Alaska’s Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, is the highest mountain in North America, so it would follow that GMC’s Denali would be the pinnacle of GMC’s Yukon SUV line. The 2015 is more refined than the previous model and has amenities such as heated and cooled perforated leather seats, Bose surround sound and a whopping 6.2-liter V-8 that cranks out 420 horsepower. It also comes with a big price tag.
I was astounded to see that the sticker price of the four-wheel-drive Denali from GM’s press fleet was nearly $75,000. That’s a lot even though the Denali has many of the requisite creature comforts one expects in a luxury SUV. The cabin is nicely appointed. The second-row seats are heated and fold at the press of a button. Ditto for the split-folding third-row seat. Power running boards slide out each time you open the door and automatically retract. The tailgate is also powered.
Safety features included forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rearview camera with cross-traffic alert (very handy when backing out of a parking space) and adaptive cruise control.
Three-zone climate control is standard as is a heated steering wheel and power adjustable pedals. A new feature is a front center airbag that deploys from the inner side of the driver’s seat to provide a center cushion between driver and passenger during side-impact crashes.
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Wood grain and brushed silver accents brighten up the cabin. The center console is deep enough to store large items. Your wireless phone can be charged by placing it on a panel on the top of the console.
The speedometer and tachometer flank a small LCD panel that is configurable to display a variety of information, such as a digital speedometer, fuel economy and vehicle information. I found the LCD panel was very useful.
The 8-inch touch screen for audio and navigation has a new menu system that seems less intuitive than before. The vehicle has an “always on” 4G LTE connection that enables the Denali to become a mobile hotspot without relying on an individual’s smartphone. GMC will also offer an app shop so owners can download apps for weather, music, news and travel information.
The redesigned Yukon has its mechanical roots in the Sierra pickup truck. The wheelbase is 116 inches and it has body-on-frame construction. The 420-horsepower V-8 can tow up to 8,100 pounds and has an EPA mileage rating of 15 in the city and 21 on the highway. That’s a pretty respectable figure for a vehicle with an engine this size and a curb weight of 5,784 pounds. To achieve that efficiency, the engine has direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing and the ability to shut off four cylinders under light loads.
Aside from populating the pick-up lane at elementary schools, full-size SUVs are often used for more rugged work such as towing horse trailers, boats or campers. The Denali comes standard with a trailer brake controller and trailer-sway control that is built into the stability control system. Ask anyone who has pulled a big trailer and they will say that such a system is invaluable.
The 6.2-liter has more than enough power for blasting down an entrance ramp or flattening hills. GM’s fuel management system makes it nearly impossible to tell when the cylinders shut off and when they come back on.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the test car was $66,770. Options included the head-up display, retractable running boards, adaptive cruise control, power sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system, 22-inch aluminum wheels, theft protection system and upgraded audio with navigation. The sticker price was $74,680.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD
Engine: 6.2-liter, 420-horsepower V-8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Curb weight: 5,784 pounds
Base price: $66,770
As driven: $74,680
MPG rating: 15 in the city, 21 on the highway