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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Commanding your full attention is the three-row Yukon Denali, setting new standards on refinement for what has been known as a more rugged SUV. All the amenities for up to eight passengers have a more elegant, elevated angle, and are certainly plentiful as the vehicle packs in just about every technology and comfort convenience you can imagine.

I drove a 2015 GMC Yukon Denali powered by an all-new 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine rated at 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque paired to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Available in just one trim, standard equipment on the Yukon Denali includes: leather upholstery; heated and cooled front seats; heated steering wheel; ten-speaker Bose audio system with XM Radio; tri-zone climate control; remote vehicle start; second-row power fold seats; second-row heated seats; Bluetooth; power adjusted pedals; a luggage rack; fog lights; twenty-inch wheels; OnStar emergency services; and a suite of radar- and camera-based safety technology. Price as described comes to $66,770 without options.

Changes for the 2015 Yukon Denali include new styling, increase in advanced technology, and stronger performance. An SUV of this size and stature sits in a bit of a niche market, with main competitors including the Ford Expedition and the Toyota Sequoia along with a few entry-level luxury SUVs.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: GMC focuses on the exterior styling of the Yukon and not so much a redesign of the shape, with the Denali models taking on more exclusive detailing. For families where space is a primary issue, power fold-flat second- and third-row seats are an impressive feature but keep in mind loading space has a high floor to contend with. Also, that last row barely accommodates a twelve-year old (and I tested it with one). The Denali uses premium materials and keeps the center stack free of confusing knobs, dials and buttons. With a cornucopia of available options ranging from GMC’s IntelliLink connectivity system, with my test drive featuring a $3,165 Denali Premium Package (head-up display, power retractable running boards); a $2,760 Open Road Package (sunroof, eight-inch navigation screen, IntelliLink, rear DVD system); $895 twenty-two inch wheels; and a $395 theft-deterrent system. ( See SUV's Ranked By Towing Capacity)

Reliability & Safety Factor: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2015 GMC Yukon Denali an overall crash test rating of 4-Stars (lower scores in rollover results). It has not yet been tested by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Performance safety standards include StabiliTrak stability control system, electronic trailer sway control, hill start assist, as well as many popular safety technology features such as Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Parking Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Alert, and a rearview camera.

Cost Issues: The Yukon Denali holds a steep starting price at $64,520 with my loaded version coming in at a whopping $73,985. The Toyota Sequoia starts at $44,395 and the Ford Expedition at $44,585.

Activity & Performance Ability: One of the more notable features of the new EcoTec3 engine is horsepower and torque takes a performance leap, and uses direct injection and cylinder deactivation technology to improve real-life fuel efficiency. Overall, the Yukon Denali is a smooth operator despite its size, sailing into parking spaces and handling corners with control. Power is even and predictable, aided by the eight-speed transmission system.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy for the V8 engine used to be 13 miles-per-gallon city and 18 highway – this has improved to 15-city and 21-highway for a combined 17 miles-per-gallon.

Designed to transport a family in style, capability and comfort, the 2015 GMC Yukon adds more of everything and rises to the top of its segment by combining grace with space.

2015 Katrina Ramser