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2021 GMC Yukon Denali Review - 3 Across Child Seating by Larry Nutson

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See Also: GMC YUKON CONTENT LIBRARY (1995-Present)

Now there’s one in the family!

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

In mid-September I had my first drive experience with the all-new 2021 GMC Yukon. That drive was quite literally a quick spin. I had 24 hours with a new Yukon to gain an opinion along with some driving impressions and gather my thoughts in this re-done utility vehicle.

Early December brought another go at it. This Yukon drive would give me a full seven days to play, explore, and live with the 2021 Yukon outfitted in its Denali trim.

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Coincidentally, one of our daughters was in need of replacing her 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe. The Tahoe was not in need of replacement. It was perfectly fine. It’s our daughter together with her husband and their growing family that created the need. Their two youngsters would be gaining a sibling. They were becoming a three-car-seat family and the two center row captain’s chairs in her Tahoe no longer would cut it.

The 2016 Tahoe came about when one child, a Labrador retriever, lots of baby related equipment and needed mobility created the demand. Now it will soon be three little ones, the same dog and even more stuff to haul. And, my daughter wants all three seated in the second row…a center 3-person bench was in need.

Sidebar: I checked with my fellow auto scribes at and a couple of their in-house certified child car seat technicians to confirm the new GM full size UVs could safely and correctly handle three-across child seats. Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Newman and her team provided excellent guidance.

My daughter is a visual person with how something appears being quite important to her. She checked out the new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe having seen one in her neighborhood. She wasn’t loving what she saw. Then not long thereafter she saw the new GMC Yukon. Aha!

Some on-line research, a test drive, on-line searching for a Yukon in inventory was the process. The must haves were: Denali---the other trims were too utilitarian/rugged looking, bench seat and color. Interior color was more the priority, wanting the light colored Teak/Light Shale. Exterior would follow to suite her taste. She had learned that a Denali with the center-row bench seat would be difficult to locate in inventory. She was going down the path of ordering one built to specification when luck came her way.

Thus: Yukon Denali. Center bench seat. Teak/Light Shale interior. Black exterior. Plus, Ultimate package.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Ultimate package wasn’t on the shopping list. However, the air ride adaptive suspension would make the Yukon’s ride “less truck-like” as my daughter said. Retractable power assist steps (aka running boards) will be good for her older two to climb in by themselves. Rear camera mirror will be great when the cargo area is packed full. The large sunroof is something she didn’t have in the Tahoe, and wished she had. And, the rear seat media system which prompted her pre-schooler to quickly exclaim, “Mom, we have a tv in the car!”

All the advanced driver-assistance safety (ADAS) features will be extra security in one of those possible moments of distraction with three children on board. Parking assist, rear traffic and pedestrian sensors, 360-degree surround vision and rearview camera all will help in safely maneuvering the truly big Yukon in busy and often crowded suburban parking lots.

There is one item my daughter would like. And I chuckled at this one. That is, a power-open feature to the hinged rear doors. As she described, push a button just like opening the power rear hatch. This would be a great help with three very young children and arms full.

Okay now, what do I think. Well, the new Yukon is indeed big. But, for those who need lots of space on the inside along with that comes bigness on the outside. In my maneuvers in and around Chicago traffic, parallel parking involves finding a larg enough space. Narrow neighborhood streets require cautious passing of a double-parked delivery van. I needed to make a few three-point turns exiting by residential parking to get around delivery vehicles encroaching into the buffer-zone next to the driveway.

My wife asked if I would buy the Yukon. Yes, if I again needed to frequently move a family of four, two large dogs and tow a boat I certainly would. I might even opt for the even larger Yukon XL with the objective to not need a roof mounted carrier.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I like the Denali instrument panel with its integrated touchscreen as compared to the tablet-like separate screen on other Yukon trims. Overall the interior is quite plush and comfortable. All the seats are very usable for adult passengers.

Coming back to owning a Yukon, I’m not sure I would want to drive it daily given my current in-town Chicago home. Public or for-hire transport would be the local travel mode.

You can read about my previous drive experience and overall summary about the new Yukon RIGHT HERE.

More info and specs on the 2021 GMC Yukon can be found at

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The new Yukon is somewhat pricey, has a nice level of overall refinement that makes it less truck-like and has decent road manners coming from the new rear suspension, especially with the air ride option. The interior is beautiful. Versatility is at the max.

So far, my daughter and her husband are happy with their decision.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy