In recent years, the folks at GMC have managed to transform the Denali sub-brand into one of the more successful premium nameplates — and kept the GMC brand relevant in the process. These days, roughly one in four vehicles boasting the red block print logo sold are Denalis, with an average transaction price of more than $57,000 — higher than the average price of BMW, Jaguar or Audi.
But before it was on small crossovers and midsize pickup trucks and massive heavy-duty rigs, the Denali name debuted on the Yukon. Indeed, the Yukon Denali has served as the Cadillac Escalade's more reserved twin for more than two decades, ever since the days when a giant, luxurious SUV seemed rather ridiculous rather than a profit engine. While regular Yukons have grown fancier and Chevrolet has begun offering extra-fancy versions of the Tahoe and Suburban, the Escalade has continued to move upmarket, leaving room for the Yukon Denali to slide into a niche between them.
Among the surprises the latest generation of these giants brought to market, however, transcends any particular model. While most of the world is leaving diesel behind —thanks mostly to a flood of bad publicity dropped on it over the years — GM has brought a turbodiesel engine to its big SUVs. The 3.0-liter Duramax — also found in GM's full-size pickups — seems ideal for a giant sport-utility vehicle, in theory, with abundant torque down low and better gas mileage (so to speak) than the traditional V8.
But there's good on paper, and then there's good in practice. To find out how the new Yukon Denali handles the real world, I took a Duramax-powered version out for a long weekend to Vermont, to better put it through its paces. It impressed...for the most part.
The Yukon Denali is the best-looking of GM's big SUVs
As SUVs have grown bigger and their front ends blockier, it's become a struggle to find ways to fill all that real estate, often leading carmakers to add all sorts of design elements meant to distract from the wall of vehicle looming in rearview mirrors.
GMC's treatment, though, is by far the more aesthetically pleasing among the latest crop of full-size General Motors sport-utes; while the Escalade's LED running lights give it a sabertooth face and the Tahoe/Suburban look a tad puffy-faced and squinty, the Yukon simply looks staid and square-jawed. The Denali improves on that even further by swapping out the regular grille, which looks a bit like a bottle opener, for one that looks like a Norelco shaver.
The Yukon Denali benefits from an interior that's not quite like any other of its siblings. It's not nearly as futuristic or high-tech as the Escalade's wall of OLED screens stretching from door to passenger, but it does integrate its infotainment screen much more organically than the regular Yukon (or Tahoe or Suburban, for that matter), and brings with it a swatch of elegant wood trim that's much nicer to look at than the dark leather-and-such that covers the dash of lesser Yukons.
Also unlike the Escalade — and more in tune with GMC's target customer, who's probably a little more likely to have worked with their hands in their life than the stereotypical Cadillac buyer — the Denali retains the regular Yukon's sturdy, easy-to-use knobs and physical buttons for the radio, climate control and secondary drive systems. All told, it's one of the better user interface systems in modern cars — packing technology that seems designed around the idea of being unobtrusive and helpful, rather than to show off. Expansive OLED gauges and haptic touchscreens are cool and look incredible, but when you're piloting several tons of metal filled with your loved ones at more than 100 feet per second while surrounded by obstacles that would hit you in seconds if you don't pay constant attention...sometimes simple is better.
You could get the XL version, but you probably won't need to
As previously discussed, GM's newest full-size SUVs have moved to an independent rear suspension, which pays dividends in terms of both ride and interior space. Much as we automotive journalists might harp on the former, it's the latter that most buyers will appreciate more. Even with the third row raised, there's nearly 26 cubic feet of cargo space back there; drop that row, and the remaining occupants will have 72.6 cubes to share. Or in other words, if you take a trip with three friends, each of you will have more than a Toyota Avalon trunk's worth of cargo space to yourself.
(If that's still not enough space for you, or if you honestly drive around with five or more passengers on a regular basis, there's also the Yukon XL Denali for $2,700 more...but seriously, test-park it before you buy, because it's almost too long for regular life.)
Fine as that is, though, the best seats are up front. The front row is expansive, even if you're in the top one percent of height, and there's ample room for the long-legged in row two, as well. Between the comfortable seats and the NBA-star eyeline height, it's easy to feel like the king of the road from behind the wheel — which is largely the point of these sorts of vehicles.
It may not be GMC's ultimate off-roader — you'll want the Yukon AT4 or the upcoming Hummer EV for that — but the Denali is more than able to make like Schwarzenegger and kick some ice when called for. 20-inch wheels are standard, but most Denalis will likely come with the optional 22s; either way, clad in winter tires and being fed ample torque by a 10-speed gearbox and a four-wheel-drive system, the Yukon can plow through thick snow, accumulated ice or pretty much any obstacle lower (or softer) than its undercarriage.
