The 2007 GMC Yukon Denali is aptly named. It's an SUV as big as the great outdoors, with a lust for life--not to mention gas, double-wide parking spaces, and your wallet. This urban tank promises a lot, but doesn't quite deliver. It's a six-seater that really holds only four people. (The third row of seats is for those practicing Lamaze or with extremely short legs.) It's an all-wheel-drive SUV not really suited for off-road, thanks to a piddly 9-inch ground clearance. It also gulps fuel like an F-16, barely managing 14mpg in mixed city and urban-highway driving.
The interior materials aren't designed to attract the luxury-minded. The Denali's first and second row of seats are leather clad, but that's about it. The carpet is rough and basic black, the dashboard and doors plasticky, highlighted with strips of painfully faux wood paneling.
The seating up front is comfy, complete with 12-way adjustment (including lumbar support), seat heaters, and plenty of headroom. The second row of seats likewise has heaters, but legroom vanishes if anyone up front moves their seat back. The third row of seats is useless for adults--there's no leg well, forcing a knees-to-chin sitting posture. Getting out of the Yukon from the back seats is a birth experience.
One plus: the Denali can haul. The third-row seats pop right out; and, in a nice technological feat, the second-row seats can fold flat or tumble up flush against the front seat with the push of a button. That leaves a cargo hold up to 60 inches deep, 49 to 55 inches wide, and up to 42 inches high--enough to transport a dinette set with room to spare.
Most of the mod cons
The Denali sports a sweet suite of technology--GPS navigation, CD/DVD/MP3 player, XM satellite radio, and DVD playback for the kiddies in the backseat. Controlling music and navigation is a cinch via a 5.5-by-3.5-inch color LCD panel that's front and center. (The navigation/stereo unit is the same as found in the 2007 GM Yukon SLT and the 2007 Cadillac Escalade.) The screen is bright and sharp, and easily read even in direct sunlight. The screen is lined with hard buttons--on the left for navigation, on the right for audio. The controls are fairly obvious and, along with some old-fashioned knobs, not too distracting to manipulate while driving.
Onscreen, buttons lining the top and bottom select audio sources, change system settings, and so on. We felt the sensitivity on the touch screen could be turned up a bit, as making selections sometimes required an extra tap. Well-designed buttons between the spokes of the steering wheel control audio source, volume, skip, and voice recognition. We weren't impressed with the voice-recognition system, which can control the radio, navigation, and OnStar, to a limited extent. It failed half the time, and when it did work, it went only partway--for example, turning on the radio and selecting XM, but failing to grab the desired channel (such as Bluesville).
The 10-speaker Premium Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system is merely competent, and road noise (even on a newly paved highway) washes out much of the lower-frequency sound. The unit can play audio CD and MP3 discs, but not WMA discs. ID3 tag information is displayed, but with MP3 discs, folders aren't shown. One plus: there's an input jack for the iPod and other MP3 players.
Like any good SUV, the Denali comes with a mini entertainment center for the kids in the back. Although everything can be controlled up front, those in the backseat can watch a movie in silence (thanks to supplied wireless headsets), run the show with a sometimes cranky remote control, listen to different radio stations than what's selected up front, and more. Two gripes: The 7-by-4-inch pop-down LCD screen's display is a little muddy, made worse for passengers to the side, because the screen doesn't swivel at all. The headsets also pick up a lot of RF interference, which results in hiss.
Like the Yukon SLT and the Cadillac Escalade, there's no Bluetooth option. The backup camera is a nice touch, especially in combination with the rear ultrasonic sensors. The sensors flash a series of lights inside the back cabin as the vehicle gets closer to an obstruction.