Tuesday, August 15, 2006

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

August 23, 2006
2007 GMC Yukon Denali
He Drove, She Drove
Yukon Denali shines as GM's best SUV
By Paul & Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

Hip-hop artists and professional athletes seem to love the over-the-top styling of the new Cadillac Escalade. But they may be missing the best of General Motors' SUV triplets -- the redesigned 2007 GMC Yukon Denali.

More elegant and visually appealing than the Chevrolet Tahoe, but not as showy as the Escalade, the Yukon's looks should hold up well over time.

We tested a well-equipped Yukon Denali AWD with a bottom line of $54,615.

SHE: Remember our friends who got divorced because the wife kept leaning over from the passenger seat and honking the horn in traffic while the husband was driving?

HE: Sounds like perfectly reasonable grounds to me.

SHE: Granted, she was a bit of a control freak, but I can kind of relate to her on this test drive. Because I would like to reach over and change that 4 that you gave the Denali to a big, fat 5. I can't imagine why you'd give the best of GM's new SUVs less than our highest rating.

HE: Consider yourself divorced. The Yukon Denali is a nice vehicle -- but far from perfect. I'm not even convinced it's best in class, and that $54,000-plus sticker is certainly going to turn off a lot of potential buyers. I understand that GM is already heavily discounting these new SUVs, too, even though they've only been on the market for about six or seven months.

SHE: That's all about gas prices. And as we're sitting here, they're coming down. Fuel prices aside, this is one of the most majestic SUVs I've ever been in. I absolutely love the subtle exterior that manages to integrate some really dramatic touches, such as the oversize vertical taillights, and the intriguing grille that looks like it was drilled out on a machine.

HE: Too bad it's plastic, not metal. And majestic seems like an appropriate adjective for a vehicle that's so huge, it's a real pain to maneuver in a mall parking lot. And this is the short-wheelbase model -- the Denali XL is an even bigger pain. The EPA fuel economy numbers are far from majestic. This monster, with its massive 6.2-liter V-8, gulps fuel, to the tune of 13 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway. You can understand why people are getting pretty gun-shy around big SUVs these days, GM's bragging notwithstanding.

SHE: Don't kid yourself. The people who can afford this vehicle aren't going to be hampered by high pump prices. And what they'll get is a workhorse that's as ritzy as a rolling hotel room, with just about every amenity you can dream up.

HE: I know I groused about the lousy fuel economy, but I did like that big V-8. It makes 380 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque, which incidentally is 100 pounds-feet more torque than the expensive Audi RS4 supercar we've been test-driving. The six-speed is smooth, too -- as you say, the best automatic transmission you can buy on a big SUV.

SHE: If I have any complaints, it's that there is virtually no room for luggage when you're using the third row of seats. And it would have been really terrific to have a power folding third row as a companion to the power feature in the second row.

HE: I thought the styling, the materials and the build quality in the cabin represented a dramatic improvement over the previous-generation Yukon. And that's despite the fact that the fake wood still looks too fake, especially on a $54,000 vehicle with luxury aspirations.

SHE: I can't understand why you are nit-picking one of the best products to come out of the Detroit pipeline this year. The GMC Yukon Denali is civilized, confidence-inspiring and cool. So move over and let me drive.

Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.

The 2007 GMC Yukon Denali combines power with elegance.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali AWD

Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, six-passenger utility vehicle.
Price: Base, $47,990 (inc. $875 shipping charge); as tested, $54,615.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8; 380-hp; 417 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway.
Where built: Janesville, Wis.
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,762

Rating: 5
Likes: Best of GM's big SUV siblings. More elegant and understated, not as showy as the Cadillac Escalade. Fabulous safety equipment. Optional oversize 20-inch wheels/tires look and feel substantial. Comfortable ride.
Dislikes: With third row up, virtually no room for luggage. Visibility problems from thick rear pillars, headrests.

Rating: 4
Likes: Big, bold front-end styling. Powerful, torquey 6.2L V-8. Smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Dramatically better-looking cabin. Comfy captain's chairs, lots of amenities - and room - in second row. Easy to access third row.
Dislikes: Dreadful fuel economy. Interior wood trim still looks fake. Third row not nearly as civilized as second. Bulky size makes parking difficult.

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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