2015 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD
We simply cannot talk about the GMC Yukon Denali without getting the sticker-shock vapors out of the way. Gaze upon the $74,720 figure on our tester”s Monroney, then huff smelling salts like a teenage Dee Dee Ramone left alone with a tube of Testors” finest cement. That is a rather eye-watering sum for a descendant of the humble GMC pickup John Steinbeck kicked around the country while writing Travels With Charley.
Far from its 1990s/early-”00s ubiquity, the body-on-frame SUV has once again become a niche vehicle. Its smaller variants, the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango, went unibody on their most recent go-arounds. Ford”s mammoth Excursion trod the flightless path of the dodo bird 10 years ago, while the aging Nissan Armada, the Lincoln Navigator, and the Ford Expedition soldier on with minor revisions and refinements for the next few years. For now, General Motors has the newest models and owns this particular game: It has the spread covered from the $46,745 base Chevy Tahoe all the way up to almost $100k for a loaded Cadillac Escalade ESV 4x4. Viewed through that lens, our Denali falls squarely in the middle.
What do you get for that outlay? How about a quarter-mile time that”d be competitive with a 21-year-old Camaro Z28? This Denali, equipped with the 6.2-liter V-8 not offered on GM”s lesser SUVs, blew through the traps in 14.2 seconds at 99 mph. Shoddy ergs, questionable styling and all, the LT1-powered 1994 Camaro was a performance bargain in its day. And if the Denali is not the deal of this century, it at least performs in a straight line‘60 mph came up in 5.5 seconds, or exactly the same time it took the Porsche Cayenne GTS. As soon as the road curves, though, forget about it. The GMC exhibits a mere 0.77 g of lateral grip and the feel isn”t dissimilar to that of a 21-year-old K1500 Blazer. Which is to say floaty and a bit uncertain, although the steering no longer requires on-center sawing to make minute directional corrections. While it offers double the horsepower that many SUVs settled for in the ”90s, it also sucks gas like that old, unsophisticated throttle-body-injected truck. We recorded a meager 14 mpg‘equivalent to the truck”s EPA city rating, cylinder deactivation notwithstanding. The bigger Yukon XL Denali in our long-term fleet is faring better (17 mpg) so far but doing more of its miles in highway-cruise mode.
Inside, the Denali”s upgraded materials still don”t quite cut the asking-sum mustard. Our tester priced out roughly the same as a base Porsche Cayenne S. And while the Leipzig-built ute”s alleged mission is different from that of this bruiser from Arlington, Texas, there”s little point in pretending that they”ll do anything but spend most of their days doing the same sorts of things. And inside, there”s simply no comparison. The Porsche”s interior materials, fit, and finish absolutely shame the big GMC”s. The Range Rover Sport, which gives up some power to the Cayenne and the GMC unless you splash out Escalade money for the supercharged V-8 variantâ€š similarly makes the large Yank”s cabin look Walmart-grade. Sure, the GMC”s got pickup-rooted rock-solid guts and does that American friendly-intimidation thing better than the smaller Euro-utes, but the galoot-in-a-cheap-suit vibe is immediately apparent if you”ve spent any time in the offerings from the opposite shores of the Atlantic.
If GM wants to wean itself from its cash-on-the-hood addiction, it has to deliver interior quality on par with the competition. And the competition, once you”ve pumped your price this high, is utterly fierce. The Infiniti QX80, another dreadnought-grade, body-on-frame machine that commands similar entry fees, feels opulent inside in comparison to the Denali. One might argue with its Zentraedi-battlepod looks, but Infiniti spent the money to do it right. The Yukon nails the big, blocky, and butch theme‘it”s a vast aesthetic improvement over its droop-faced predecessor, but it just doesn”t feel nice enough to play at this price point.
By the time Steinbeck penned his portrait of America at midcentury, he was at the end of a storied career‘a man whose letters had brought him fame and the sort of cash-flushness most lowly scriveners will never live to see. He had the wherewithal to summer in Sag Harbor. The Long Island town is exactly the sort of place where the Denali might be put to work today. Ferrying the kids to school, putting the boat in, doing the unluxurious grunt work the lush life requires. It”s just that, well, that life requires a shade more attention to actual luxury.Read Source
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