Denali is the Athabaskan name for the highest peak in North America. GMC has adopted it for their most exclusive package, which includes almost every option as standard equipment. We spent a week with a new 2015 Yukon Denali, and this new SUV is very worthy of its name.
In a world of car-based crossovers, GMC still builds the traditional SUV. Sharing the same body-on-frame architecture as their new pickup trucks, the GMC Yukons are built in two sizes.
A few weeks ago, we had a chance to review the new Escalade ESV (long wheelbase) and it thoroughly impressed us. The standard Yukon is 20” shorter than the XL version, but in Denali form it becomes viable competition to Cadillac.
The window sticker is written in 4 point font in order to include all the options. As expected, the Denali package includes the latest in safety with adaptive cruise and lane departure warning. GMC’s 8-inch touch screen is more traditional than Cadillac’s CUE system, but both utilize 10 Bose Centerpoint speakers with active noise cancellation. Externally, the Yukon’s features are not as chiseled or bold as on an Escalade. The Yukon sports traditional HID headlights, as LED low beams are reserved for Cadillac. Shared among all GM’s SUVs is the Intellilink system, which sports 4G WiFi and many useful apps.
Power comes from the same 6.2L V8 found in the Escalade. Our Yukon was a 2WD model with a 3.42 locking rear differential. This conservative ratio combined with the six speed automatic transmission allows for blistering acceleration and up to 21 mpg highway. By the time you read this, the six speed will be replaced by the new eight speed transmission for a few more mpg.
Towing 8,400 pounds is a breeze with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Magnetic ride control tunes out all body roll and returns a buttery smooth ride, even over broken pavement. Electric power steering is effortless while parking and offers firm control at speed. Without the added weight of the 4WD components, our Yukon felt much sportier than the Escalade. If all wheel traction is not a priority, choose the 2WD model. Your right foot and wallet will thank you. All doors are triple-sealed and the wheel wells are heavily insulated. Combined with the active noise cancellation, this is the quietest SUV on the market.
(See Also: 2014 Land Rover LR4 Review)
With the launch of this new generation, prices have increased to reflect the improvements in quality. If you need LED headlights and Kona leather, the Escalade is $90,000 and change. For $71,720 the Yukon delivers the same ride quality, safety and power in a more conservative wrapper. Drive them both and choose what’s right for you.