GMC's Yukon Denali Ultimate Is the Peak of the Brand's Aspirations

As close as you can get to an Escalade without a Cadillac badge.

gmc yukon denali ultimate 2023
GMC

In the car world these days, "go big or go home" has arguably been replaced with a new axiom: go fancy or go home. From Kia to Bentley, carmakers are going more upscale with nearly every model. It makes a certain degree of sense: automotive engineering and development has advanced to the point where there's really no such thing as a bad car anymore, at least on sale new in America; given that, the easiest way to woo buyers is to simply offer more of what's already good.

GMC, however, has already been doing this for quite some time — and quite successfully — with its Denali sub-brand. After starting out as a fancier version of the Yukon decades ago, it's since spread to the entire GMC line, and reaped mighty profits for General Motors's original-truck-and-SUV division along the way.

So, where do you go when you've already gone premium? You double down, of course. GMC's new Denali Ultimate sub-sub-brand takes the existing fancy trim and elevates it further, adding even more tech, more elegance and more high-end materials to the mix. And, after launching on the 2022 GMC Sierra, the new trim level has now moved across the lot to the 2023 Yukon.

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The GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate adds a dash of class
gmc yukon denali ultimate 2023
GMC

From the outside, the easiest way to tell a Denali Ultimate from a mere Denali is by the presence of darkened Vader chrome trim, presumably named because it shines like Anakin's helmet under those shiny Imperial corridor lights. There are also uniquely designed 22-inch wheels that pair bright chrome and dark paint, a dash of shiny chrome on the doors, and something GMC calls "meticulous Galvano appointments" on the front end. (I have no idea exactly what that means, as Googling "Galvano appointments" brings up a bunch of links relating to former Florida state senate president Bill Galvano.)

Inside, the upgrades are far more obvious. Perhaps handiest is the one indicated by that strip of light atop the steering wheel: like the Cadillac Escalade and top trims of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, among others, the Yukon Denali Ultimate boasts Super Cruise, GM's excellent hands-free highway driving assistant.

gmc yukon denali ultimate 2023
GMC

Supple-looking Alpine Umber leather trim coats the seats and doors, giving the interior the look of an elegant Bozeman bar from Yellowstone, the sort of place where Kevin Costner would go nose-to-nose with a slimy California transplant looking to buy up his land and make some sort of cutting threat.

gmc yukon denali ultimate 2023
GMC

Aluminum trim and open-pore Paldao wood complete the interior, with the latter inlay in the dashboard even featuring a topographic map of Denali itself, should you find yourself lost while attempting to recreate an SUV ad by driving up Alaska's tallest peak.

On the tech side, an 18-speaker Bose stereo system even features speakers in the headrests for improved fidelity. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, while wi-fi and Amazon Alexa can also be on-boarded. And like all 2022-and-newer Yukons, the Denali Ultimate boasts a smooth new easy-to-use Google-based infotainment system, with features like Google Maps integrated right in.

The Yukon Denali Ultimate goes on sale in fall 2022
gmc yukon denali ultimate 2023
GMC

If all this sounds good to you — and it certainly does to us — then you can expect to snap up this GMC come this fall. As far as powertrains go, you'll be able to choose between the 6.2-liter V8 and the 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six (although our experience suggests going with the V8 if you need to deal with cold weather).

Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but given the Yukon Denali's $73,695 starting price and the $13,455 delta between the Sierra Denali and the Sierra Denali ultimate, we'd guess this SUV will start around $87,000 when it goes on sale. We're looking forward to finding out for sure...as well as driving it.

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