The biggest difference between the standard Yukon and the Yukon XL is the XL's extra 14 inches of wheelbase and 20 inches of overall length. The XL also gets a standard third-row seat, which is optional on the standard Yukon. Yukon SLE and SLT models can be equipped with the following new Vortec small-block V8 engines: a standard 4.8-liter (standard model only), two 5.3-liter choices with active fuel management, and two 6.0-liter choices (XL model only). Denali models get an exclusive 6.2-liter V8 that's also found in the Cadillac Escalade, but which makes more power in the Caddy. Horsepower runs the gamut between 295 and 380 with torque figures ranging between 305 lb.-ft and 415 lb.-ft.
Underneath, the 2007 Yukon gets a new coil-over-shock front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, larger four-wheel disc brakes, and an all-new ABS system. An optional Autoride suspension reads the road and automatically adjusts the electronic shocks for a smoother ride. GMC didn't forget safety when it comes to the 2007 Yukon, including as standard equipment a StabiliTrak stability control system, dual-stage airbags for front seat occupants, side curtain airbags with rollover protection for all three rows, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Our 2007 GMC Yukon Denali test vehicle was loaded with amenities including chrome 20-inch wheels, a power sunroof, a navigation system with CD/DVD and MP3 players, a rearview camera system, and a heated steering wheel. The downside of all this is that our Denali didn't come cheap at $54,765 including an $875 destination charge. That's a pile of cash, but with big SUV sales stalled you're likely to get a big discount from sticker. If you take the rebate bait, know that our seat-of-the-pants opinion is the 2007 Denali version is the best Yukon yet, and represents a giant improvement over previous models. It isn't perfect, but then again, nothing is.
When it comes to handling, the Yukon wails like a toddler that isn't getting its way when pushed hard into corners. Understeer is the dominant characteristic in extreme conditions, and the 20-inch wheels and tires don't seem to help. In a straight line, however, the opposite is true. Our GMC Yukon Denali delivered a supple ride just like that of a luxury car, thanks to the Autoride suspension that incorporates electronic shocks and real-time damping. This makes the Yukon a perfect ride for long hauls.
Fun to Drive
Outside, just a few things worth noting marred build quality. The rear bumper cover that hid the trailer hitch was the worse offender, loose and exhibiting terrible fit. We also found the grille's G-M-C lettering loose and rattling, poor fit of the plastic trim pieces that flank the rear window, and slight variance of the gaps around the rear window.
Outside, the GMC Yukon continues the luxury theme through the use of chrome accents, what appears to be custom grille work, large jeweled headlights, tinted windows, and 20-inch rims. There's also a sleekly designed roof rack integrated into the design with color-matched paint and chrome accents.
Price of Test Vehicle: $54,765 (includes $875 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 6.2-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 380 at 5,500 rpm
Engine Torque: 415 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,415
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway):13/19
Observed Fuel Economy: 11.5 mpg
Length: 202 inches
Width: 79 inches
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Height: 76.8 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 41.3/39.0 inches
Head room (front/rear): 41.1/39.2 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 7 (with third-row seat)
Max. Cargo Volume: 16.9 cu.-ft. with third row in place
Max. Payload: 1,776 lbs.
Max. Towing Capacity: 8,200 lbs.
Ground Clearance:8.9 inches
Competitors: Cadillac Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, Chrysler Aspen, Ford Expedition EL, Infiniti QX56, Land Rover LR3, Lexus LX 470, Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada, Toyota Land Cruiser
People who buy full-size SUVs with big V8 engines don't care about the price of gas, so I won't harp on the GMC Yukon Denali for averaging less than 12 mpg or for the fact that squeezing 30 bucks into the tank rewards the driver with just 120 miles of additional range. People who buy full-size SUVs based on regular truck frames are also prepared to climb high when entering and drop out when exiting, and they know that passenger room and cargo space are compromised by the traditional ladder-style frame and solid rear axle, so I won't complain much about that, either. Finally, since the fake wood and hard plastic used for the dashboard of this $54,000 luxe-truck is a huge leap forward from what the old Denali had going for it, the gripe is a minor one – even if the lowly Nissan Versa econocar contains better quality materials than this top-shelf GMC.
That leaves me to complain about the teensy little buttons that GM has started using for all of its climate and stereo systems, particularly glaring in a vehicle like the Yukon which has large expanses of real estate on the control panel upon which these buttons could be spread out and made larger. I'm also befuddled by the lack of a telescopic steering column or one-touch power window operation for all four doors. Further, I wasn't a big fan of the powertrain, which accelerated briskly off the line but was slow to respond to requests for passing power. Plus, there are times when it seems there's a dead spot in the powerband. Combined with the SUV's inherently large size and portly curb weight, which conspire to make the GMC a sloppy handler despite the optional 20-inch tires, these traits make the Yukon Denali a chore to drive in traffic.
What did I like about the GMC Yukon Denali? I like the styling, I think the front seats are very comfortable, and the suspension is stiff enough to offer a sporting feel but compliant enough to provide a decent ride quality. The sound system rocks, the reversing camera is cool, the view forward and to the sides is clear, and the exhaust system features a spine-tingling bellow that only an American V8 can provide.
GMC Yukon – Brian Chee's Opinion:
Call it Professional Grade. That's the 2007 GMC Yukon Denali, so close to a ‘Slade that it almost paints itself black. The chrome. The wheels. The pure bodacious size of the thing – it's all an Escalade can be, with a slight nod to the Escalade's interior upgrades. Heck, at 11.5 mpg you oughta get something special, and the Yukon Denali offers it up in spades, starting with chrome roof rails, doors handles and an interior that's halfway up the luxury ladder between a Chevy Tahoe and that ominous Cadillac, enough for people to appreciate dampened compartment doors, plush leather seating, beautiful wood grain and fine textured plastics. In back, seats move up and down easily, though two hands are necessary to maneuver the back seats at times. One thing about the interior I just don't understand – and doubt many parents will – is the two bucket seats in the second row. It means that the Yukon Denali will seat just four with the third-row down.
Despite this, the Yukon Denali is a huge improvement over the 2006 model. Priced competitively – albeit to a dying market – the Yukon Denali will win its share of fans who can't afford the Caddy upgrade and want more than a Chevy. What they'll get is a beast that drives easily, just as the rest of its 2007 stablemates do – nice handling, great acceleration and smooth overall performance from its 6.2-liter V8 engine. The engine is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission which cycles through the gears smoothly. On city streets and when driving on the freeway, the Yukon Denali exhibits a surprisingly nimble driving character, with responsive steering, predictable braking and a tight turning radius much better than one has a right to expect in a boat like this. Accelerator tip-in felt a bit abrupt, but once up to speed the powertrain worked flawlessly to deliver a smooth stream of power. All in all, the GMC Yukon Denali is an excellent driver with a superb interior. Get that fuel mileage up to a real-world index of 20, and that would sure be something.
Photos by Ron Perry