling seat functions, vibrating seats that tell drivers when they are drifting, and OnStar 4G LTE that creates a WiFi hotspot for your car (late availability).

The comfort and convenience extends to all three rows, which receive the same soft-touch materials as in the front. Back seat passengers also have access to multiple USB ports and plenty of cup holders. All around, GM tried to maximize storage in every nook and cranny. A gear selector near the steering wheel frees up tons of storage space between the driver and front passenger, enough room that GM has created a space that can double as a small file cabinet. Other than this, there are dozens of storage cubbies on the doors and armrests, increasing space from the previous model. One particularly clever storage space is located behind the infotainment touchscreen. With the push of a button, the touchscreen rises up off the console to reveal a USB port and space for small items. And another nice touch: third row power folding seats.

Driving

For a full-size SUV, the Yukon Denali delivered an impressively nice ride. With magnetic ride control, the suspension is able to quickly adapt to most road conditions. While sometimes I could hear noise on rough highways, the Yukon Denali insulates passengers from road noise and provided an overall quiet ride.

As earlier mentioned, the Yukon Denali gets its very own engine: a 6.2-liter V-8 that produces a whopping 420 horsepower, more than the previous generation. Passing other, smaller vehicles, on the highway is not a problem thanks to the responsive engine. Its 460 lb-ft of torque provides for impressive handling on the highway and on windy roads.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Summary

Some may fairly argue that these subtle differences aren't enough to justify the car's heavy price tag. This really depends on how much attention to detail the consumer wants in his or her vehicle. However, we think it's the powerful new engine that closes the deal on our approval of this model. We know that the Yukon Denali will be competitive in the segment as it appeals to a unique buyer, one that wants luxury but subtlety. We think many loyal GMC buyers will love this new model, if they are willing to pay the costs, which go as high as $75,000.

Basic Specs

6.2-liter V-8 direct-injected engine, six-speed transmission, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, 420-hp, 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (two-wheel drive) or 14 mpg city/21 mpg hwy (four-wheel drive)

3 comments
Automotive.com
Automotive.com

Richard, yes, making it the nicest school bus on the block, at least until the Escalade comes out.

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