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2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid Review

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Model: 2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid
Engine: 6.0-liter V8 plus hybrid propulsion
Horsepower/Torque: 332 hp @ 5,100 rpm/367 lb.-ft. @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: 2-mode hybrid with 4 fixed gears
Wheelbase: 116.0 in.
Length/Width/Height: 202.0 x 79.0 x 77.0 in.
Tires: P285/45R22
Cargo volume: 16.9/60.3/108.9 cu. ft. (3rd row seat backs up/3rd row seat backs down/2nd and 3rd row seat backs down
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city/22 mpg highway/16.6 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 24.5 gal.
Sticker: $64,820 (includes $950 destination charge and $2,790 in total options (rear seat entertainment system $1,295; sunroof $995; blind zone alert $500).

The Bottom Line: Adding hybrid technology to a vehicle of this size is an anachronism. We achieved 16.6 mpg in our test, which isn’t bad for a huge vehicle, and I guess it’s better than a “standard” Yukon Denali a.k.a. Suburban.

There’s no question that the GMC Yukon Denali is a large vehicle. Formerly known as the Suburban, it’s ideal for cargo carrying. With three rows of seats it isn’t too shabby when it comes to people carrying as well.

I have two problems with the Yukon Denali. One, using hybrid technology to squeeze a few extra mpg out of the vehicle and probably improve GM’s CAFÉ rating may make corporate sense, but tell me, are you gonna plunk down $65,000 to save a couple of mpgs? If you can afford the price, you don’t have to worry about fuel economy. Of course, if you’re only interest is to sneak into the HOV lanes with only you in the vehicle and tromp on the holier-than-thou ones who drive small hybrids, then go ahead.

With a 332 horsepower 6.0-liter V8 under the hood there’s plenty of power to go around. Interestingly, there’s a two-mode hybrid transmission with four fixed gears. I guess that’s an economy move, but it mystifies me. Suffice it to say that the transmission of power to the road is smooth.

Add a long 116-inch wheelbase to a vehicle that weighs more than three tons and you’re guaranteed a smooth ride. And with seating for seven or more, the ride will be great all around. Squeeze one more guy in there and you’ve got two foursomes for your day at the golf course with room for their bags in back.

I loved the Blind Spot Zone Alert, a $500 option. If there is a vehicle in your blind spot, a small image of two vehicles lights up on your outside rearview mirror. This is one of the more interesting blind spot alerts in that it shows vehicles. Others show a triangular warning light or simply a light.

In a large vehicle, you want great brakes, and the Yukon Denali is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes that STOP it. Nothing fancy; just step on the pedal and the Yukon stops. In addition, there are power adjustable pedals so even shorter people can have the advantage of great brakes.

Driving forward is fine; it’s driving rearward where I had serious problems. While there’s a rearview camera with a readout in the navigation screen, it only shows what’s directly behind you. If you use the outside rearview mirrors, they both tip down, which is great if you’re feeling for a curb, but useless of you’re looking for a person back there.

I have often mentioned that our family’s “family car” was a full-size van, so I’m not afraid of large vehicles. But in the two weeks before I drove the Yukon Denali I drove the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

Driving the Yukon Denali convinced me even more that the other two are an ideal size for a practical SUV. The Terrain had better handling and better fuel economy than the Hybrid. In addition, it made the Yukon Denali feel more like old technology vs. new technology.

© 2009 The Auto Page Syndicate