Nothing watered down about GMC Yukon Denali

Full-size SUV fills big void

What type of car do you drive? That’s a question I get asked a lot by readers who want to see if I can tip my hat and show some kind of bias. But the truth is, I don’t own a vehicle, because I get enough new vehicles every week to where I don’t need one. However, up until last fall my wife did own a GMC Yukon, which she traded in for a brand new Honda Pilot. Read into that what you want.

And I confess all this because my tester this week is none other than the aforementioned GMC Yukon.

For the 2021 model year, the Yukon has a totally new look and didn’t look much like the 2013 version we had that was my wife’s dream vehicle at that point. But our life changed and we didn’t quite need something so big and no longer had a camper to pull, so we downsized.

As for my tester this week, it’s still a big, stout seven-passenger full-size SUV but just with more modern looks. Some of the changes are more obvious, like the new grille, and other changes are more subtle like the improved third-row legroom. I can say that for our 2013 Yukon that third row was not very easy to get in and out of and was not very friendly for full-size passengers either. That was not the case of the 2021 version.

I always liked the Yukon’s looks as it had a very secret service/government vehicle look. Especially the one I drove which had a dark hunter green exterior that most thought was black, but in the right light really showed its green color well. All-in-all, the Yukon looks the part of a big, monstrous full-size SUV. You buy it for those reasons, and don’t want any of that watered down, and for 2021, there is nothing watered down about the Yukon.

My tester was the top-of-the-line Denali trim, which is lavish and special. If you can afford the price tag, the Denali brings a lot to the table. Specifically it also brings a 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 lb./ft. of torque. A big SUV that weighs more than 5,300 lbs. needs a V8 and the Yukon delivers. It won’t be a speed demon, but the engine, along with the 10-speed automatic transmission is fantastic, offering a great combination of agility, spryness, responsive shifting and overall performance balance.

This won’t be an exhilarating SUV, but it won’t let you down either.

The Yukon tow up to 8,400 pounds when properly equipped and that’s one of the big perks of this vehicle. It’s why we owned a Yukon so we could tow our camper. With the combined V8 engine and the transmission, the 2021 version is most certainly capable and up for such a challenge.

Inside, the Yukon Denali really pours on the niceties and special touches. GMC is General Motors’ higher-end brand from Chevrolet. The Tahoe would be the equivalent vehicle to the Yukon, but there’s a lot more fine touch points, luxury and amenities for the Yukon versus the more basic Tahoe.

With the Denali trim there are fine, near luxurious touchpoints like leather. The Denali Ultimate Package comes with rear seat media system, side assist steps (much needed) and a beautiful dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

Legroom for both the second and third row is outstanding, as is head room. The seats are comfortable and other than the height to get in and out, the overall seating angle is great, but the retractable side assist steps will make exiting the vehicle much easier.

Overall cargo room is outstanding with 25.5 cubic feet behind the third row seats (upright). With the third-row seats folded flat the cargo room expands to 72.6 cubic feet. Fold all rear seats flat and the overall cargo room is a vast 122.9 cubic feet. This is where a large SUV excels.

The infotainment system employs a 10.6-inch touchscreen that is responsive and intuitive. The GM infotainment is simple, clean and well organized and is superior to many other competitors.

The Yukon has an EPA rating of 14 mpg/city and 19 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of standard suburban driving, I averaged nearly 16 mpg.

Base price of my tester was $71,400. The Denali Ultimate Package dropped another $11,255 on along with an upcharge for that beautiful dark hunter green exterior paint. As tested, the final MSRP was $83,795.

Sure that’s a big price, but it’s a big SUV with a lot of big attributes.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $71,400/$83,795
  • Mileage.......................................... 14 mpg/city; 19 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 6.2-liter V8
  • Horsepower................................. 420 hp/460 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 10-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Four-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Arlington, Texas

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