As more and more upscale buyers shop for sport-utility vehicles, automakers have been tripping over themselves to bring luxury-equipped trucks to this evergrowing market. General Motors is no exception. To satisfy both GMC and Cadillac dealers, a re-trimmed Yukon - itself a top-shelf Tahoe - has been introduced as both the Denali and Escalade to meet customer demand.
For the traditionally utilitarian GMC marque, the posh Denali is stirring the waters a bit, but it's the Escalade that's making big waves as the Cadillac brand's first truck in its 96-year history. The upgrade from plebeian Tahoe status carries a price tag of about $15,000 and includes such niceties as soft leather, genuine Zebrano wood, and heated seats, for starters. Then there's the Bose CD player in the dash - not to mention the changer in the console - with audio controls and headsets for the second-row (but not second-class) passengers, who also get their own air conditioner.
Escalade interior Denali interior
Escalade's dash and steering wheel (left) get ritzier wood than the Denali's console (right).
Monochromatic lower body cladding, a unique front end, and chromed wheels comprise the exterior treatment. These bolt-on curves, combined with vogue jeweled headlamps and unique grilles - egg-crate style for the Caddy and horizontal slats for the GMC - actually do a good job of setting Denali apart from the crowd of Tahoes and Yukons on the road, especially up front, where the makeover is most dramatic.
Fraternal twins underneath the
Mechanically though, they are hardly different. Some 255 horses are on tap from the venerable 5.7-liter pushrod V-8 under the hood, which is plenty of grunt for everyday driving, hauling this heavy truck to 60 mph in 10 or 11 seconds. Gear changes from the four-speed automatic can be a tad harsh, but otherwise the drivetrain is solid and effective throughout the speed range.