Of course, a Subaru Outback can do much the same thing. What sets the Yukon apart from most of the crossover pack is the fact that, when the going gets truly rough, you can throw the four-wheel-drive system into low range and multiply the torque headed to the wheels. It's not something most buyers will likely use often —indeed, I'm betting the average Denali owner doesn't even realize the 4WD system has any settings besides "Auto" — but it's a reassuring feature to have when the threat of being stuck in deep snow (or having to yank another vehicle out of it) is all around.
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The diesel, though, is hard to make a case for
As with the Escalade, Yukon Denali buyers have a choice between two engines: a 6.2-liter V8 and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six. (Oddly enough, while the Duramax is a $995 option in regular Yukons, the diesel is actually $1,500 cheaper in the Denali — thus, arguably, making it the standard engine.)
Both motors make the same amount of torque — 460 lb-ft — but the diesel engine's 277 horsepower lags well behind the gas engine's 420. And while diesel engines often make a case for themselves on towing, the oil-burning version actually tows less than the gas-powered rig, albeit only by a hair.
The most potent weapon in the Duramax's arsenal, then, is fuel economy, and to hear the EPA tell the tale, it's a strong case: 6.2-liter Yukons are rated at 14 mpg city / 19 mpg highway, versus 20 city / 26 highway for the Duramax. My testing, however, didn't bear that out; according to the trip computer, I averaged around 23 mpg in roughly 700 miles of mostly highway driving. Add in the fact that diesel is harder to find than gasoline (my usual gas stations didn't have it, for example) and that it tends to emit more CO2 on a per-mile basis than gas, and the demerits seem to counteract the benefits.
The biggest problem with the diesel Denali, however, is when you take it to exactly the sort of place seen in the GMC stock images: cold, snowy climates. Diesels and cold temperatures do not play well together, as I can tell you from one very unpleasant instance in Vermont several years back when I came outside one sub-zero morning to find my Sierra HD test truck utterly immobile. GMC, of course, knows this, which is why the Duramax versions come with an integral engine block heater powered via a hidden electrical port tucked behind a cover on the front fascia.
Actually using said plug, however, requires popping the cover off by hand — which, in turn, requires removing your gloves and trying to use your fingertip to pry it loose, which is hardly ideal in the cold conditions you'll be using it. Sticking it back on when you're done is little easier; it takes a firm whack of the palm to snap it back into place, which, again, isn't exactly what you're looking to do when it's in the single-digits.
More importantly, the need for the block heater means your parking choices are limited to spots within spitting distance of an electrical outlet. Which, as it turned out, the friend's apartment my girlfriend and I were staying at during our voyage to my Vermont hometown did not have — as, presumably, many a hotel, motel or
Holiday Inn AirBnB would also lack. We were able to get around this by leaving the Yukon in my mom's garage both nights and taking her car, but I assume most owners won't be so lucky — or so compassionate about having to jump through hoops for their $80,000 SUV on the ski weekends they had specifically in mind when they bought it.
Luckily, there's a workaround: 6.2 liters of all-American smallblock. Choose the gas engine, and you'll be happy as a clam.
2021 GMC Yukon Denali
Will Sabel Courtney
Base Price / Price as Tested: $72,695 / $82,245
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six; 10-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Torque: 460 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city / 26 mpg highway
Seats: 6 to 8, depending on configuration and how many butts you want to squeeze in the third row
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The Yukon XL Denali is available with two engines; the 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 in our GMC is the standard engine, and a 6.2-liter gas V-8 is a $1,500 upcharge.What makes a Denali better? ›
Denali signifies comfort and quality with attention to detail, including premium features and materials. Leather-appointed, heated driver and front-passenger seating†, real aluminum trim, unique seat trims and stitching details are just a taste of the luxury, comfort and style you'll get in a Denali.Is the Yukon Denali a good car? ›
Is the GMC Yukon Reliable ? The 2022 GMC Yukon has a predicted reliability score of 73 out of 100. A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.Is the GMC Denali a diesel? ›
The current generation of the Yukon Denali is available with a 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel engine. This unit is capable of producing 477 horsepower along with 460 lb-ft of torque.Is GMC diesel reliable? ›
The 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine is one of the main motors you will find in General Motors (GM) trucks. While these engines are extremely durable and reliable, they do have some problems.How much does a Denali diesel cost? ›
How much does a 2022 GMC Sierra HD Denali cost? The 2022 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty Denali starts at $66,000 for 2500.Is a Denali good in snow? ›
The GMC Yukon Denali Is Perfect for Winter, Unless You Opt for the Diesel. GMC's big, luxurious SUV slays snow, but the turbodiesel doesn't make a strong case for itself.How long do Denali engines last? ›
A few owners on vehicle discussion forums have reported hitting 400k with minimal issues and repairs over the years. Basically, you can get 20 years and more from the Yukon if it is properly maintained.Which is better Denali or Silverado? ›
2022 GMC Sierra Denali Keeps the Crown
The 2022 GMC Sierra Denali, in particular, is just on a completely different level. The base Denali offers higher quality interior features, infotainment, and stylings over the Silverado 1500's highest-end trim, the High Country.
