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Exterior Design: **
Two out of three ain't bad, but Denali fails where the Tahoe and Escalade succeed. It's just plain funny-looking up front. As for the clear lenses over the tail lamps: Just because a design element shows up on the Lexus RX doesn't mean it's a good idea. Unfortunately this trend is not about to die, as the upcoming Lincoln Aviator will have the same treatment, but for my part I'm going to beat this issue like redheaded stepchild on a dead horse. Apologies to any redheaded stepchildren who are easily offended.


Interior Design: ***
I was about to suggest this is a four-star interior in a sub-$40,000 Yukon or Tahoe, but the four-wheel-drive Tahoe starts at $38,000, so it's less of a difference than I imagined. At any rate, fit and finish is excellent, and the wood looks good. The Denali's steering wheel is particularly nice - it has a ring of wood around the entire front of the rim for your greasy palms, but leather surrounds the rest of the yoke so your sticky fingers can still turn the wheel. Unfortunately the steering wheel isn't centered with the dash cluster, a carryover from the previous generation. The plastic is all hard-touch. Particularly troublesome is the stiff leather covering the seats. GMC calls it "Nuance" leather, I call it close to really good vinyl.

Acceleration: ****
Only overly sporty trucks like the Porsche Cayenne can beat the Denali in the SUV acceleration race. The Escalade technically has more power, but I figure it's a dead heat in the real world.


Braking ****
The Denali doesn't stop with the urgency of a sports car, or even that of a good sedan, but General Motors does an admirable job on most of their recent vehicles and this is no exception. The pedal feels solid and linear, and the brakes won't fade unless you really plan on abusing them.

Ride *****
The large SUV is the new town car, and the Denali rides like a rolling barcalounger without being too bouncy. It's ideal for highway cruising, but it's also plush on any road in need of repair.

Handling ***
Fifty-eight-thousand hundred pounds does not change direction easily, but the steering is precise and the on-center dead zone from previous generations is gone. Parking is also a cinch due to a more than respectable turning radius.

Gearbox *****
It's got six-speeds, and chances are you won't have any idea what gear you're in. A change in engine tone is the only indication of any shifting going on. The Denali also has a "tap up/tap down" manumatic feature on the shift column that seems like a gimmick, especially when the tow/haul mode already does a fine job of adjusting the shift points for heavier loads.


Audio/Video ****
Bose surround, six-disc in-dash CD changer, and an auxiliary input will keep anybody but an audio snob happy. There's also a rear-seat DVD system with wireless headphones, but second road passengers can also use plug-in headphone and use any of the audio sources the main cabin isn't using.

Toys ****
First off, the Denali does not have high-intensity Xenon headlamps, a feature no $50,000 vehicle should be without. But there are plenty of other gadgets, including the much-loved power tailgate. Remote start is another one of my favorite features. The Denali also comes with rain-sensing wipers, heated seats, heated windshield-washer fluid, and power-fold second-row seats.


Trunk ***
The Denali's large cargo area suffers from a lack of functionality. The third-row seats fold down and flip up behind the second-row, but to gain any appreciable amount of space without obstructing rearward vision, the seats need to be removed - a heavy and cumbersome task. Where do you store the seats, and what do you do if you need them at your destination? A flat-folding solution is needed.

Value ***
The Denali, as tested, costs over $52,000. There are lots of other very attractive vehicles at that price. Those vehicles might not have all the space of the Denali, but they are probably nicer places to be in. Moreover, lesser Tahoes and Yukons can be found for ten grand less.


Overall ***
It all comes back to the clone's dilemma. How is the Denali different from its brethren? In this case, the differences don't wash, as the Denali - and the standard Yukon for that matter - is uglier both the Escalade and Tahoe, and it's not any faster than the Escalade or more affordable than the Tahoe. Let me put it this way: If you could get the 6.2-liter engine in a Tahoe, would there be any reason to get a Denali?

[by Mike Austin]

Jalopnik Reviews: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali, Part 1 [internal]

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