In the ongoing, half-century long slugfest between Chevy and Ford over who has the better truck, the fortunes of the fight swing from one pugilist to the next. One company tries something new, and their opponent hits them for its deficiencies; one company doesn’t change, and the other hits them for being too traditional.
For 2018, GMC (the trucks only end of General Motors) is really hitting on their whole notion of “Professional Grade.”
Recognizable & Functional
The 2018 GMC Yukon Denali showcases three main areas they’re pushing: the new, GM-centric, Multi-Dimensional Grille, a Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic transmission, and a long list of work-oriented standard features. The new grille, in addition to a more chic look, also hides a number of practical features such as greater airflow to the radiator. There are active aero shutters located behind the grille that close in certain conditions on the highway, reducing aerodynamic drag and enhancing efficiency.
The new look of the grille comes from how GMC designers evolved the current Denali grille through a multi-dimensional sculpted lattice in a layered manner. This same theme is seen in other current and newer GMC models like the Acadia and Terrain. The new grille is bracketed by HID headlamps and LED Signature Lighting.
“It’s a more exciting and sophisticated design, while remaining instantly recognizable as part of the GMC Denali family,” said Matt Noone, Director, Global GMC Exterior Design.
Aggressive Yet Smooth
Now, about that 10-speed transmission. This is a growing trend, not just in the truck market (although there’s plenty of representation in that arena as well) but across a broad range of vehicles. Until engineers can figure out a way to make Continuously Variable Transmissions handle high torque and power loads, get used to seeing auto-boxes with many, many ratios contained within.
In the case of GMC’s 2018 Yukon Denali, the new 10-speed slush box pulls the engineering knowledge of GM’s previous transmissions into a new level of performance. There’s a wider, 7.39 overall gear ratio spread, and in comparison to the previous Yukon Denali’s eight-speed box, the new 10-speed allows for a lower numerical top gear ratio that nets you greater efficiency. This new transmission has optimized gearing along with proprietary controls to allow the 6.2L V8 engine to deliver both smooth operation and aggressive response.
Power & Performance
And speaking of that 6.2L engine, it tops the extensive list of standard features for GMC’s 2018 Yukon Denali. Said plant cranks out 420 horsepower with direct injection and GM’s Active Fuel Management, or cylinder deactivation in lighter driving conditions. In other words, a good solid mill for any truck or SUV to have under its hood.
The new Yukon Denali also has Magnetic Ride Control, standard 20-inch wheels, and available 22-inch wheels (if you want to be the flashy guy on the job site), an automatic locking rear differential, and four-wheel-disc brakes with Duralife rotors (does anyone make drums any longer?). Other standard and available features include StabiliTrak electronic stability control, tow/haul mode, trailer sway control, auto grade braking, and hill start assist.
Speaking of the interior, the 2018 Yukon Denali is becoming more and more like a mobile office. There’s an infotainment system with navigation that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The standard 8-inch diagonal screen features a customizable display that works with the standard heads-up display. Active Noise Cancellation makes the interior quieter too.
There are multiple USB ports and accessory power outlets, including a 110-volt, three-prong outlet so you can plug in, charge, and run everything from your smartphone to a tablet to a coffeemaker (for all I know). There’s also wireless phone charging, heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats, heated second-row seats, and a hands-free programmable power liftgate. OnStar? Oh, you bet this pick-em-up-truck’s got OnStar.
Packaging & Availability
So, get used to seeing that new front end design on lots of GMC vehicles. The Denali trim package being offered on the Yukon and Yukon XL accounts for way more than half of all Yukon sales. The XL features a longer wheelbase (14 inches) for greater third-row legroom and more than double the cargo area behind the third-row seat. The XL is in case you want to go large, but either way, the 2018 GMC Yukon Denali goes on sale this fall.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.