Behind the Wheel of the 2022 GMC Yukon Denali

If you’re aspiring for an Escalade, don’t overlook the Denali.

Large SUV shoppers with luxury in mind, may consider the Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. But they’re not the only luxurious SUVs available, at least not amongst the domestics.

The GMC Yukon and Yukon XL in Denali trim make a strong case for consumer consideration as both models are fashionably dressed and competitively priced.

GMC Yukon Denali Review

GMC offers the 2022 Yukon in SE ($52,050), SLT ($61,900), AT4 ($66,600), and Denali ($73,000) trims. This model comes with standard rear-wheel drive or, for a $3,000 upgrade, four-wheel drive. Add $1,695 for the destination charge. GMC offers three engine choices with the Yukon, including a turbodiesel.

The Yukon represents the standard-wheelbase model, while the Yukon XL is for the extended wheelbase version. Our review covers the standard model; we most recently reviewed the Yukon XL here.

Now in its second year, the current-generation Yukon receives a new tech interface, developed in cooperation with Google. A 12-inch digital instrument panel display is now standard. The remaining changes cover amenities shuffling.

Exterior Features

2022 GMC Yukon Denali profile

The GMC Yukon is a handsome model, no matter how it is dressed. But the front fascia changes only improve through the trim ranges as black highlights give way to chrome touches. On the Denali, that chrome-besotted grille is simply fetching. Yes, we know, for some people it is overstated. But this is a Denali where bling-bling is a close second to the Cadillac Escalade.

Stately, is one word to describe any Yukon model, although in AT4 guise the look is toughened with red tow hooks and sporty wheels. Across the model line, this SUV exudes confidence with its raised hood, high beltline, long roofline, and muscular stance. The expected character lines and body sculpting simply give this SUV an elegant look.

All trims come with LED headlamps and tail lamps. They’re stacked bezels and the look is exquisite. Heated and power-folding side mirrors are standard with the AT4 and Denali, while optional with the SLT. All but the base trim comes with a power liftgate with a GMC logo puddle lamp.

2022 GMC Yukon Denali rear three quarter

Assist steps are standard, but they’re retractable on the AT4 and Denali. As for wheel choices, 18-inch aluminum wheels are found on the SLE, 20-inch on the SLT and AT4, and 22-inch wheels on the Denali. Notably, all-terrain tires are found on the AT4, while all-season radials are everywhere else.

Interior Highlights

2022 GMC Yukon Denali N-Line front-row seats

If you want a spacious interior, the GMC Yukon does not disappoint. You can seat up to nine if you opt for the 40/20/40 bench seat and the 60/40 middle-row bench seat. Our choice, though, are the front row bucket seats, the second-row captain’s chairs, and the third-row bench. That’s room for seven and ample space at that.

Our Denali test model was beautiful with soft-touch materials everywhere, double-stitched Nappa leather trim, real wood embellishments, and chrome touches. A clean dashboard layout, generous amounts of storage space, and a big cargo compartment enhance its appeal.

Indeed, with 25.5 cubic feet behind the third row and 122.9 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded, there’s plenty of storage space at the ready.

Overall, the cabin is clean, quiet, comfortable, and versatile. GMC attempted to rise above the mainstream market and succeeded. We’re just impressed by how well it does that while making inroads on the luxury sphere.

Key Safety Features

2022 GMC Yukon Denali tech

GMC equips the Yukon with a bevy of driver-assist technologies. To begin, this model has forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, and automatic emergency braking. It also comes with front and rear park assist, automatic high beams, and a high-definition rearview camera.

Standard on the Denali and available on all but the base trim is a high-definition surround vision system. Beyond the base trim, the rest of the trim lines include lane change alert with side blind zone alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic assist.

Other features include rear pedestrian alert, enhanced automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a rear camera mirror.

Speaking of the rear camera mirror, it is mounted to the rear of the vehicle, thus no pillars get in the way. The camera resolution is sharp and it is a safety feature we like.

Technology Overview

2022 GMC Yukon Denali instrument panel

On the tech front, the Yukon comes with a 10.2-inch interface. Navigation is included with the Denali trim. Beyond in-cabin navigation, GMC supplies wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Both offer excellent alternatives to optional navigation.

Other tech features include multiple USB ports, OnStar, and satellite radio. A 6-speaker audio system is standard; a 9-speaker package is available. Choose the Denali and this model has a 14-speaker Bose audio system. A Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging are included.

A 120-volt power outlet, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a 15-inch multicolor head-up display are available. Yes, that head-up display is extremely helpful and easy to follow.

Competitive Set

The GMC Yukon is twinned with the Chevrolet Tahoe. The Yukon XL is GMC’s counterpart to the Chevrolet Suburban. In the upper echelon of GM packaging, the Cadillac Escalade reigns supreme.

Other mainstream models to consider include the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada. When considering premium and luxury models, the Infiniti QX80 and Lexus LX are worth exploring. From Europe, the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7 should not be overlooked.

Drive Impressions

2022 GMC Yukon Denali dashboard

Where most competitors offer one engine choice, the GMC Yukon has three. All three engines send power to the wheels utilizing a 10-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine is a 5.3-liter gasoline V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. This engine is standard with the SLE and SLT. It is also the only engine choice with the AT4.

Available with the SLE ($945 upgrade) and SLT ($900) is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder engine. This motor makes 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It is also the standard engine with the Denali.

The range-topping 6.2-liter V8 is exclusive to the Denali trim. This engine makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It is a $1,625 upgrade. It was also the motor motivating our test model.

We think that any of the three engines are strong choices for the Yukon. Although we haven’t driven a Yukon with the turbodiesel, we did find it in GM’s full-size trucks. It delivers fair step-off performance, but excellent passing and pulling power on demand. Indeed, its 460 pound-feet of torque rating matches the big V8 which is more than twice its size.

A big SUV requires copious amounts of power and the 6.2-liter V8 does not disappoint. Upon ignition, it sends a whoosh out the exhaust system. It makes its presence known while moving from a dead stop, with nothing held back. On the open road, this engine is well up to the task and the transmission works seamlessly to serve up the right cog for the moment.

The big GMC is quiet and rides comfortably. Our test model came with the air suspension, which does a stellar job of absorbing bumps. It also raises and lowers the vehicle when entering and exiting for ease of access.

The steering is direct, the Yukon handles as you would expect of any large model. This means you’re not going to play around on twisty roads nor should you expect it to succeed with hard cornering.

Pulling power is a big deal with the Yukon. This model pulls up to 8,400 pounds, depending on the engine and drivetrain selected.

Parting Thoughts

The current Denali reminds us of earlier Escalade models, at least from a trim and elegance perspective. That’s a compliment as it shows how much the internal company improvements have passed down to this model.

We realize that paying upwards of $80,000 for a Yukon may be quite a stretch for some. Thus, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the SLT model, opting for the diesel, and choosing the Premium Package ($3,130) to complete your build. In doing so, you’ll pay about $65,000 for a well-equipped model.

See Also True Grit: GMC Sierra 1500

Exterior photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved. Interior photos GMC.

Matthew Keegan

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