There’s no question about it, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade that I recently drove was the epitome of style and luxury, and it turned heads everywhere I went. But with a price tag of ~$110K (as tested), it’s a bit too expensive for most families. Enter the 2022 GMC Yukon Denali, which offers 95% of the same driving experience at a fraction of the price!
It’s true, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Tahoe / Suburban, and GMC Yukon / XL all ride on the same platform, have the same 420-horsepower, 460-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, and available air suspension, 22-inch rims, etc. Sure, there are some notable exceptions (eg. Super Cruise vs. adaptive cruise control, 38-inch curved OLED display), but only you can decide if those features are worth the premium price of the Caddy.
Like I said, I really liked the Cadillac Escalade that I had last spring. But if I were in the market for a 7-passenger luxury SUV, I don’t know that I could in good conscience drop an extra $25K for the Caddy over the Yukon Denali, given just how similar these two vehicles are. Yes, the Escalade looks better inside and out and has some fancier tech, but I could also buy Billy, my fictional son, a Chevy Bolt with the money I saved on the Yukon.
The all-new GMC Yukon was introduced last year, and we were immediately taken by the bold exterior design, which looks way better than the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban in my opinion. Spring for the Denali trim (which accounts for nearly 60% of all Yukon sales), and you get a much more upscale interior, along with plenty of exterior bling to stand out from the crowd. Denali’s highly reflective Galvano chrome grille is hard to miss, and the dual exhaust system, chrome accents, and premium wheels add even more visual sizzle.
Ride quality is also greatly improved over the previous-gen Yukon, thanks to a new multilink independent rear suspension, which replaces the rear solid axle. Available four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension offers ride-height adjustments of up to 4 inches total, as well as an automatic self-leveling feature. In addition, Magnetic Ride Control dampening uses sensors to continually read the road and alter the damping rate of the shocks almost instantly. The result is an incredibly smooth ride that rivals a luxury vehicle.
As I mentioned, the 2022 GMC Yukon Denali is powered by a 6.2L V8 engine that puts out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, with that power routed through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Power delivery is strong and immediate, with the engine more than capable of propelling this hefty beast down the road with ease. The only trade-off with this big engine? Fuel economy, with the Yukon delivering a dismal 14 mpg city and 19 mpg on the highway. If that’s not bad enough, our car didn’t have auto start/stop (due to the chip shortage), likely robbing us of another 1-2 mpg.
The GMC Yukon Denali delivers a first-class experience for both driver and passengers, with an exclusive interior that features a completely new instrument panel, unique seats and a choice of four unique color themes, outfitted with premium and authentic materials. As you can see from these photos, there’s a wood-trimmed dashboard, hand-stitched leather upholstery, and a 10.2-inch infotainment system with Google Built-In compatibility (with wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto functionality).
What’s more, there’s a fully customizable 12-inch driver information center cluster and a 15-inch multicolor Head-Up Display. While not quite as crazy as the Escalade’s setup, I found it to be more than ample for my needs. If I had but one complaint about the interior, it’s the push-button gear selector. While it’s designed to save space, it just adds another level of complexity that isn’t needed. And honestly, this truck has more than enough space as it is, I would gladly give up some for a traditional shifter, or even a column shifter. 🙁
As you might imagine, the 2022 Yukon Denali comes with plenty of driver assistance features (which come in handy, given the size of this truck). Standard features include Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front and Rear Park Assist, Following Distance Indicator, Front Pedestrian Braking, IntelliBeam auto high beams, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
For those who don’t trust or want to rely on technology to keep them safe, there’s also up to 13 available camera views, so you can see everything around you from multiple angles, including High Definition Surround Vision.
Lastly, let’s talk about interior room and cargo space, since that’s why you’re buying an SUV of this size in the first place. The Yukon grew considerably with last year’s redesign, getting an extra 6.7 inches of overall length and 4.9 inches of wheelbase. This allows for an additional 3 inches of legroom in the second row, and a massive 10.1 inches in the third row. There’s also plenty of room for luggage and such behind the third-row seats, with the Yukon boasting 25.5 cubic feet of space.
All in all, there’s a whole lot to like about the 2022 GMC Yukon Denali. The huge SUV delivers on all fronts, giving buyers more (cargo and passenger) room, luxury, and technology. Pricing for the Yukon Denali 4WD starts at $72,500, while our tester clocked in at $84,945 with the addition of the Denali Ultimate Package ($11,355) and Redwood Metallic paint ($495). It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s a relative bargain compared to a comparably equipped Escalade.