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2023 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate: Everything You Need to Know
By: James Diaz | March 14, 2023
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The Yukon Denali Ultimate is GMC’s latest and highest spec SUV. It is the brand’s most high-end luxury model. In this discussion we show you what makes this Yukon stand out from the others. We’ll also guide you through how it compares and competes with various other premium spec trims in the large SUV class. If it is a luxury SUV you are after, then this is definitely a highly impressive SUV and one you should consider.
In 2023 The Yukon Gets a New Luxury Spec Trim
This is undoubtedly a popular SUV. Models like the GMC Yukon sell easily, becasue they are excellent at doing the core things so many of us want from our cars. They carry three rows of passengers; they cope with massive loads of luggage, and they can tow well. Anything from a light trailer to a small boat is pulled along with ease.
Perhaps because of this, prices have been rising. Top spec trims on larger SUVs with splashy and luxe interiors, great tech, and superior powertrains are more plentiful than they used to be, as manufacturers compete for our attention and dollars. Many models will now come in at around $60000 – $85000. GMC are not alone in pitching there. Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Jeep: they are all in the ballpark in this tight market.
Due to the competition, GMC is releasing the Yukon Denali Ultimate Trim package. The Denali trim is already a high-end contender, but with the Ultimate GMC are going one further.
What makes the 2023 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate trim special?
There is a fresh trim for the GMC Yukon, and it marks a further elevation in what is already the highly reputed Denali nameplate. Before this uplift, the Denali was the highest trim in the Yukon range, but for 2023, it’s the Denali Ultimate that is king of the castle in trims. In our judgement, this is a noteworthy moment and we see the Ultimate as more than just a few cosmetic tweaks.
If you knew your GMC, you probably sensed this was in the offing. The trend in recent models has been for speccing upwards, and at some pace. In 2022, GMC launched the Denali Ultimate trim on the Sierra, which was a first on any GMC model. This move to bring it to the Yukon develops that strategy. No manufacturer can compete across the large SUV market nowadays without some luxury being on offer. We expect interior refinement and comfort today, even in our Utility vehicles, and the Denali Ultimate Trim is about delivering that to us.
Though the GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate shares many of its components with the rest of the Yukon line-up – understandably – there is genuine difference in elements of the design and detailing. We think they are impressive.
In the Ultimate models, dark chrome now covers the grille, the fenders, and other body accents. While most GMC models display the bright red GMC badge, things are subtler in the Denali Ultimate. It goes for a more monochrome approach to styling, to suggest the level of class on the inside. Its wheels are also special, and all Denali Ultimate models come with 22-inch alloys that you can’t get on other Yukon models. In addition, the design motif is extended to the interior too, with interior design elements also having a chromed look to link with the classy look of the Denali’s exterior.
Is this detailing available on other trims, you may ask? No! Only the Denali Ultimate has these touches. It is what sets it apart and it makes it immediately identifiable as the top model.
Powertrains and Acceleration
There are two powertrain options in the 2023 Yukon Denali Ultimate.
The standard set-up is the excellent GMC 6.2-liter V8. With it, you get 420 bhp and 460 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is very good with this 6.2 V8. It accelerates strikingly fast from a standing start and has top-end overtaking capacity.
Alternatively, you can go for the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel. Though it is only 277 bhp, it matches the V8’s torque rating, so you still get a superb engine and driving experience. It offers very strong performance without consuming as much gas.
GMC pairs both these engines with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It is a generally very smooth operator and shifts nicely in line with what you expect from a top-end automatic, but on some occasions it perhaps hesitates just a second before downshifting when you press on the accelerator. A common automatic issue, as we all know.
If you love the Yukon’s 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 base engine, be aware the Denali trim is not an option on that model.
Towing capacities for the Denali Ultimate are in line with all other Yukon models.
With the standard 420-horsepower V8 engine, the Ultimate will happily tow up to 8,000 pounds. Models with the 277-horsepower turbodiesel V6 engine offer a bit less, but can still readily tow 7,800 pounds. These are hefty amounts of weight, and towing for the Yukon is not an issue that is likely to disappoint you. These capacities will likely satisfy most people, as the Yukon can tow your average boat, trailer or second vehicle.
That said, be aware that these figures are not class leading and that the Ford Expedition model will readily cope with up to 9,300 pounds, which is a superb figure.
Ride and Handling
All Yukon models ride smoothly; that’s pretty much a given. But the Yukon Denali Ultimate has an especially impressive and cossetting ride, largely because it comes with an outstanding standard feature called Magnetic Ride Control (MRC), as well as having air ride adaptive suspension. MRC makes clever adjustments based on road conditions to provide a smoother ride. As an additional aid to ride quality, the Ultimate’s standard adaptive suspension uses pressurized air to offer further cushioning.
The Yukon handles better than you might imagine. It also handles better than many other SUVs. Large SUVs may not have a reputation for agility, but the Yukon defies expectations. It turns nicely, and feels solid as it moves. In fact, though many people may think of poor handling when they think of SUVs this big, the Yukon defies that stereotype. Let’s be honest, there will always be a bit of body lean with a big SUV, and smaller SUVs have less lean than the Yukon, but it is not a factor we think should influence you negatively with the Denali Ultimate.
The Yukon Denali Ultimate comes with four-wheel drive, an automatic two-speed transfer case, an electronic limited slip differential, and a good range of driving modes. Dirt, Gravel and Slick are all offered. The four-wheel-drive system is highly effective and makes notably sure-footed corrections when it needs to regain traction on slippery surfaces.
