Five-Point Inspection: 2015 GMC Yukon Denali

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

What should you do if a regular Tahoe isn’t enough, but the Cadillac Escalade is a bit over the top?

The answer is the in-between GMC Yukon Denali. With more power and luxury than regular Yukons, the Denali is for those who want to treat themselves to a nicer truck without going full-hog into the flashy Escalade.

See Also: 2015 GMC Yukon XL Review

According to GM, the average age of a full-size SUV still on the road today is 11 years. That is as much of a testament to the longevity of these big ‘utes as it is to how much people love them. So it is understandable that GMC didn’t exactly go wild this year when re-thinking the Yukon Denali. This SUV is a complete redesign from the ground-up, but it will be wholly familiar to current customers. Here are five main areas GMC has improved the 2015 Denali compared to last year’s model.

The cornerstone of the 2015 Yukon Denali is a 6.2-liter V8 making a hearty 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. of torque. That is an increase of 65 hp and 77 lb-ft of torque over the regular Yukon’s 5.3-liter V8. In a truck weighing 5,784 lbs., this may not sound like a big power increase, but on the road it is immediately noticeable. With a soundtrack inspired by the Chevrolet Corvette, the Denali roars away from a dead stop compared to the lackadaisical approach taken by the regular Yukon.

The best part of the larger engine, however, may be the fuel economy penalty or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Officially rated at 15 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the highway, the two-wheel drive Yukon Denali only sacrifices a single mile per gallon compared to the down-market version with the 5.3-liter engine.

The Denali ditches the regular Yukon’s suspension in favor of the magnetic ride control found in many high-end General Motors products. It does a good job of smoothing out imperfections on the road without creating an overly soft, bobbing-body driving experience. With the larger 22-inch rims however, the ride felt a bit choppier when compared to the same suspension set-up on a Tahoe LTZ we tested that same day wearing 20-inch wheels with higher sidewall tires.

Besides a smooth ride, the magnetic ride control combined with active noise cancellation produces a quiet interior the likes of which were not found in the previous generation Denali. GM took great strides in eliminating NVH from the company’s new lineup of full-size pickup trucks and thankfully this success has found its way into the large SUVs as well.

The overall layout inside of the 2015 Denali may look familiar, but the design is new and improved. GMC wanted the materials as well as the fit and finish to better reflect a luxury SUV and the gap to the Denali’s competitors has definitely decreased. The leather and wood used on the dashboard look and feel authentic.

Notable highlights include the head-up display, large programmable center gauge and the optional integrated trailer controls. For the first time in a Denali, the second and third row of seating fold semi-flat against the floor.

Like all Yukons, the Denali gets a standard rear spoiler and new worm screw-style lift gate arms that take up less interior space compared to conventional swing-arms. Aside from the mandatory super-shiny cheese grater grille, a set of custom wheels, HID headlamps and Denali badges differentiate it from regular Yukon models.

The Denali also comes standard with illuminated, power-retractable assist steps that can be optioned on any of the full-size GM SUV brethren.

The 2015 Yukon Denali 2WD will begin at a price of $63,675 after destination charges and $66,675 for 4WD models. That is a hefty $4,000 premium over the 2014 model, but the new SUV does have a more powerful engine and better content.

To protect this investment, these trucks can be optioned with a theft protection package that has glass break sensors, interior motion sensors and the ability to still sound the alarm even if the battery is cut.

Expect to see Denalis rolling into GMC dealerships soon.

Looking to buy a GMC Yukon Denali? Check out our GMC new car page or go straight to the Yukon Denali.

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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