- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

MODEL: GMC Yukon Denali
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door SUV
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $47,634
MILEAGE: 12 city, 16 highway

The disadvantage of large sport utility vehicles is maneuvering these monsters into small parking spaces. With the 2001 GMC Yukon Denali, however, parking is surprisingly easy.
Full-size SUVs are becoming more popular because they offer more seating capacity without cramming passengers. The Denali's interior is spacious; even the third row of this eight-passenger vehicle provides decent head- and legroom. The drawback is getting to the rear seat. There's another drawback. Should the Denali be loaded with eight occupants, storage is limited to hold about eight attache cases; eight suitcases would be a major problem.
With my negative comments out of the way, let's get to the factor that makes the Denali exceptionally attractive: agility. It's easy to steer this gigantic vehicle. For example, I purposely made a U-turn in a street that was about 40 feet wide and had room to spare. This garageable vehicle has responsive steering and handles similar to what is expected of a midsize sporty sedan.
Denali was introduced by GMC in 1998, along with another upscale model called the Denali XL. The XL has a longer wheelbase, resulting in less agility, but both are luxuriously equipped to make any ride enjoyable.
This year, the GMC people tell me the frame is 23 percent stiffer, a construction that improves the handling and ride. Now the Denali has a wider track for more stability, plus five-link coil spring suspension with self-leveling shock absorbers. The list of technical components is long but boils down to this: Denali has just about every component desired to make this an exceptionally smooth-riding, easy-to-handle, sport utility vehicle.
The 2001 model now has more power produced by a new Vortec 6000 V-8 engine that produces 320 horsepower and 365 foot-pounds of torque. Unlike competitive products, this torque peak range runs from 1,600 to 5,200 rpm ideal for towing trailers up to 8,500 pounds.
Contrasting an engine that produces impressive statistics for acceleration, GMC made changes in the opposite area: stopping. Denali, riding on Michelin touring tires, now has exceptionally large anti-lock brakes enabling this 5,938-pound vehicle to stop in a 20-foot shorter distance.
Another area deserving accolades is the all-weather control of the all-wheel-drive system. No need to determine if and when to shift into four-wheel drive; the Denali is always ready for any road surface because it has a state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive transfer case that is always on and fully operational.
Mechanical features of the Denali present only half the story; the plush interior is another. Climbing up into the driver's seat (with the aid of a running board) I found the bucket seat featured 10-way power adjustment with preset memory positions. This seat has a four-position headrest, plus an inboard fold-down armrest. This 2001 Yukon Denali even has a best-in-class electronic climate control system with very quick cool-down.
I was momentarily annoyed by the door-locking interior lighting system until I realized my preferences were programmable in a driver information center. I could personalize numerous systems to my particular desires.
The 11-speaker Bose sound system accepts up to six CDs and features the patented Dynamic Equalization that automatically compensates for different listening levels. And the entire sound system shuts down when the driver uses the hands-free phone or OnStar system.
As expected, a sport utility of this caliber commands a high ticket price of $47,634. For those who can afford it, this Denali is hard to beat.
MOTOR MATTERS


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