The fuel mpg estimates for the 2023 Yukon were not available as we published this article, but we would expect them to be in line with the 2022 Yukon. These were in line with SUVs of a similar engine size, with the 6.2-liter V8 engine and four-wheel drive Yukon returning 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the open road. Modest, but not bad outcomes. Diesel options enhance that mpg range to 26 mpg, which puts that engine among the best in class. In fact, of the top contenders across large SUVs, only the Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban can match them, largely on account of the fact that they offer the same diesel engine.
Interior Design and Quality
This really is a strong area for the Yukon Denali in any model, but the Ultimate trim certainly extends the luxe feeling further. We have a lot on offer, including full grain leather upholstery and fine grain wood dash trim. Also unique to the Ultimate is a topographical map of Mount Denali etched into the seat upholstery and trim. We think it looks great! In addition, to hammer home the branding, you get it as an animation every time you start up the vehicle, when it appears on the 12-inch driver information center console. Some may think it kitsch, but we love it!
The interior also works through an accent motif that recalls the Denali Ultimate nameplate, as well as offering other touches to match the Ultimate’s dark exterior chrome. We think the overall motif works very well. In terms of sound system, the excellent 18-speaker Bose sound system features two speakers in each of the headrests for the front seats. In addition, and a nice touch, there’s also a power-operated sliding center console, which maneuvers back up to 10 inches, creating fine flexible space up front.
The GMC Yukon is a 7-seater, with three rows of seats. In the Denali Ultimate you get second-row captain’s chairs as standard, which adds to the sense of luxury at scale.
Pleasingly, the Denali Ultimate also has some interior touches unique to that model. Its unique seating design and upgraded materials ensure that it stands out from the rest of the Yukon range. The seats are upholstered in Alpine Umber full-grain leather, and it really is a beautiful leather, with a rich, intense tan tone. The seats also sport unique Denali Ultimate badging, with a debossed topographical map of Mount Denali and they have two speakers built into each of the front seats. The front seats are ventilated and are also equipped with 16-way power adjustments and, fantastic on long journeys, a massage feature.
Space is excellent. All three rows are extremely spacious. The seats in some other brands’ models may be a bit softer and forgiving, but we still think the feel of the Yukon seats is a strength.
The cargo dimensions of the range are good.
With the standard wheelbase, the Yukon provides 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats. However, with the back row folded down you increase that almost threefold to 72.6 cubic feet. If the second row of seats is also folded down, you have a hefty overall space of 122.9 cubic feet of storage.
With the longer wheelbase Yukon XL, these dimensions are all correspondingly larger, coming in at 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats upright, expanding to 93.8 cubic feet and then 144.7 cubic feet, depending on the seats you fold down.
Only the Chevrolet models among other large SUVs can match this storage or internal carrying capacity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Yukon Denali Ultimate is choc-full of high-tech delights. At the center is GMC’s infotainment system. We find it simple to operate and highly responsive. It is centred around a 10.2-inch touch screen that enables Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Google search functionality. Using these apps, you can easily connect your smartphone and, as you would expect, take calls, play text messages aloud, or use your digital assistant of choice.
The Denali Ultimate also has wireless device charging and a 12-inch digital driver information center. As you would again expect, and as with all Yukon models, it comes with Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot and satellite radio. Its sound system is an absolute corker and is supplied by Bose and that brand’s terrifically good 18-speaker stereo system.
Advanced Safety Features
The headline ASF in the 2023 Yukon Denali Ultimate is Super Cruise. We are seeing a lot of top brands focusing on this area of tech, and we will see much more of this in the coming years, as AI takes hold. Super Cruise competes directly with the likes of Tesla’s Autopilot and Ford’s BlueCruise. Denali Ultimate models equipped with this feature can travel on more than 200,000 miles of public roads while driving hands-free, and this makes the feature a remarkable step forward for the Yukon and GMC. Super Cruise also enables the car to change lanes automatically, and it works just as well if you have a trailer attached too.
The Yukon Denali Ultimate also comes standard with a high-definition surround-view camera system with 13 views, making it easier to see all the angles for parking, with or without a trailer. It also has a 15 inch heads-up display. You also get, as standard, forward and reverse automatic emergency braking; lane departure warning; ACC (adaptive cruise control), and a very useful rear camera mirror and blind spot monitoring function. As with many other GMC models, the Denali Ultimate also comes with Teen Driver functionality, which lets you access reports and also set very helpful limits on younger drivers. It all makes for a great safety list.
The GMC Yukon’s competition comes from the brands you would expect. Its GM relatives, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban, are two obvious competitor contenders. In addition, the Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Expedition should be on your list to check out.
These models have a lot to commend them. The Jeep Wagoneer ticks a lot of boxes if you are after power, space and good equipment with strong design cues. Jeeps will generally cost you around $7000 – $12000 less than a Yukon, so there is also a value proposition here.
The Ford Expedition is also a very strong contender. It is fast, striking, roomy and has excellent class-leading towing capacity.
Less well know, but still excellent cars, are the Nissan Armada and the Toyota Sequoia. They are worth checking out.
Availability, Pricing, and Production
The Denali Ultimate is obviously carrying a premium price for a premium product as the top of the range model. New models at the very highest spec levels possible may even cost you around $100,000, but there are slightly lesser specced models that are nearer $80,000. Already, we are seeing Used 2023 models on forecourts and they can be had for around $55,000-$60,000, though these are not always the splashiest of specs. For that sort of price, however, you are getting an enormous amount of car, and if your budget can stretch to it this is definitely a SUV to consider.