2018 GMC Yukon Denali balances full-size SUV brawn with luxury

The Denali has plenty of power and a luxurious interior.

2018 GMC Yukon Denali
2018 GMC Yukon Denali –GMC

GMC doesn’t consider itself a luxury brand, but the 2018 GMC Yukon Denali edges into luxury territory. It has of plenty of power, ample cargo space, and a beautiful interior with rich finishes and loads of standard amenities.

The Denali label is reserved for the top trim levels in the GMC lineup. You’ll find a Denali version of the Terrain, Acadia, Sierra, and Canyon alongside the Yukon. These vehicles have premium interiors with lots of leather and metal trims, fully-featured infotainment systems, and bold exteriors with unique grilles and lighting treatments.

The 2018 Yukon Denali is a full-size SUV with room for eight passengers. The third row is a bit on the tight side, but it works easily for two adults of average height. Despite being a tight fit, it’s easy to step into that row with plenty of clearance behind the power-folding second-row seats.

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Those second-row seats are comfortable and downright spacious with ample head and legroom for even the tallest passengers. The driver and front passenger have supremely comfortable seats that remain that way even after several hours on the road. Front seats are heated and ventilated with 12-way power adjustability that includes lumbar control and power recline.

There’s remote start, tri-zone climate control, wireless charging for smartphones, a heated, telescopic steering wheel with leather-wrap, power-adjustable pedals, and head-up display all standard. Infotainment features an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, Bose 10-speaker Centerpoint surround sound system, and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot with an optional rear-seat entertainment system. The interior wants for nothing.

Safety features are also ample with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, daytime running lamps, front- and rear-park assist, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, lane-change alert with blind-zone alert, a limited trial of OnStar guidance, and OnStar basic for five years all included on every Yukon Denali. Optional safety includes adaptive cruise control with forward automatic braking and interior movement sensors.

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All those features are what makes this a Denali, but its power and utility are what make this a Yukon. It has a 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque paired to a new 10-speed automatic transmission. That engine easily powers the Yukon Denali into heavy traffic with strong acceleration. The new transmission provides smooth shifts you won’t feel or hear even under the hardest acceleration.

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Those who often travel through steep terrain will appreciate the powertrain grade braking. This feature activates automatically, using engine torque to help you maintain your speed on steep descents rather than having to constantly brake. It’s easier on your brakes and easier on the driver.

Helping with that smooth, quiet ride is an active noise-cancellation system that keeps road and wind noise at a minimum. There’s also standard Magnetic Ride Control, which monitors each wheel and adjusts the suspension to enhance the ride. This keeps the ride smooth for passengers and controlled for the driver with none of the body roll often found in large vehicles.

There’s an integrated brake controller, hitch platform, seven-wire harness, and 2-inch trailering receiver for towing up to 8,100 pounds or up to 8,400 pounds if you opt for two-wheel instead of four-wheel drive. Making the drive smoother and more controlled when towing is a Tow/Haul mode with altered shift patterns. Inside, there’s 15.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 51.7 cubic feet behind the second row, and 94.7 cubic feet behind the third row for additional cargo.

The 2018 GMC Yukon Denali is a capable full-size SUV that balances brawn with luxury. It’s the best of both worlds for those who want the capability of a full-size SUV with the comfort of a luxury vehicle. It’s available now at a starting price of $66,165 with two-wheel drive or $69,165 with four-wheel drive.