When General Motors unveiled the 2007 Yukon and the range-topping Denali, it picked the epicenter of public attention on New Years Eve – Times Square. This pattern of attention seeking carries though in the design of the 2007 GMC Yukon Denali, because in today’s hip-hop wannabe culture bling is the only thing that really counts.
It’s hard to miss the upright façade of the Yukon Denali, as the chromed front grille sits between a pair of tall projector beam headlights forming a colossal face that flows back to a flat hood and oversized front windshield. Around at the side, the slab-like sheet metal reinforces the overwhelming sense of size. Try climbing up into the Denali and you soon realize it’s not an optical illusion – this, perhaps, explains the standard running boards and the first step they provide when hiking up to the driver’s seat.
The tester arrived in the high-gloss black paint that’s now almost a traditional requirement for a luxury vehicle. Add to that a healthy dose of chrome trim and you either love it or hate it. To my eye it’s attractive and gives the Denali the road presence this big vehicle deserves. The icing on the cake? The optional 20-inch chromed rims. These things made me want to plot a course to Jacob the Jeweller’s store in Manhattan to accessorize my personal wardrobe to match.
Inside, GM delivers one of the finest interiors available today. The fit and finish is exemplary, the materials are top notch and overall the feeling of luxury is there for all to absorb. The centre portion of the dashboard houses the climate, entertainment and navigation systems. The display area for the AM/FM/CD/DVD/XM satellite radio system uses a touch screen panel, which is a welcome change. The sound from the nine Bose speakers is lush and impressive. The same applies to the tri-zone automatic climate control system – even in the stifling summer heat it kept the interior comfortably cool. You’ll also find power everything, right down to the tailgate and optional moonroof.
All of this means the gripes are few. The conventional volume and channel change knobs are tiny and require too much attention, which is distracting. Likewise, the fact the channel adjustment mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel only allows the driver to tune down the dial (and not up) is a mystery. Finally, the high-grade leather seats, while comfortable in most situations, are too flat through the backrest and so there is little lateral support. The same applies to the second row and its heated, reclining buckets. Aside from the obvious, this is another reason to avoid a slalom course.
The third row can be ordered in either 2 or 3 passenger configurations. Accessing this row is fairly easy, as the middle row of seats have a power release that allows them to fold up and tumble forward. Unfortunately, there are some serious oversights. First, in the 3rd row only the seat backs fold flat, which means that if cargo carrying is the order of the day, the seats must be removed, which is an awkward and heavy chore that taints the appeal of the extra row. More importantly, carry groceries back there and you’ll quickly find the items tend to roll forward and come to rest between the second and third rows, meaning you have to crawl up and into the vehicle to retrieve them. Finally, the layout is such that the floor is not flat when all the seats are tucked away and the last row removed.
When it comes to power there are no complaints. The large 6.2L V8 engine delivers a whopping 380 horsepower, which allows it to rumble about town with a sense of authority. Stand on the gas pedal and the 6200 Vortec motor will propel you past just about anything else on the road with an eerie ease. However, drive the Denali with a heavy boot and you are going to become personally aquatinted with your local gas station attendant. During my time with the vehicle, the fuel consumption on a full highway cycle registered 14.2 L/100 km, but driving around the city yeilded a parched-man-in-the-desert thirsty 19.5L/100 km.
All this power is channeled through a new electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission (with a manual mode mounted on the gear selector stalk) and on to those massive 20-inch wheels through a decent all-wheel-drive that includes a locking rear differential. On-road this team worked flawlessly. The transmission’s shift points are almost invisible while the AWD system shuttles the power about in a completely seamless manner, all of which bodes well for its ability in typical Canadian winter conditions.
Towing capacity for this 1500 series truck is an impressive 7,400 pounds or 3,356 kilograms. The XL Denali, which is 20.4 inches (356 mm) longer in overall length, has a towing capacity of 7,700-lbs or 3,493-kg.
Historically, these full-sized SUVs have been luxury condominiums built over a utilitarian pick-up frame. Where the 2007 versions differ is that while the chassis was developed for the pick-up it was first utilized and adapted for the Escalade, Yukon and Avalanche – the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks will not be available until 2007. The really good news is that the new frame is 200-plus% more rigid that the previous generation. This translates into a noticeable lack of body flex and a solid, sophisticated ride over just about any road surface.
In the safety column the Denali gets dual stage front driver and passenger airbags and side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats. Anti-lock brakes and Stabilitrak (a very good dynamic stability control system) are standard. The latter also includes a rollover mitigation function, which helps steer the Denali out of trouble by using the anti-lock brakes while reducing engine output. The other useful items are an ultrasonic rear parking assist (needed so you don’t flatten little Johnny’s bike when backing out of the driveway) and Onstar.
As tested, the regular wheelbase Denali’s MSRP came to a shade over $74,000, which may seem high. Dare to compare it to the very similar-looking Cadillac Escalade and you’ll find a $20,000 saving in the Denali. No one ever said status cames cheap, but in the end this and the accompanying bling are what this vehicle is all about.