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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Road test: 2019 GMC Yukon Denali

The aggressively styled four-wheel drive has some big plus and minus points

The 2019 GMC Yukon. GMC
The 2019 GMC Yukon. GMC

When experiencing examples of intimidating driving behaviour, most UAE motorists could probably name two or three specific makes and models that seem to habitually be piloted by the worst offenders. In fairness, the GMC Yukon wouldn’t be one of the names at the very summit of that list. But as a big, brash, aggressively styled SUV, it definitely wields a similar cache.

Evidence? Well, I have experienced the Yukon’s effects from both sides of its menacing vertical grille – if I see one approaching fast in my rear-view mirror, my first thought will be: I don’t want to compete with that. From behind the wheel of the 2019 model, the speed with which other drivers dive into the second lane from the left on highways, despite the fact I am maintaining sensible stopping distances, confirms its status.

In popular culture, it also has a certain swagger, having regularly appeared in (mostly American) television shows and movies – such as various cameos in Baltimore drug opus The Wire, as well as presidential-­level turns in House of Cards.

2019 GMC Yukon. GMC
The Yukon's menacing vertical grille. GMC

Not that driving the Yukon around like you’re attempting to run the world or transmogrify into an automotive battering ram is in any way necessary. Its cosseted environment can sometimes rather muffle the sense of speed at which you’re travelling – its monster 6.2-litre V8 burbles away via a 10-speed gearbox at low cruising speeds with such comfort that you can almost forget you’re on the road at all.

The same can’t be said, unfortunately, for the Yukon’s ability to corner without you feeling like gravity itself is facing a severe test as it wallows round bends and the contents of your cubbyholes gets thrown around the cabin. I lose track of the number of times I have to retrieve my phone and/or bottle of water, at speeds most vehicles would negotiate without barely a change in body angle. The squeal from its 22-inch tyres when manoeuvring is another reminder that this isn’t a machine fit for track days, although it is no slouch in a straight line, especially when applying all of its 420hp in four-wheel drive.

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The overall feel from the driver’s seat is very comparable to the GMC Sierra pick-up, including the foot-­operated parking brake, as well as the on-wheel gear lever, which its designers presumably think is endearingly retro, but mostly looks plain outdated.

There is an annoying lack of stereo controls on wheel, but the buttons that are there cause equal consternation: the cruise control creeps over and under your set limit seemingly at will. Helpfully, that includes a point when I’m passing a speed camera. That’s a real shame, because its ease of operation exceeds most SUVs on the market.

The general comfort levels are, as you might expect from an American mega SUV, really quite agreeable, with seat cooling (and, less importantly for the UAE, heating), a fridge in the centre console and spacious accommodation for up to eight people across three rows of enveloping seats. The fold-flat second and third rows are powered as standard.

2019 GMC Yukon. GMC
The overall feel from the Yukon's driver's seat is comparable to the GMC Sierra pick-up. GMC

The stereo is fittingly bassy, primarily thanks to huge Bose door speakers, and operation of that and functions including satnav is painless via the eight-inch touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The head-up display handily shows the track you’re playing, too, in case you’re too lazy to turn your head 20 degrees towards the screen. A fold-down screen can also keep rear passengers entertained.

The Yukon, then, continues to be a rock of the road, with requisite respect given by other drivers, but with the people-moving SUV competition developing at quite a rate – for example, the latest Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator – it might need to speed up its development to keep up.

The specs: 2019 GMC Yukon Denali

Price, base: Dh306,500
Engine: 6.2-litre V8
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Power: 420hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 621Nm @ 4,100rpm​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Fuel economy, combined: 12.9L / 100km

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