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2008 GMC Yukon Denali AWD Review

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2008 GMC Yukon Denali

John Heilig
The Auto Channel


Model: GMC Yukon Denali AWD
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Horsepower/Torque: 380 hp @ 5500 rpm/417 lb.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 116.0 in.
Length x Width x Height: 202 x 79.0 x 77.0 in.
Tires: P275/55R20
Cargo volume: 108.9 cu. ft. (max)
Economy: 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway/12.0 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 26.0 gal.
Price: $55,355 (includes $900 destination charge and $6,935 in options)

The Bottom LineThis surprisingly agile, large SUV offers safety, luxury, power and utility. It’s large, but eminently practical.

During the week I had the GMC Yukon Denali to test, my son-in-law had an accident in his GMC Yukon Denali when someone cut in front of him at a construction site. The car was totaled, but neither he nor my grandson, who was sitting in the back seat, suffered any major injuries, other than a stiff neck. All the safety systems worked on the vehicle and, despite the fact that the “other car” was a front-end loader, there were no serious injuries.

I was impressed, as you should be. Here is a vehicle that proved itself to me during my test that it was a safe as advertised.

When I drove the Yukon Denali, I had no such incidents, thank God. I didn’t even come close, but of course, Michael’s experience was fresh in my mind and I didn’t want to duplicate it.

The Yukon Denali is a large vehicle, no doubt, but it is surprisingly agile for its size. Handling wasn’t sports car great, but it was perfectly adequate for the type of vehicle it is. I’m sure some yoyo will try to use the Yukon Denali as a sports car and complain about the handling, but for the type of vehicle it is with a tall aspect ratio, the handing is fine.

The 6.2-liter V8 engine offers excellent power at 380 horsepower. It is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. However, the “manual;” shifter is a rocker switch located on the shifter stalk, which is steering column-mounted. Even having a manual mode in a car with this much power is a waste, unless you’re planning on some serious off-roading, in which case you probably wouldn’t want the Yukon Denali anyway.

Many manufacturers are going to “light show” instrument panels. The Yukon’s is excellent – no light show – with light green numbers and tick marks on a black background. Besides the speedometer and tachometer, there are four accessory gauges that give all the information necessary for observing your vehicle.

The navigation system screen converts to a rear television screen when you shift into reverse. There’s aback-up camera and a warning beep before you hit the garage door (or any other obstacle). In addition, both side mirrors dip to give you an idea of where the curb is to align your parking.

Front seats offer decent side support. They are firm. Better side support isn’t really necessary because it isn’t a sports car. In addition, the backs and seats are heated.

Second-row seating consists of captains chairs with excellent leg room. The third row is a bench that folds for extra cargo capacity. My daughter and son-in-law use the back seat for two child seats, while the older grandson sits in a booster seat in the second row. With captains chairs in the second row, they can also get to the back row fairly easily.

To gain access to the rear compartment, the rear hatch glass opens independently of the hatch for loading smaller objects. There’s a remote on the key fob to open the hatch as well as a button on the overhead console.

For interior storage, there’s a huge center console with a nice tray on top, a covered cubby at the base of the center stalk, and a small cell phone-sized cubby by the driver’s left knee. Cupholders abound. I stopped counting.

I’ve always been impressed by the practicality of the Yukon Denali. Yes, it’s luxurious and probably over-optioned, but it has a lot to offer. As an old full size van owner, the Denali is actually smaller than I was used to, so the size didn’t bother me. Sadly, the fuel economy was about the same as in my big van of 20years ago.

2008 The Auto Page Syndicate