What weighs three tons, wears 22-inch wheels, and returns 21 mpg in the city? GMC's new Yukon Denali Hybrid.
The premise of a full-size SUV with the fuel economy of a mid-size sedan isn't anything new. After all, General Motors launched its 2-Mode hybrid system in its Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe models in early 2008, and the company has slowly rolled the technology throughout its full-size truck portfolio. Cadillac's Escalade received the hybrid treatment later that year, and pickup models - Chevy's Silverado and GMC's Sierra - followed around the same time.
The Yukon Denali Hybrid is a new offering for 2009, allowing GMC to slip some green credibility into its ultimate luxury SUV.
Attaching the Denali name to the Yukon Hybrid triggers the same changes as when it's applied to a conventional Yukon: not only is the burly SUV treated to body-colored door handles, running boards, and taillamp surrounds, but chrome is liberally slathered across the truck's exterior. Grilles, running boards, door trim, and roof rails are all coated in the stuff, but nothing catches the eye like the massive 22-inch, eight-spoke aluminum wheels (to help smooth the ride, GM fits the Denali Hybrid with magnetically adjusting shock absorbers). Happily, GM has toned down the "Hybrid" insignia to five emblems compared with the Denali's more ostentatiously identified relatives; two of the emblems are simply a stylized "H."
The chrome is conspicuously absent inside, but the Denali's cabin is full of burled wood trim. Not only does the material appear on the door panels, upper dashboard, and center console, the Denali-exclusive steering wheel wraps a band of wood along its outer edge.
What's missing, however, are the cosmetic (and somewhat functional) changes made to regular Yukon Hybrids, for which engineers reshaped the hood, grille, front bumper, chin spoiler, and lightweight wheels in an attempt at reducing drag and improving fuel economy. Few (if any) of these revisions are applied to the Yukon Denali Hybrid -- a shame, as there's quite a bit of energy involved with rotating four wheels sized for the likes of Conestoga wagons.