Industry experts agree that owners can expect their GMC Yukon to last for at least 200,000 miles with regular maintenance, and the Yukon made Forbes' top 15 list of vehicles that run up to 300,000 miles or more.
Overall, the Denali Ultimate provides more tech, extra convenience, a better ride, the complete towing package, and higher quality materials. For $81,690, it does not fall short of luxurious expectations.What is better a Sierra or a Denali? ›
Ultimately, since both trucks are very similar, it all comes down to where they are different. The Denali is more powerful and more luxurious, but also more expensive.Is a Duramax better than a Cummins? ›
The Duramax leads with horsepower, but the Cummins is the king of torque with numbers up to 1,000 ft-lbs depending on the truck. Let's take a look at some other specs.
|Fuel tank capacity||36.0 gal.|
DMAX Ltd. is a subsidiary of General Motors, LLC. Its facility produces Duramax 6.6L V-8 turbo-diesel engine offered on GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado HD pick-up trucks.Is V8 engine better than diesel Duramax diesel GMC? ›
While the 3.0L Duramax diesel comes out on top in terms of efficiency and torque output, the 5.3L V8 shines when it comes to towing heavy, bulky items with ease.How many miles can you get out of a 6.6 Duramax? ›
Overall, a properly cared for Duramax engine should last over 300,000 miles. However, consumers report having Duramax's lasting in the 500,000-mile range!What cost more a Denali or high country? ›
According to Edmunds, the 2022 Chevy Silverado High Country costs $60,695 to start. MotorBiscuit previously listed the Denali at $56,800. Moreover, the Sierra pickup truck is gaining the Denali Ultimate trim going forward. Obviously, that will be even more expensive and luxurious than either of these standard models.How much does a GMC Denali fully loaded cost? ›
The 2022 GMC Yukon Denali price starts at $70,045 for the diesel engine. It's possible to make that even higher by upgrading to the 6.2-liter V8 engine, which costs $71,695. Packages and add-ons drive up the price even more. Most colors will cost you extra, though White Frost Tricoat is the most expensive, at $1,095.How much is a fully loaded GMC Denali? ›
In the end, the fully loaded 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali price is $80,355, and the dealer add-ons are a separate accessories price. It is easy to spend $100,000 on the Sierra Denali. The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali price is high, but you get a pretty serious truck loaded with accessories in it.
Yukon Denali, XL Denali, Sierra Denali
Full-time all wheel drive system with free differentials.
Yukon Denali is available in 2WD or 4WD configurations and come with standard third-row seating. 122.9/72.6/25.5 cu.Can the Denali drive itself? ›
Available in 2022, GMC will offer its Super Cruise technology in the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali, Denali Ultimate, HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV. However, this self-driving technology only achieves a Level 2 autonomous driving rating, which means drivers are still responsible for controlling the vehicle.Is the GMC 6.2-liter a good engine? ›
The Chevy 6.2 engine and the transmissions have proven to last in excess of 250,000 miles and beyond. With regular service intervals and proper maintenance they can last 10-20 years or over 250,000 miles. Yes, this General Motors developed 6.2-liter V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) is a real engineering wonder.Are Yukon Denali expensive to maintain? ›
A GMC Yukon will cost about $8,300 for maintenance and repairs during its first 10 years of service. This beats the industry average for popular SUV models by $833. There is also a 22.80% chance that a Yukon will require a major repair during that time.What SUV last the longest? ›
- Toyota Land Cruiser. 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota. ...
- Toyota Sequoia. 2022 Toyota Sequoia | Toyota. ...
- Chevrolet Suburban. Summit White 2022 Chevy Suburban | Chevrolet. ...
- GMC Yukon XL. ...
- Toyota 4Runner.
