This review is full of the words like “biggest” and “most” and features a full-on Star Wars subtext. This 2016 GMC Yukon Denali is one of the biggest vehicle we have tested at 5743 pounds. That’s Bantha-big! It’s also got the most torque at 460 ft-lbs. as well as the largest engine at 6.2L. It’s also the most expensive, with an MSRP of $74,400 Galactic credits. So is more, better? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. But first, let’s chat about styling.
Simply put, I felt like a Stormtrooper—more specifically, a mid-to-senior level Stormtrooper—in this big white SUV with gigantic wheels. So that’s how I wrote the rest of the review. This GMC Star Destroyer says that I “may be upper management”, but I remember I came from and didn’t buy some Rebel scum import.
I know, I usually start with hauling ass, but this thing is just built to
establish Imperial authority haul people. I got my entire unit in the Denali for lunch one day (except for TK-421, still not sure where that guy went). That’s not to say it’s slow, more on that in a bit. Inside, it’s what you would expect of a full-size GM SUV. Roomy is a bit of an understatement, I felt like the front passenger was a full light-saber’s length away and rear passengers may be difficult to hit with a blaster they’re so far back there! The center console housed two “1st place” soccer trophies in it during the week-long stay at my place. So it does soccer-dad duty, what else? It’s basically a luxury car in truck-based SUV guise, so you get leather surfaces abound, power everything (it even has a trick 8″ motorized screen with a cubby behind it for hiding your gear), a flip-down screen to watch your movies on the way to drop the little Troopers off at daycare, and pretty much everything else you would expect in a big luxo-truck.
As I found with our first GM press loaner, the autonomous future is here. New vehicle systems are becoming ever-more helpful, or intrusive, depending on your point of view. Our Regal GS tester came with not one, but two “Driver Confidence Packages” which featured stuff like run-of-the-mill stuff like blind spot alerts but also newer tech like adaptive cruise control, and
autonomous panic braking Front Automatic Braking. This big GMC had similar kit on it, with fairly unobtrusive features like the Forward Collision Alert and Blind Sport Zone Alert (nice in a big SUV) as standard. The last one brought a friend to the party though. Meet our new friend Lane Keep Assist. This little guy will actually steer your Yukon back into the lane if you venture to close to one line or the other. The only issue is, this is a big vehicle, and staying perfectly in the middle of the lane is tough. If you just want to give up, this means you can play ping-pong with your Denali and allow the system to bounce you back and forth within your lane. It basically it works, most of the time. It appears that there is a steering wheel angle that it won’t try and recover from. So if you are too far gone, you’re on your own captain. While I legitimately noticed a few occasions where I was slightly distracted and the system self-corrected for me, there were a few others where I knew where my vehicle was and was happy with it, until the steering wheel started to fight back.
At what point does “helpful” become “obtrusive”? I’m sure they thought that exhaust port was “helpful” back in ’77, but we ended up losing a lot of good Troopers that day. Never Forget either of the Death Star tragedies. Purists have already lamented the death of the “pure” automobile, one free of computers and such. All of these new functions are becoming cheaper to implement and do take out some of the human element out of the equation. An element, and this pains me to say as a human, that is prone to failure. So is all of this making us better drivers, time will tell. I can say that as an enthusiast, which means I fancy myself an excellent driver, there were times that I just got annoyed. For the average clone who sees their car as an appliance and can’t be bothered to steer themselves, I guess it’s a plus.
This marks the second time that I’ve said to myself “big girl can move” when contemplating a press car. The first, an F-150 with a puny 2.7L engine that did 30 foot burnouts. This Yukon Denali has a big ole engine to haul it’s big ole butt around. As I led off with, she’s not a lightweight. Or welterweight. Or any other weight other than freakin space station huge. So you don’t expect a big SUV like this to be able to get out of its own way, but you should. This 6.2L V8 (sadly, the twin-ion engine was too large, even for this) brings 420 hp and 460 ft. lbs of Alderaan-destroying torque to ensure that you can merge onto the highway with plenty of room to spare ahead of that 18 wheeler bearing down on you. It’ll also rotate the back tires in a manner that one may declare “hooning” or “shenanigans”. Put the drivetrain selector in “2D” and defeat the traction control and the GMC will lay down some rubber from its big ole 22″ wheels. Of course about 20 feet into what you see below a
droid computer of some kind said “oh no you don’t” and shut her down. I’m surprised the helpful folks at Galactic OnStar didn’t come online to make sure I was OK.
