Good Golly, Denali: 5 Pros and 3 Cons for 2021 GMC Yukon

2021 GMC Yukon Denali

GMC went for a “go big or go home” approach with the 2021 redesign of the Yukon. Everything is bigger on this full-size SUV: the spacious interior, optional pickup truck engine and, potentially, the sticker shock.

Related: 2021 GMC Yukon Denali Review: Finally, the Denali Is Different

GM’s lineup has a handful of related full-size SUVs, like the Chevrolet Tahoe and the Cadillac Escalade. Related to both, the GMC Yukon fits right between in price; it’s nicer than the Tahoe but not as luxe as the Escalade. (The related Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV are extended-length versions of these respective SUVs.) Upgrading to the Denali trim can get you a little closer to Cadillac’s level of luxury. Despite falling between these two SUVs in the lineup, the 2021 Yukon features a host of upgrades that differentiate it from the pack.

Dreaming of a new Denali? The review (see the link above) from Cars.com Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman details everything you’ll need to know. If you just want the fast facts, here are the pros and cons of the 2021 GMC Yukon:

Things We Like

1. Chrome, Sweet Chrome

The Yukon Denali’s exterior styling alludes to the luxury inside, with a massive chrome grille and C-shaped daytime running LEDs up front. Opt for the Denali Ultimate Package to get 22-inch aluminum wheels. The overall look distinguishes the Yukon from its SUV siblings; it looks more refined and modern than the Tahoe, but not quite as angular as the Escalade.

2. Strong Acceleration

You get your choice of three engines in the Yukon: the standard 5.3-liter V-8, optional turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder or the Denali trim’s massive 6.2-liter V-8. That 6.2-liter is the engine to have, as it makes 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque. But it’s not just all about power. The big engine also provides smooth acceleration and does well at highway speeds.

3. Smooth Ride

The massive 22-inch wheels in the Denali Ultimate Package would typically spell a bumpy ride, but not so in this Yukon. The road and cabin stay largely separated, thanks to the air springs and adaptive shock absorbers that use GM’s Magnetic Ride Control technology.

4. Fashionable Interior

The Denali version gets a unique dashboard equipped with a 10-inch multimedia touchscreen, stitched leather trim, real metal accents and wood veneers, and high-quality buttons and switches — all the trappings of a premium interior. But even the standard Yukon’s interior does not disappoint. The instrument panel in lesser trims is the same as the Chevy Tahoe’s interior, but it’s designed well and uses quality materials.

5. Cabin Versatility

A spacious interior is the reason you get a three-row SUV. This Yukon is bigger than the last, making room for adults to sit in the third row in relative comfort. The tilt-and-fold mechanisms on the Denali’s second-row captain’s chairs make it even easier to get in and out of the way-way-back. In the standard Yukon, the seats are easy to fold and slide.

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Things We Don’t

1. Big SUV, Big Price

The base price for the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali is $72,695 (all prices include destination). Add the Denali Ultimate Package — which includes the rear entertainment system, 22-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control and a trailering package — for an additional $11,180 to reach a whopping $83,720, which is well into the range of a big luxury SUV. Still, what you get for that price might be well worth it if you can get over the initial sticker shock.

2. Fuel Economy

Considering this Yukon is heavier than its predecessor and its biggest engine is the same as what’s used in some GM pickup trucks, it’s no surprise fuel economy hasn’t improved much for the 2021 model year. The four-wheel-drive Yukon with the 6.2-liter engine gets an EPA-rated 14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined.

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3. Interior Quirks

As great as the interior is, there are still a few things GMC could have done better. Push-button transmissions aren’t our favorite, even if the Yukon has one of the better executions. The rearview mirror is also too small to show the huge rear window, and the moonroof controls can be difficult to operate unless you’re looking directly at the switches.

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