Anthony's Analysis: 2021 GMC Yukon Denali


In a world of malaise, the SUVs, that really stand out are the full-size vehicles. These have been around for quite some time and are known for just how much space they have. Plus, they can carry basically anything haul-able (It makes perfect sense since I rarely see these vehicles actually towing items.). Instead, they are the kings and queens of the Starbucks’ lines and hauling only yourself. The big two from the United States are Ford and General Motors. Unfortunately, there is not a full-size SUV from Stallantis (former FCA) …for now.

General Motors is all about these giant SUVs, ranging from the Chevy Tahoe all the way to the Cadillac Escalade, and In-between the GMC Yukon. Being the middle child, the Yukon tries its best to stand-out in this segment and between its brothers. As usual, there are various trim levels, and my test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Yukon Denali. GMC designates Denalis as the poshest vehicles they have. The thing I wanted to find is whether the Yukon Denali is more a cut-rate Cadillac Escalade or a nicer Chevy Tahoe.

All GMC Yukons received a full re-design, and you can tell that General Motors wanted their SUVs to look brasher than a Ford Expedition. It works! The grill is so massive that you can’t help but notice, thinking “wow, that’s either really brash or just ostentatious”. It’s both, but it’s American so I’ll let it go. Hunter Metallic paint makes the Yukon stand out a little more, but Dark Sky Metallic is where it’s at. Paired with 22” wheels and many Denali badges, why wouldn’t a Yukon Denali owner not want to let a Yukon XLT owner know that they went all-out?

You can’t have an expensive car without a power tailgate. Those 22” wheels make the Denali a little taller, so the optional power-retractable assist steps help you get into the luxurious cabin. This is where things go well with just a few oddities. Listen GMC, we know this is a Yukon Denali, so you don’t really need to have the words “Denali” on the steering wheel. The controls on the steering wheel have a few ideocracies, mainly with some of the buttons. First, if you want to change the volume or music, there are two buttons on the back of the steering wheel, except that I constantly forgot which does what and would always skip my favorite songs.

The other strangeness is that some of the controls are buttons while the others are switches. The left and right have buttons while the up and down using a switch. The Yukon Denali does this to change the information in the central screen. Unfortunately, the main dials are analog and look…old. Thankfully, one of the options I had was a head-up display. This gives you all the information you need, such as your speed, speed limit warning, navigation , and the safety features. It did give me some time to get used to it, especially because the buttons to adjust it are on the left of the steering wheel. By the way, the other buttons to the left of the steering wheel include the different drive modes, ride-height, lights, stop-start, and lane departure. This is a big SUV and those could have been placed someplace else.

The transmission buttons and using the climate control were placed excellently. Transmission buttons should be buttons because they save space, and the Yukon isn’t exactly a sports car. This has heated and ventilated seats. The buttons are big enough and are really easy to use, even if you are shorter. With this space available, you can put many a face mask in a tray along with a USB and USB-C. GMC calls this Denali’s interior “Light Shade perforated leather with Teak interior”, which is marketing jargon for brown and light leather and accents that truly show the luxury within the interior. Despite this, there are some hard plastics which are disappointing for the price of this.

Behind the wheel, you get to use a giant 6.2-liter V8 with a 10-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. It makes 420-horsepower and 460 lb.ft. 0-60 MPH takes around 6.0-seconds, but that doesn’t really tell the full story. The automatic shifts smoothly and that V8 burble sounds fantastic. You can get a diesel for the more fuel-conscious buyer because the V8 just-drinks fuel. Sorry about this GMC, but I never got close to 16-mpg. Off-the-line-acceleration isn’t the strong suit of this engine and the Yukon Denali feels the best at either cruising speed or when fully accelerating. There are a few driving modes that will mostly not be used other than off-road and normal, as sport mode will drink even more fuel and doesn’t help accelerate or corner well enough to justify it. Just as an eco-mode, it makes the engine too slow and should only be used on the highway.

Talking about handling in something this big almost doesn’t matter. Take corners slow and let that combination of the all-wheel-drive and V8 gets you out of a corner. The safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. The Yukon Denali is really easy to drive which is nice for something that isn’t exactly a sport-car or even a sporty SUV. These can be modified in different screens on the infotainment system that also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Man, this is a nice SUV. You can totally get one for around $65,000. Well, you can get an SLT for around that. The Denali starts at $72,000 and has many an option, the cheapest of which is the $500 paint. The most expensive option costs as much as a decent used car. This package is called the Denali Ultimate Package and is $10,000. Dear lord, this package has literally everything, including all the safety features, panoramic sunroof, upgraded wheels, and an almost useless rear entertainment system. I say that because passengers will just be on their phones or tablets. Total cost for this and a few other extras: around $84,000.

Now, you may be saying “but you can get a Cadillac Escalade for that money”. Sure, if you want a basic one with basically no options. You can also look at a fully loaded Chevy Tahoe High Country and save a massive $4,000. However, it’s not worth it. Being the middle child, the GMC Yukon Denali blends good-ol’ American style with performance and functional interior. Sometimes, the middle-child is the right choice, and for General Motors, the GMC Yukon Denali is your best bet.

Some Nerdalicious Stats


6.2-liter V8

Power: 420-horsepower

Torque:  460 lb-ft

0-60 MPH

6 seconds

Good for how big it is.

Top Speed

112 MPH

I wouldn’t want to go that fast in this.


10-speed automatic

Very smooth.


Around $84,000

$10,000 for one package!?



It’s basically the norm.

Did I like it?

Great minus fuel economy



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