If you're a fan of full-size body-on-frame SUVs, you have only a few choices on the market these days. Thankfully, the choices you have are very good, and the GMC Yukon Denali just got some amazing new machinery for 2018.
The big news for the Yukon Denali this year is that GM's new 10-speed automatic transmission is now available with the 6.2-liter V8 engine. This is the same transmission used for high performance in the hot rod Camaro ZL-1. This transmission offers the widest range of ratios ever offered on a GM product, and with 10 gears to choose from, the Yukon is always in the right gear to meet your needs.
Part of the definition of a luxury car in the modern era is performance, and with the 420-horsepower Ecotec3 V8 engine under the hood, the Yukon moves out smartly, whether you're accelerating onto the freeway from a stop or executing a typical 45-65 MPH passing maneuver. The transmission is so smooth, you won't really notice it shifting gears most of the time, and the engine just seems to always have power available.
The new Denali also comes with GM's magnetic ride control suspension, borrowed from the top performance Corvettes and Camaros on the Chevy side. This technology uses electronically adjustable shock damping. It's all automatic, so the Yukon adjusts itself to give you a great ride whether you're on gravel or smooth pavement, and also when you're towing.
Speaking of towing, the Denali will pull up to 7,900 pounds when equipped with 4WD, or 8,100 pounds in the 2WD version. Northwest buyers will want the 4WD, in large part because it now comes with an Automatic mode. In this mode, the front axle is always ready to engage to provide traction, but it is not engaged unless it's needed. That makes it similar to most AWD systems you find in crossover SUVs. You can put the Yukon in Automatic mode for the winter and just drive, but you still get high and low range 4WD when you need it.
The Yukon Denali also has a revised interior this year and it's very attractive, with real wood trim and a few great color combinations. Our test rig had the "Dark Atmosphere" interior, and it looks both dignified and timeless. Tech features include an 8-inch touchscreen display that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a head-up display on the windshield. The test vehicle was also equipped with the Denali Ultimate package, which includes automatic running boards and critical safety features like adaptive cruise control with forward emergency braking.
The bottom line on the 2018 GMC Yukon Denali is that if you're shopping for a full-size luxury SUV, this truck should be at the top of your test drive list.
Base price: $73,160
Price as tested: $80,585
Type: Full-size SUV
Engine: 6.2-liter V8 (420 hp, 460 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 14/21
Overall length: 224.4 inches
Curb weight: 5,965 pounds
Final assembly: Arlington, Texas