Generally speaking, GMC trucks are more for luxury users, while Chevrolet trucks are more for the average truck buyer. By aiming for two different markets, General Motors can reach more people without having their trucks compete against one another.What does Denali stand for? ›
Denali is a word from the Koyukon Athabaskan language of the Native peoples of Alaska that means “the great one.” It was used for centuries to describe the highest mountain in the state, which was renamed Mount McKinley during the 19th-century gold rush.Are GMC trucks built better than Chevy? ›
GMC trucks and SUVs are priced relatively higher than their Chevy counterparts, but they offer better quality materials and come with more standard equipment and premium features. Most of GMC's truck and SUV sales come from its luxurious off-road AT4 and high-end Denali trim levels.What's the longest lasting vehicle? ›
|Longest-Lasting Vehicles to Reach 200k Miles – iSeeCars Study|
|Rank||Vehicle||% of Cars Over 200k Miles|
|1||Toyota Land Cruiser||16.3%|
Toyota earns the top spot as the best automaker for dependability. Toyota vehicles are known for their longevity, and they are proven to last longer than any other brand. Toyotas are built so well they have below-average maintenance and repair costs, which helps contribute to why they remain on the road for so long.Which car engine lasts longest? ›
- 10/10 Toyota 2AR-FE Engine.
- 9/10 Toyota 1ZZ Engine.
- 8/10 Honda B Series Engine.
- 7/10 Honda K Series Engine.
- 6/10 Lexus 1UZFE Engine.
- 5/10 Lexus 2UR-GSE Engine.
- 4/10 BMW M57 Diesel Engine.
- 3/10 Nissan RB26DETT Engine.
GMC: 54.6 Percent Retained Value
Each is available in Denali trim, which adds premium amenities and design details. In any trim level, GMC vehicles have desirable durability and versatility that aid in their 54.6 percent value retention over five years.
GMC Denali — GMC automaking's highest standard. The ultimate in advanced design; pinnacle of professional grade. The Denali nameplate is the distinctive top trim available for the GMC Sierra and Canyon trucks, as well as Terrain, Acadia, and Yukon SUVs.Is Yukon worth buying? ›
In conclusion, it isn't worth waiting for the 2023 GMC Yukon. Almost nothing about the large SUV is changing for the new model year. Unfortunately, the Denali Ultimate trims contain features already available but for a much higher price. We're still getting the same design and features as the 2022 model.Is GMC better than Silverado? ›
Both the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 and 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 produce identical horsepower and performance specs with help from their ten-speed automatic transmissions. Where they differ is in towing capacity. The Silverado 1500 has a higher towing capacity, when properly equipped, than the Sierra 1500.Which GMC is best? ›
- 8/10 GMC Acadia.
- 7/10 2014 GMC Sierra.
- 6/10 GMC Savana.
- 5/10 2019 GMC Terrain.
- 4/10 GMC Sonoma GT.
- 3/10 GMC Syclone.
- 2/10 2nd Generation GMC Canyon.
- 1/10 GMC Envoy.
The 2022 Ford F-250 Platinum and GMC Sierra 2500 Denali are two heavy-duty trucks with big personalities.Do short trips hurt diesel engines? ›
Short trips do not let the diesel engine get warmed up well enough to remove deposits and keep carbon from accumulating and being burnt off. That's all really. You need at least 15-20 minutes of loaded running to get it to temp and say about 1 hour straight a month of highway driving minimum to keep it all happy.What is the most reliable diesel truck on the market? ›
|Ford||F-250/F-350||7.3-Liter Power Stroke V-8|
|Chevy/GMC||Silverado/Sierra||6.6-Liter Duramax LB7 V-8|
|Chevy/GMC||Silverado/Sierra||6.6-Liter Duramax LBZ V-8|
|Dodge Ram||2500/3500||5.9-Liter, 12-Valve Cummins I-6|
- 8/10 Cummins 6.7.
- 7/10 Toyota Diesel Straight-Six.
- 6/10 Trident Iceni 6.6 V8.
- 5/10 Alfa Romeo 2.4 JTDm.
- 4/10 VAG 1.9 8v TDI PD.
- 3/10 Audi Q7 V12 Diesel.
- 2/10 Mercedes OM617.
- 1/10 Peugeot 908.
