2021 GMC Yukon Denali

January 24, 2020 Updated: January 24, 2020

The idea of a luxury SUV is nothing new. However, GMC is pushing the mantra of premium off-road – utility vehicles meant to perform the task they’re actually built for, rather than just sitting pretty in the garage, and all the while looking great doing it. Enter the redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon Denali.

The Epoch Times was among several dozen journalists who got to briefly drive, and for the first time see un-camouflaged, the fourth-generation SUV in the beautiful ski town of Vail, Colorado. The elaborate production fit the bill because the brand actually chose to introduce the now well-known sub-brand on the Yukon platform 20 years ago.

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Trying out the new Yukon Denali in Vail, Colorado. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

“A lot of people have asked me already, ‘What’s the one thing that you like better on this truck?'” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick and GMC, during a presentation in mid-January.

“I think for me it’s the unique Denali interior, which is not a shared interior with any of the GMCs. Everything below the Denali has a beautiful interior, but the Denali has taken that to an all-new level: different materials, handcrafted stitching, extra technology,” he said.

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An interior with exceptional craftsmanship. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

Certainly after having climbing in and having a seat, one might forget they’re in a domestic product. The genuine leather surfaces are plush, and the wood trim real, and customers can pick from four different upholstery colour schemes. There’s also something never seen before: an optional Power Sliding Centre Console.

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Power Sliding Centre Console. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

The entire unit is motorized and can slide back up to 254 millimetres, revealing a cavernous storage space perfect for a purse or bag, and access to a hidden drawer above perfect for stashing valuables while the vehicle is parked.

Other highlights inside include a ton of tech. For example a huge 15-inch windshield-projected head-up display, and high definition Surround Vision Camera offering a total of nine different views aiding manoeuvres such as parking and backing up the 5,179-millimetre long SUV.

Let’s transition to how the Yukon looks on the outside. As is the current trend in the automotive industry, the grille is everything. And the Denali’s trademark Galvano chrome grille is a statement piece. Significantly larger than the outgoing model, the unit houses a bright red GMC emblem in the middle, surrounded by a shiny metallic 3-D pattern featuring over 10,000 reflective surfaces.

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Signature GMC grille with a large emblem. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

From the side, the profile is purposefully boxy with some smooth bodylines. Lighting all around is LED, like the signature C-shaped “light blade” daytime running lights. Up to 22-inch aluminum wheels are available to fill the wheel wells.

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The profile view. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

Under the hood lies a standard 5.3-litre V8 engine, upgradable to a turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six diesel, or a top-of-the-line 6.2-litre V8 pumping out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The two gasoline mills utilize Dynamic Fuel Management, enabling operation on as few as two cylinders during light loads to save fuel. All three are mated to 10-speed automatic transmission.

Being in snowy conditions and driving on a small closed course, there wasn’t much opportunity to open up the throttle. We were, though, able to test out the Active Response 4WD System. Working in concert with the onboard electronic LSD and multilink independent rear suspension, the Yukon whipped around the icy route calm and composed, feeling less like a full-size SUV and more like a car.

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10.2-inch touch screen housing the infotainment system. (Courtesy of GMC Canada)

Launching at the same time as the Denali is the rugged XT4 trim wearing a pair of red recovery tow hooks a la Sierra XT4, and a 155-millimetre longer XL model boasting extra room for passengers and cargo.

The 2021 GMC is going to be built in Arlington, Texas and is slated for a summer release. Additional information will be available closer to production.

Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C. and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @b_yong.