On Higher Ground – the all-new 2021 GMC Yukon Denal
With the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL accounting for nearly one-third of General Motor’s large SUV sales, it’s easy to see why they are such important vehicles for one of the world’s largest automakers. So, when the big SUVs undergo a re-design, it’s a very big deal – for both GM and the buying public. For 2021, the Yukon and Yukon XL along with their twin-siblings the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, get their first makeover since 2015 – and this week I find myself behind the wheel of GMC’s flagship model, the Yukon Denali.
If any vehicle can make a great first impression, it’s the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali. From the front, its grille gleams with chrome flanked by multi-element headlamps at each side, all leading up to the tall and broad hood. On the side, the new Yukon carries on some of the lines from the previous model, but the new one now wears a fender badge and some of the angles from the previous generation have gone soft. Compared to the last model, the new Yukon is 6 inches longer from bumper-to-bumper, with a 5-inch increase in wheelbase. Overall, this new Yukon is big and bold yet very handsome.
More than half of all Yukons sold are Denalis, and for the first time, Denali owners will enjoy a unique interior thanks to a dashboard not shared with the other models. The most obvious difference is the placement of the 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen — embedded in the dash on the Denali rather than perched atop as it is in the SLE, SLT and the off-road-oriented AT4 Yukons.
And on the topic of screens – they are everywhere in the Denali. Besides the one in the center console, there is an 8-inch one in the instrument cluster, one in the rear-view mirror(making it a rear-view camera), two 12.6-inch headrest screens for the second-row passenger as part of the optional rear-seat entertainment setup, and my favorite, a huge 15.0-inch Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that can be set to be display a ton of useful information including the vehicle speed, actual speed and lane keep assist. And for those that recall the two-second rule from driver’s ed, the HUD does this for you by measuring how far away you are in seconds from the vehicle in front of you, and displaying it. No more counting 1-Mississipi, 2 Mississippi…
To be sure that all occupants are always connected, the Yukon is equipped with 7 USB ports, 2 HDMI ports, Bluetooth, WI-Fi, a wireless charging pad and 2 120-volt plugs. Road trip, anyone?
And you’ll be able to pack a lot of stuff for that trip. For 2021, the Yukon finally ditches that solid-rear axle, replacing it for an independent rear suspension. That along with the increase in length means there is more than 10 inches of additional third-row seat legroom and 66 percent more cargo space behind it. The one thing that hasn’t changed, unfortunately, is the tall load-height.
Just like the previous model, the Yukon Denali is powered by a 6.2-liter V8, making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Lesser Yukons continue with the familiar 5.3-liter V8 engine. A 3.0-liter diesel inline-six cylinder will be offered in the upcoming months.
One of my favorite features of past Yukons is that they don’t drive big – and this new one continues that trend. While the Yukon is big, I feel very comfortable and confident driving it, whether it be in tight traffic or on the open road. I’m only reminded of just how large it is when I walk away from it.
Power from the big V8 engine, while not overwhelming, still makes its presences when you hit the go-pedal. There is plenty of power on tap, all the time. And that’s good to know in case you use the Yukon to pull (it can tow up to 7,700 pounds) or have it loaded with passengers and their luggage. Those passengers will be impressed with the smooth, luxurious ride the Yukon Denali delivers. GM has definitely hit the bull’s-eye in terms of ride quality.
With the wait of the all-new Yukon and Tahoe finally over, I can easily say it’s been worth it. If you liked the previous generation, the new one simply picks up on it and improves on it. And apparently a lot of drivers liked the previous Yukon (and Tahoe) – as they have been the best-selling full-size SUVs for years. With what they have done with the all-new Yukon – that isn’t about to change.
– Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2021 GMC Yukon 4wd Denali
Base Price: $71,400.00
Price as Tested: $84,395.00
Layout: front-engine / four-wheel drive
Engine: 6.2 liter V8
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Horsepower: 420 hp
Torque: 460 lb/ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 14 city / 19 highway mpg
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