DEF is consumed at a rate of about 2-3% relative to the amount of fuel you are using. This means between 1.2 and 2.0 gallons of DEF will be required for a vehicle with a 65-gallon gas tank. If you have a five-gallon DEF tank, DEF should be replaced every third or fourth time you fill up.What fuel is recommended for 6.2 Denali? ›
However, if you upgrade the engine to the 6.2L, you might be wondering, “Does the Chevy 6.2 need premium gas”? Yes, the Chevy 6.2L engine has a higher compression ratio, and 93-octane gas is recommended.Is a Denali a luxury vehicle? ›
GMC Denali is a premium trim level available on GMC vehicle models. From the Sierra 1500 Denali to the Acadia Denali, there is a Denali package crafted around your luxury requirements.What happens when you run out of DEF in a Duramax? ›
Exhaust is injected with DEF before entering the SCR catalyst, where it is then transformed into clean air that exits the tailpipe. If you let the DEF tank run dry, you could experience days, weeks or even months of downtime — along with thousands of dollars in potential repairs.Is Duramax made in China? ›
The one piece of the story you've been missing, however, has been how these engines are built. Where The Magic Happens Duramax engines are manufactured in Moraine, Ohio, by DMAX Ltd.Which truck manufacturer has the best diesel engine? ›
What Is the Best Diesel Engine? Many consider the Duramax 6.6-liter (Chevy/GM), the Cummins 6.7-liter (Dodge), and the Powerstroke 6.7-liter as the best diesel engines available for 2021-2022 pickup trucks.Does the 2022 GMC Yukon come in diesel? ›
Closely related to the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, the Yukon lineup can be had with either a 5.3- or 6.2-liter gasoline-powered V-8 engine or a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six.Is the GMC 6.2 a diesel? ›
The 6.2L Detroit Diesel debuted in 1982 as a collaboration between General Motors and Detroit Diesel. The engine was naturally aspirated and powered by diesel.Is the new Denali diesel? ›
DENALI BLACK DIAMOND EDITION
Power-retractable assist steps with LED perimeter lighting. 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 Engine with Allison 10-speed automatic transmission.
While the 2023 Sierra Heavy Duty offers powertrain advancements across the lineup, the legendary available Duramax Diesel engine and 10-Speed Allison Automatic Transmission continue to offer the in pulling power excellence: The 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine delivers an impressive 445 HP and 910 lb. -ft. of torque.Does Yukon Denali need premium fuel? ›
With the 6.2 engine and RWD, the Yukon is rated at 15/20 and the XL is rated at 14/20; with 4WD, both are rated at 14/19. Premium-grade gas is required for the 6.2 engine; the 5.3 runs on regular gas.How much can a diesel Yukon pull? ›
Trailer confidently with the available Max Trailering Package that delivers a max available towing capacity of 8,400 lbs.How many miles per gallon does a 6.2 diesel get? ›
Power output was, ahem, modest — 130 horsepower (135 in some applications) and 240 lb-ft of torque, roughly equivalent to the output of Volkswagen's 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbodiesels. Fuel economy was the real goal here, and 6.2-liter trucks could achieve 15 to 20 miles per gallon.How long will a 6.2 diesel last? ›
The Chevy 6.2 engine and the transmissions have proven to last in excess of 250,000 miles and beyond. With regular service intervals and proper maintenance they can last 10-20 years or over 250,000 miles.How much power can a 6.2 diesel make? ›
Here's what we found: The original '82 6.2L delivered 130 hp and 240 lb-ft torque. Our "new" 6.2L delivered 58 hp more than the stock engine did and 110 lb-ft of torque between 1,100 and 1,800 rpm, and 40 hp and 85 lb-ft more power at 2,800.Who makes diesel engines for GMC? ›
DMAX Ltd. is a subsidiary of General Motors, LLC. Its facility produces Duramax 6.6L V-8 turbo-diesel engine offered on GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado HD pick-up trucks.Is GMC better than Chevy? ›
GMC trucks and SUVs are priced relatively higher than their Chevy counterparts, but they offer better quality materials and come with more standard equipment and premium features. Most of GMC's truck and SUV sales come from its luxurious off-road AT4 and high-end Denali trim levels.Does GMC use Allison transmission? ›
In 2006, Allison introduced a double overdrive set up (a sixth gear) for 1000 for smoother highway driving and better fuel economy. You'll see the 1000 transmission in use with GM products ranging from Chevrolet Silverado pickups to GMC Kodiak work trucks.How many miles per gallon does a 6.6 Duramax diesel get? ›
This Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 gets 17 to 19 mpg on the highway.
You will need to pay more upfront for a diesel truck compared to a gas-powered vehicle. Most diesels cost around $5,000 to $11,000 more because they are heavier with more towing capacity and torque for hauling heavier loads.