2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid Denali Review

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Tim Healey Tim Healey Contributing Writer
September 24, 2009
2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid

2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid

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Big and burly SUVs aren't known for their "green" cred. Indeed, a luxury SUV like the GMC Yukon Denali may not look like the ideal vehicle to use when your destination is a Greenpeace meeting. But hey, a hybrid powertrain is available, and that can only help boost fuel economy.

Of course, mass is the enemy of fuel economy, so even a hybrid powertrain can only help so much. That said, there is a lot more to the Yukon Denali Hybrid than just what's under the hood.

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Of course, what's under that hood can't be ignored--the hybrid powertrain combines a 6.0-liter V-8 with an electric motor to pump out 332 horsepower. That motor is mated to a 2-Mode continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT), and with the available 4-wheel drive system, the Denali Hybrid is rated at 20 mpg both city and highway.

Extra fuel-economy doesn't come cheap. Neither does luxury or size--the Yukon Denali Hybrid starts at $61,080. That starting price includes heated and cooled leather front seats with 12-way power adjustments, heated second-row seat cushions, a third-row seat that holds three passengers (bringing the total passenger capacity to seven), a remote start, 22-inch wheels, a rear parking-assist system, a triple-zone air climate control system, power-adjustable pedals, a touch-screen navigation system, a rear-view camera, a wireless cell phone link, satellite radio, an uplevel audio system, and other luxury goodies. Available safety features include ABS, curtain side airbags for all seating rows, an antiskid system, and traction control.

Options on our tester included a rear-seat entertainment system, a power sunroof, a blind-spot monitoring system, and a "red jewel tintcoat." All told, the options totaled $3,185. Add in the $950 destination fee, and the total as-tested price was $65,215.

2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid Denali

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What do you get for all that money? For starters, you get a large, imposing vehicle that makes certain studio apartments look small. You also get a surprisingly quiet powertrain that offers plenty of power. Unfortunately, all that power is offset by quite a lot of mass--the curb weight of a 4-wheel-drive model is listed at 5,835 pounds. Driving something this large on Chicago's crowded streets is an exercise in claustrophobia.

Acceleration is still acceptably brisk, despite all that mass. And handling is surprisingly good for something of this size--body roll is minimal and the steering feel and accuracy are more than above average.

Ride quality is also good--the Denali feels every bit the luxury vehicle it is while cruising. That means most bumps and pavement cracks are filtered out, but some float and wallow does occur at highway speeds.

Exterior noise is also well-hushed--there's nary a peep of wind, road, or tire noise. Underhood noise is non-existent until the gas engine kicks on, and then it fades nicely into the background.

The roomy interior digs live up to the Denali's luxury billing, for the most part. The seats are comfy, the switchgear feels expensive, and the wood trim looks expensive. Sadly, an abundance of plastic--particularly on the dashboard--is detrimental to the overall appearance. Another interior quibble--the lack of a "dead pedal" foot rest. Dead pedals are standard issue in most cars, so why isn't there one in a vehicle that checks in at $65K?

There are other quibbles, such as touchy brakes and a manual-shifting option for the transmission which is virtually useless. And fuel economy still stinks, even with the hybrid system--we achieved 16.0 mpg in mostly city driving.

Still, the list of features is impressive, and there's no doubting the commanding presence of a vehicle this large. The spacious, upscale interior and quiet, comfortable dynamics mean that Yukon Denali Hybrid delivers on the luxury end of the bargain.

For those who desire true "green" cred, there is no vehicle in this class that will fit the bill. But for those who want a large, luxury SUV with a little bit less guilt, the Yukon Denali Hybrid just might work--if you have the dough.

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