GM has made big business out of building luxury-level SUVs over the past decade. The Denali brand is a money maker for the auto giant, and even as the auto scene is shifting toward greener pastures and electric futures, the tried and true formula of premium fittings on quiet, large, capable SUVs is selling trucks.
Even so, as with the Sierra line of Denali rigs, staying ahead of the game in this crowded field takes considerable effort and bold steps.
With that, I give you the 2023 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate.
Best of the Brand
With the Ultimate line, GM has thrown just about everything it has at the Yukon, from folding side steps to high-end leather finishes. The goal here? Stand out both in style and in feature. Capability is already baked into the base model Yukon. This is about adding in the right features to drive sales at the extreme upper end of GM’s market.
What do I mean by that? My test Yukon stickered at $97,745 — and $93k of that was “standard vehicle price.” Granted, that’s with leather seating for seven, touch-screen entertainment for all kinds of tech. But still…
For reference, the capability-driven 2022 Yukon AT4 I reviewed last year was $79,175.
So what do you really get for all that additional money?
As with the Sierra I tested late last year, the Yukon is called out as the range-topper that it is, thanks to “Ultimate” badging that sits just below eye level, high on each front fender. The suspension is GM’s long-running magnetic adaptive suspension with air ride, and the Ultimate has cameras everywhere to help you position it wherever you want — a huge help for towing, parking, backing along a curb and more.
Beyond that, inside features high-end leather trim (in Alpine Umber on my tester, or baseball glove brown), rear seat media, rear captain’s chairs, heated and ventilated massaging seats (up front), a heated wheel, power retracting side steps and more.
In terms of tech, this Denali features adaptive cruise and GM’s Super Cruise system, which adds hands-free driving to the mix (but only on certain, GM-mapped roads). With the push of a button, the Ultimate will drive itself — so long as it can tell you’re paying attention and are ready to retake control. It’ll even change lanes for you if you ask it to, using the turn signal as your call to action.
Even the stereo in the Denali Ultimate is turned up — complete with Bose speakers in the doors and front headrests. Beyond that, GM’s fitted all kinds of lane departure and collision alert systems here, along with a great heads-up display that is customizable with a range of metrics to track.
Under the hood is GM’s 6.2-L V8 and 10-speed auto transmission, routed to the ground via GM’s Stabilitrack 4×4 system. The 3.0 6-cylinder diesel is available, too.
The front end of these trucks are flat and intimidating — just the thing to part the traffic in front of you in the fast lane — and the LED headlamps are head and shoulders ahead of what GM was building just a few short years ago.
When it comes to driving dynamics, there isn’t much that can touch this Denali in this segment. The magnetic ride suspension combined with the four-wheel independent setup makes this a plush cruiser, and with adaptive action from the magnetic struts, pushing it into a corner gives it surprising response — although the short sidewalls on the standard 22-inch machined-face wheels help with that slightly (and add to some superficial roughness the rest of the time). The 6.2 is still a great engine, and while it’s not the most fuel efficient combo around (14/18 as observed), it’s not as bad as you might expect for a 420-hp gas-fueled V8.
All this adds up to an SUV that’s very much in-line with the asking price — and one which those in-the-know seem to notice. In my week with this Titanium Rush Metallic example, I noticed a bunch of turning heads, particularly in shopping mall parking lots. Although I suppose that makes sense.
With the Denali, you buy for capability, but you stay for the curb appeal and options.
High Point: Great view with even better comfort.
Low Point: Near six-figure pricing powers exclusivity.
Final Word: A top-level Yukon with a price that matches.
Fun Factor/appearance: ****
(***** is best)