That’s not to say she’s a dancing queen. I wouldn’t hustle her through anything like the Kessel Run without some extreme care. I was leaving our tailgating session, more on that below, and hit a rough patch of road while on a bit of a bend, and it all felt a bit loose. Now that’s where the weight comes in handy, it takes a lot to upset such a big vehicle and I was never really out of control. Heck, the lake keeper wouldn’t let me, right? But you don’t buy a big SUV to go racing, you buy it to haul your family and your speeder bike to the track. Which this Denali will do easily, towing up to 8100lbs of armor and weapons, which means you could tow several speeder bikes! Just watch out for trees.
Ah, the stuff section, my nemesis! I managed to drive a pickup truck for a week and never had more than a folding sports chair in the back. So what did I haul in this Yukon? A whole Imperial football tailgates worth of stuff. We took our big white whale to First Galactic Field, home of the Corellians (and various manufacturer ride-&-drive as well as SCCA autocross events). Three adults, one 11 year old, and our stuff fit fairly well. I used to own a 2009 Suburban (aka the Super Star Destroyer), basically the previous generation full-size GM SUV. Why did I buy that over a Tahoe or Yukon? Well the smaller Chevy and GMC twins hold a bit of a dirty secret in their rear smugglers hold. They don’t have much room for your blaster behind that 3rd row seat. Our 2016 had a bit more than the older generation, at least it appeared so. If you do a grocery run of any significance, better be ready to use those power folding rear seat buttons, because there isn’t much room back there.
Which brings me to my biggest question about the GMC Yukon Denali, what would make you buy this over other comparatively priced luxury AT-ATs or SUVs? It comes down to a few key questions. How many in your family or Imperial unit? If you need the third row, that narrows the option list a bit. I’ve shopped for 3-row SUVs before, hence the Suburban purchase. You can get 3-row luxo SUVs from most major manufacturers, and they all suffer from a similar issue, that extra row of seating diminishes the cargo capacity. Our Yukon comes with a massive 94.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity. But wait, that’s with the seats down. How much is it with all seats in place? 15.3. Something like an Audi Q7 has the same issue, only amplified since it’s smaller (72.5/10.9). Meanwhile something like an M-Class will give you 80.7 cu. ft. total with a very usable 38.2 cu.ft. with all seats in place. Both are cheaper than the GMC as well, so there’s that. A Range Rover sport comes in at 62.6 cu.ft. and 27.7 cu.ft., seats down and seats up respectively, and is not cheaper. Your other question is this. Do you need to tow some shit? If yes, the GMC is a beast. You can have a much larger boat if you own the Yukon. Pure and simple, big engine, big torque equals bigger trailer.
This is not a cheap vehicle, but it does a lot well. GMC has managed to deliver an attractive, boat of a truck that can haul your boat and your family, in extreme comfort. It’s not even all that un-economical (is that a word?) Non-economical? Perhaps, but regardless of the word choice, it’s not those things. I averaged high teens for MPG, which considering the size is pretty good. The cylinder deactivation feature dropping the V8 to 4-cylinders when not towing a freighter or something. A bigger question may be whether or not you need the “Denali” name attached? For $66,605 you can get a similarly equipped Yukon SLT SUV in the same color with the same color interior (mostly). You’ll get a smaller 5.3L EcoTec V8 which…actually isn’t that much more economical than the big 6.2L (16/22 for the 5.3L vs.15/21 for the 6.2L). Well that confuses things a bit, but the “normal” Yukon should still make your shopping list if you don’t quite have three quarters of $100K to spend on a vehicle. Long live the Empire!
Trim: Denali 4WD
Trans: 8-Speed Auto
Engine: 420hp 6.2L V8
Drive: 4-Wheel Drive
Exterior: White Frost Tricoat
Interior: Cocoa/Dark Atmosphere
Destination Fee: $1,195
Packages & Options
Open Road Package $2,760
- Audio system with navigation
- Rear seat entertainment system with Blu-ray playback
- Power sunroof
- Theft-deterrent system
- Self-powered horn
- Interior movement and vehicle inclination sensors
- Door, liftgate lock shields and glass break sensors in rear quarter glass and liftgate window
22″ Aluminum Wheels with Painted Accents $1,495
White Frost Tricoat Paint $995
Open Road Package Discount -$500
Total MSRP: $74,400