2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge


Test Drive: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali


By Haney Louka

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Winnipeg, Manitoba – Our inaugural Louka family road trip took us to Calgary and Southwestern Alberta, which just happens to be the home base for ‘The Good Ferry’, a company that handles test cars for the media in the prairies. They had arranged for us to drive out there in a Mazda CX-7 and once there, we swapped it for a BMW 5-Series Touring. Both of those vehicles qualify as highly desirable family haulers, although each for its own reasons.

When it came time to turn in the Bimmer and pick up a ride for the trek home to Winnipeg, I was offered a 3-Series Touring which would have made for a fine drive indeed. The only problem is that there were four of us (our two children are less than five years old) and we had made two IKEA excursions during our two-week vacation. The 5-Series was filled to capacity, and transferring all of our things into a smaller car just wasn’t going to work.

But we were also offered GMC’s new-for-’07 Yukon Denali as an alternative to transport us home. I knew it would have the room we needed, but I was skeptical, even given the General’s substantial investment in its new GMT900 truck platform, about whether it would be comfortable and satisfying to drive for the lengthy trip ahead.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

On the other hand, these new trucks are critical to GM’s success, and with a market segment that will be lucky if it doesn’t shrink over the next two years, GM needs to focus on nabbing sales from the other guys to make the new platform a success.

There was only one way to find out how good the General’s chances are, so we packed the family into the Denali and headed east toward Winnipeg. As it turns out, we discovered that not only is the new Yukon vastly better than the model it replaces, it has redefined the full-size SUV segment.

The Yukon line starts at $44,615. For that sum, buyers get rear-wheel drive, 17-inch tires, roof rails, a full-size spare, three-zone air conditioning, rear auxiliary heating, seating for six, auxiliary steering wheel controls, four-wheel vented disc brakes, a 5.3-litre V-8, keyless entry, OnStar, and stability and traction control.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge

As usual with GM’s full-size trucks, there are numerous powertrain and equipment options; too many to list here. So we’ll skip over the mid-level models and jump right to the subject of this review – the $63,500 Denali.

Checking the option box for the highest trim level available means a 6.2-litre V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, oversized mirrors, 18-inch polished alloys, heavy-duty towing package, heated 2nd row seats, split-folding third row seats, head curtain airbags, automatic climate control, 9-speaker Bose audio system, XM satellite radio, power liftgate, rain sensing wipers, rear parking assist, and remote start, among others.

Our tester was also equipped with the $2,915 navigation system with voice recognition, 20-inch chrome wheels for $1,565, a rear view camera ($235), and a heated steering wheel ($180).

At the end of the day, our tester wore an as-tested price tag of $69,695 including A/C tax and destination charges. If that’s not enough, buyers can also opt for a power sunroof and a DVD entertainment system. But that would just be excessive.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge

The 6.2-litre engine carries the Vortec label and, in the Yukon, produces an SAE-certified 380 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. The same engine in Caddy’s Escalade is endowed with 403 horses.

For those of you who think they don’t build ’em like they used to, you’re absolutely right. Not that the heritage isn’t there: this fourth generation block traces its ancestry to the original Chevy small block of 1955, with which it shares its 90-degree cylinder angle and 4.4-inch bore centres.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

And although this is a 376 cubic inch engine with pushrods and two overhead valves per cylinder, it has electronic throttle control and variable valve timing to help it attain its power figures. The Gen-IV block, which debuted in the Corvette’s LS2 V8, is made of aluminum which shaves 100 lb. off its weight had it been constructed of cast-iron. With a highway fuel consumption rating of 10.8 litres per 100 km in the Denali, one begins to appreciate the 21st-century thinking that has gone into developing this new engine.

Not that we were able to see fuel consumption as low as the window sticker suggests: we averaged 14.2 L/100 km during our trip from Calgary to Winnipeg. Sure, the big SUV was loaded with two adults, two children, and their stuff, but we expected better.

Managing the power between the small-block V8 and all four wheels is the 6L80 Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission. This isn’t a new transmission – it was available previously in Caddy’s XLR-V roadster, STS-V sedan, and the Corvette – but 2007 is the first year the tranny is mated to GM’s truck engines.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

All Denalis are equipped with removable third row of seats (clad in vinyl, not leather) which fold down and tumble forward but don’t fold flat into the floor. We didn’t have the option of leaving the third row seat in Calgary, so we worked around the big lump on the floor and threw everything in with room to spare.

Once on the road, it was immediately apparent that GM has a sincere interest in making its new full-size SUVs class leaders. The Denali proved an ideal highway cruiser with a smooth ride, great power, and comfortable seats with adjustable lumbar for a perfect fit. The second row seats are full-size buckets with plenty of legroom and the third row bench, while smaller, still offers decent room compared to most three-row SUVs.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

The aforementioned V8 is class leading in my opinion, and every one of those 380 horses can be felt in highway passing situations – the fact that this Denali has the aerodynamic qualities of the box it came in doesn’t faze the big V8.

The touch-screen navigation system was intuitive and useful – among the best in the biz – and the screen also doubles as the display for the Denali’s audio system which includes XM satellite radio. It was the first time I had a chance to really play with XM, and I’m a big fan. We didn’t have to wait to be near a city to get good reception – it’s no longer an issue with satellite radio – and the programming offered choices too numerous to list here.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

New owners should be cautioned, though, to spend some serious time with the touch screen system while the Denali is parked. The screen is too far down on the centre stack to be effectively operated while driving, and requires too much involvement for those new to the system. That said, it’s easier and faster to enter destinations than with competitive systems which are controlled using knobs or joysticks.

The trip computer display is a small LCD screen nested in the tachometer with controls to the right of the steering wheel. I originally thought that information should be integrated into the touch screen system, but hindsight is telling me there’s too much going on there already, and the separate display and controls are welcome.

2007 GMC Yukon Denali
Photo: Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

The interior is generally well crafted, but the choice of materials is questionable. The plastics are hard and the fake wood veneer which graces much of the centre console and dash just does not scream high-class, and these materials don’t approach the level of effort that has gone into the execution of the rest of the truck.

To say I was pleasantly surprised with the new Yukon is an understatement, especially coming from someone who encourages people to avoid trucks unless their needs dictate that a truck is the only way to go.

So even if the full-size SUV segment’s future growth is in question, the General’s competitors will have to work hard to keep their shares from shrinking.


Pricing: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali


Specifications: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali

  • Click here for complete specifications


Crash test results


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