2024 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate

The top-spec Yukon Denali Ultimate is a leather-lined bus proving that when GM tries, they're capable of some seriously good stuff
The top-spec Yukon Denali Ultimate is a leather-lined bus proving that when GM tries, they're capable of some seriously good stuff

by Imran Salam | May 14, 2024


I’m a little biased towards GM, and not in a good way.  Blame my childhood memories: my dad’s rusted-out 1991 Cavalier still haunts me today. It had nearly 400,000 kilometres when we got rid of it — which in hindsight, is pretty damn good — but it was so rusted-out, your feet would get wet inside whenever it rained. As a kid, I didn’t understand the economics of it all and simply hated the fact that we had this ugly, rusted-out Chevy that ruined my nice-ish Brooks sneakers. Well, I’m here to tell you that the 2024 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate has officially changed me.

To be fair, an economy car from the 1990s versus a blinged-out, full-size luxury SUV are very different vehicles. But the Yukon ain’t no soccer-mom-crossover, either. This is a tried-and-true SUV built on a proper body-on-frame truck platform. Its looks are equally brutish and elegant due to its sheer size; think football linebacker in a suit. The Yukon Denali Ultimate spans 17.5-feet long front to back, and stands a shade under six-and-a-half-feet taill. It makes parking spaces quiver, but it’ll make you feel like the king (or queen) of the road.

Especially finished in what GMC calls Onyx Black — a deep black with silver specks — it gives off celebrity limo vibes. The large chrome grill with monochrome badges and handsome, squared-off headlights finish off the front. There are no real curves on the Yukon; the whole thing is a chiselled brick with its slab sides and squared-off rear end. The quad-tipped exhaust is just prominent enough to notice without coming across as too much of a tryhard, and the 22-inch wheels are blingy but suit the Denali to a tee. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the tail lights look slightly dated and could use a freshening. But I’m really nitpicking here; GMC absolutely nailed the overall look, and there’s a refresh coming next year, anyway.

Part of my childhood GM nightmares also stem from our Cavalier’s interior — not just with the flooding and all, but also due to the lack of any real style. My detox continues inside the Yukon, as its interior is not only a wonderful place to be, but also seems built to last. Before you even climb in, opening the doors presents the hidden running boards (with soft, underglow-style lighting) welcoming you into your chariot. I didn’t pick up on any creaks or any paper-thin materials; all critical touch points felt solid and downright premium, and I especially liked the authentic matte wood trim with the laser-engraved topography. The so-called Alpine Umber leather seating looked great and felt comfortable, with details like the embossed topography matching the wood trim, metal logos in the front seats, and “fractal stitching” in the leather.

Don’t worry, I also had to look up what that meant. [Me too. Apparently, it’s a type of cross-stitching. Neat! —Ed.]

The all-digital gauge cluster is responsive and intuitive, if a little bland in terms of visual presentation. Still, its professional, no-nonsense layout suits the Yukon’s character well. Ditto the infotainment; the 10.2-inch touchscreen display seems a little small these days, but the monochromatic UI is nice, responsive, and simple to navigate. And if there was an award for physical switchgear in a modern car, the Yukon would win by a landslide, with buttons and knobs for everything. It’s refreshing — and old-school Cavalier-like, in a good way. Passenger and cargo space simply isn’t an issue in something this big, and the power-folding third-row makes it easy to shift from family- to cargo-hauling easy.

Technology abounds in the Yukon Denali, with the usual site of active safety and drive assist features, plus one I experienced for the very first time: GM’s SuperCruise. It differs from your standard adaptive cruise control in that GM has mapped out most major highways across North America, letting you set the cruise control and take your hands off the wheel entirely. No annoying beeps. No reminders to tell you to grab the wheel. Just let SuperCurise do its thing. [And let Bavarian/American Jesus take the wheel! —Ed.] That being said, SuperCruise does monitor your eyes, so it will alert you if you look away for too long. I dig the light bar on top of the steering wheel, which flashes different colours to alert you of what it’s doing. I appreciate the butt-vibration alerts; you want someone’s attention? Vibrate their butt, but only if you have their consent.

It’s not all gold stars inside the Yukon, however. I do have one major letdown I have to point out, and that’s the Bose Performance sound system. Previous Bose systems I’ve experienced haven’t been the greatest, so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular here. The problem is that it’s advertised as a premium audio system — Performance series! Eighteen speakers! Speakers in the headrests! My optimistic self was ready to be wowed despite the Bose moniker, and considering how great the rest of the Yukon is, but alas I was treated to middling sound quality and strong but muddy bass. It was easily among the worst I’ve experienced in modern vehicles in the last little while, at least among premium SUVs. I understand that GM reserves the top-shelf AKG stuff for the Escalade, but something better than Bose would go a long way. Don’t let Bose break your heart like it did mine.

Outside of that, some interior ambient lighting and rear passenger sun shades would’ve been nice for a $125,000-plus vehicles, but I digress. I’m nitpicking again.

Propulsion is unequivocally American in the Yukon Denali, coming in strong with a normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8. It has all the feel and charm of an old-school American V8, feeling torquey and kind of lazy in all the right ways. Mind you, 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque won’t win you any races nor bragging rights especially while carrying around 6,000 pounds, but it’s enough to get you going. Coupled with the strong 10-speed automatic transmission, the Yukon is capable enough to tow up to 8,000 pounds. Try that in your compact crossover.

Most impressive, though, is the ride quality and handling. Yes, handling in a truck-based SUV that weighs almost 6,000 pounds. Magneride, GM’s trick, magnetically charged adjustable suspension, does a commendable job of keeping things surprisingly flat. The Yukon is pretty much classifies as a land yacht based on its weight alone, but its handling suggests otherwise. I totally expected to hate pitching the Yukon around around a corner, yet I found myself taking on-ramps just as happily as cruising around in this big ol’ SUV. Even the average fuel economy of 14.7 L/100 km was a surprise. I expected much worse.

I’ve driven many GMs since the Cavalier. Many have been pretty good, but not good enough to really sway my deep-rooted trauma opinion. However, this 2024 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate rewired my brain. Man oh man, when GM tries, they’re capable of some seriously good stuff.

Also, we don’t have anything against soccer moms.


Vehicle Specs
Full-size body-on-frame SUV
Engine Size
6.2L normally aspirated V8
Horsepower (at RPM)
420 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft.)
460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
722/2,056/3,480 (all seats up/third row down/all seats down)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Imran Salam

Staff Writer

Imran is a true enthusiast who you'll find at shows, local meets, Sunday drives or the track. He appreciates the variety the car industry has to offer, having owned over a dozen cars from different manufacturers. Imran is grateful to own one of his childhood poster cars and enjoys inspiring the next generation. When Imran is not behind wheel he is found playing basketball or spending time with family.

Current Toys: '13 Boxster S 6MT, '24 Integra Type S, '08 328xi