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Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali

Published: 12/02/2018 - Filed under: Home » News »

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Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali

I spent a few weeks behind the wheel of the very nice 2018 GMC Yukon Denali. Denali is GMC's luxury trim level, available on most of their models and the Yukon is their iconic full-size SUV. Like its virtual twin, the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Yukon delivers commercial-level reliability, lots of power and more space than almost anything else on the road. In its luxury-level Denali trim, you also get a wood-trimmed interior, leather-appointed front seats and every driver aid and safety technology feature available.
Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali
The Yukon really shines here with a massive 6.2L gasoline V8, pumping out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. All that power is transferred to the pavement with a very responsive 10-speed automatic transmission. There's a tow/haul mode for the transmission that provides smoother performance when hauling. My test vehicle had 4WD, there's also a 2WD model.
That V8 is an advanced, EcoTec3 engine,  EcoTec3 is GM's engine technology that gives you direct injection, Active Fuel Management, cylinder de-activation and continuously variable valve timing. These help the engine produce good power while still offering decent fuel economy. I averaged about 22 mpg with regular driving, not bad for a full-size, V8-powered SUV.
With a super quiet interior, due to Active Noise Cancellation, the Yukon is a very nice place to be. It gives you that vast space no other SUV can offer (other than Tahoe or Escalade) and has a very nice fit and finish. Although nice, this is where vehicles like the Escalade or Range Rover go beyond the Yukon, which has only "leather-appointed" front seats. Those sitting in the second and third rows don't get leather under their rear ends. Those rear seats are power operated and you can put both rear rows down with switches at the tailgate. You can also tilt the third row back up with the switches. Unlike some of those other SUVs, the Yukon's switches and controls are typical GM issue and detract from the otherwise high-end experience.
Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali
Aside from the full suite of driver aid and safety technology (lane guidance, adaptive cruise control, auto stop, etc.) you have other amenities like a HUD, a hands-free liftgate and a 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System. The Denali version also comes with 22-inch, ultra-bright aluminum wheels which really add to the premium look.
420 horsepower plus magnetic ride control plus a very nice suspension means it's a pleasure to drive. The Yukon really does nicely on the freeway and open road. Its size and higher center of gravity mean it's not a performance SUV, other than having impressive straight line power. It handles and drives nicely and is quite easy to manage and park, even in tight situations. It's big but not unmanageable. There is a bigger Yukon, the Yukon XL, which adds 20 inches of length to the vehicle. It gets you more third row seat legroom and more cargo room behind the third seat row.
Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali
With luxury on a level that now almost, nearly, kind of competes with the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade or Lexus LX, the 2018 GMC Yukon Denali is almost a bargain at just under $78K, fully equipped. The Yukon I tested had a base price of $69,165, and then added another $7,930 for the Denali Ultimate Package. Add in $395 for Iridium Metallic paint and GMC's $1,295 destination charge and you come out with $77,785. That's still a lot less than the Escalade (starts at $74,695), Lexus LX (starts at $85,380) or  Navigator (starts at $72,055) and it's about the same price as the INFINITI QX80 (starts at $64,750). In Los Angeles, GMC currently offers a lease for the 4WD Yukon Denali at $792 per month for 36 months with $4,762 down. For that money, the 2018 incarnation of the GMC Yukon Denali again delivers a well-built, rugged, reliable, powerful and luxurious full-size, American-made (in Arlington, Texas) SUV.
Behind the Wheel - 2018 GMC Yukon Denali
Exterior photos by Freddy Sherman
Interior photos courtesy of GMC

By Freddy Sherman

Freddy is a regular contributor to Business Traveler across all print, digital, web and social channels.  To follow Freddy directly, you can find more of his content at and here:

     YouTube - Freddy Sherman channel
     Twitter - @luxuryfred
     Instagram - @luxuryfred
     Facebook - Luxury Fred

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