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2021 GMC Yukon Denali Duramax Review

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Duramax Review

This week we’re taking a second look at the all-new 2021 GMC Yukon Denali produced in my home area in North Texas, only this time, we have the Duramax diesel version instead of the big V8 we had earlier.

This new for 2021 Yukon is 6-inches longer and also wider than previous versions, and offers substantially more 2nd and 3rd row seat room, as well as cargo area.


Starting with the exterior, the 2021 Yukon Denali has the familiar squared GMC Professional Grade look. It has 22” wheels that really set it off, the big GMC grill, and the use of a lot of chrome along the sides. A spoiler and dual exhaust set off the rear view.


My review vehicle is the top-of-the-line Denali, or you can step down to the SLE, SLT, or the sporty 4-wheel drive AT4. There is also an extended version called the XL, which is the same size as Chevy Suburban.

You have three engine choices including the big 6.2 which comes standard in the Denali, or you can go with the standard 5.3-liter V8. As of late, you can get the 3-liter turbocharged Duramax diesel, which is what I currently have. This is the same engine that comes in the Chevy and GMC half—ton pickups.

The whisper quiet inline six cylinder diesel offers up 277-horses, but 460-pound feet of torque, which is what really matters with a diesel. The driving range on a full tank of gas is a pretty amazing 765 miles.


While there are so many things to love about the Yukon Denali, the interior is spectacular. The seats are comfortable and lightly bolstered, and you’ll find stitching all around the seats, door panels, dash, and steering wheel.

From the driver’s seat, you see a large speedometer and tachometer and gauges across the top that are easy to see. There is a highly configurable driver info center that you scroll through from the steering wheel.

The Yukon has a 10.2-inch touchscreen that sits low on the dash and looks less like an add-on feature like so many I see these days. This makes it easier to reach. It operates the sound system, climate control, Bluetooth, navigation, Wi-Fi, settings, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and even Alexa.

A swipe to the left gives you the trailer towing settings, apps, OnStar, camera settings, and you can control the rear media from there. This system is simple and reacts incredibly fast.

Under that are A/C controls, a couple of USB ports, a wireless phone charger, and cup holders. Easy to operate doors let you cover this entire area.

To the left of the touchscreen are your gear shift buttons which I think not only look good and preserve space, they are easy to operate. Simply push for park, and pull the buttons for reverse and drive. When you hit the start button to kill the engine, it automatically puts you into Park. This Yukon comes with the start/stop technology, but there is a button to the left of the steering wheel to disable it.

Let’s talk about the center console, one of the coolest features of the new GM SUVs. There is a switch to electronically slide the console back to get the cupholders closer to the 2nd row occupants. For front occupants, there is a slide-out drawer for valuables that cannot be accessed when the console is positioned forward. This would be a must-have for me for just $350.

Moving to the second row of seating, this one has heated captain’s chairs with armrests that are super comfortable and they slide and recline. Rear passengers can control their own temperature, USB ports, and a 110-volt power outlet.

All rear occupants can enjoy the ride with the rear seat media system with two vibrant 12.6” screens in the rear that will display their own content. You can share the navigation screen from the front, use your wireless device, or watch a movie from a Firestick. It is an amazing system.


Entry to the third-row seat is easy with a power button just inside both rear doors that double flip out of the way. The button can be accessed from the 3rd row seat in case everyone bails out and leaves you stranded back there.

The third-row seat is where the extra length really shows a benefit. Two full-sized adults will be very comfortable and the occupants can actually enjoy the ride back there. Rear Air Conditioning vents are in the ceiling for added comfort.

Cargo area is much improved for 2021 even with the 3rd row seats up. Power buttons will allow you to fold the 3rd and 2nd row seats down to a completely flat load floor and have an amazing 123 cubic feet of cargo.

You can pop the rear glass open for easy loading OR open the entire power liftgate from the front, the rear, OR from the key fob.

Standard Equipment

This Yukon Denali has all the popular comfort and safety features you want including power tilt and heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, remote start, rear seat reminder, a terrific Bose stereo, Panoramic moonroof, rear camera mirror, a head-up display, and trailer towing package.

Ride and Drive

As with the other large GM SUVs, Denali has the new-for-2021 independent rear suspension system that gives you a better ride and drive, then add to that the GMC magnetic ride control and adaptive suspension and you get fantastic ride quality, even with the 4 wheel drive system like this one.

Fuel economy is much better than the 6.2 V8. The Duramax is rated at 21 in town, 27 on the highway, and 23 overall, amazing mileage for a 3-ton SUV. MSRP on this one is $78,450 with every option I can see available.


It is easy to see why sales of all the new, large GM SUVs have been so brisk.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Duramax

  • What I liked most: Fuel economy, interior luxury, exterior appearance.
  • What I would change: Actually nothing. GM thought of everything.
  • MSRP: Base price $68,490 as equipped $78,450.
  • Fuel Economy: Rated at 21 in town/27 highway/23 combined.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 9,800 miles.
  • Weight: 6,100 pounds. GVWR 7,000 pounds.
  • Spare Tire: Full-sized spare.
  • Official Color: Satin Steel Metallic.
  • Length-Width-Height: 210” long/81” wide/76” high.
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 24 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
  • Towing Capacity: 8,100 pounds.
  • 2021 Yukon Denali Duramax in a few words: Pure luxury and amazing fuel economy is a wonderful combo.
  • Final Assembly Location: Arlington, TX.
  • Manufacturers website: www.GMC.com
  • Warranty: 3-year/36,000 bumper-to-bumper and 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty with courtesy transportation, and first maintenance visit at no charge.