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WINNSBORO, Texas—At the end of a brutal day, I was in love with the 2024 Yukon Denali Ultimate.

While not head-over-heels in love—abysmal fuel economy dulls this star’s shine—one cannot help but appreciate the 2024 Yukon Denali Ultimate, which streaks near the apogee of the evolution of internal combustion propulsion, a technology near its peak. No magic tech lurks on the horizon for gas and diesel the way solid-state batteries will someday disrupt electric propulsion.

As the flagship full-size SUV from GMC, the 2024 Yukon Denali Ultimate stands out with its unique blend of capability, comfort, and premium amenities. In the realm of luxurious, long-distance cruisers, the Denali Ultimate is a top contender, offering a driving experience that is hard to match.

When compared to its competitors such as the Ford Expedition Platinum, Jeep Wagoneer Series III and Lexus LX 600, the 2024 Yukon Denali Ultimate doesn’t just hold its own; it shines. Its robust engine, distinctive design, and meticulously crafted interior set it apart in the market.

Let’s delve into the numbers. The base model, the Yukon XL SLE, starts at $61,200, with an additional $4,000 for 4WD. The AT4 variant costs over $75,000. The 4WD Denali, a step up in luxury and performance, starts at $82,805. Our test model, the Denali Ultimate, is priced at $101,245, including delivery. While it may seem like a significant investment, the value it delivers is undeniable.

There is no need to spend hours or gasoline hunting for deals on these trucks. This is a buyers’ market for brands like Nissan, Ford, and Stellantis, which used to be Chrysler. Those brands are heavily overstocked, and sales and finance incentives are abundant. General Motors, on the other hand, has consistently solid sales and reliability ratings and keeps a well-balanced inventory. 

A refreshed 2025 Yukon is in the pipeline, but whether that will create deals on existing inventories is speculative. GM has not hinted at more substantive changes than a redesign front end and interior changes, including a much larger infotainment screen.

Currently, dealers are selling all the Yukons they can access. We found an incentive for lease deals starting around $1,200 a month but escalates sharply for those who drive more than 10,000 miles a year.

That impresses as a lot of money for something that will cost another $100 a week to fuel, but that seems a matter of preference and strategy. Some people complain about high gas prices, and others stop buying so much. The latter seems more efficacious.

For about half the price of the Denali Ultimate, one could buy an equally roomy, more powerful, quieter and more comfortable Kia EV9. If you are worried about the range, use the extra cash to buy a spare.

For about 25% less than an Ultimate, one could buy a Lexus RX 450 plug-in hybrid. It lacks the internal volume and towing ability, but buyers who use those features rarely spend money dragging it around the rest of the time.

On the road again

Still, a day that started in front of a classroom, continued through afternoon yard chores, layered in a 100-plus mile drive to a baseball game, followed by a couple of hours writing and filing a story, and then ended in battling interstate truckers on a midnight journey home was brutal. Midway through the game, the old—and I do mean old—back began to fire up.

That is when the love affair began. 

First, she offered me a firm yet soft plush chair. Then she invited me to plug in my laptop and to explore her five-bar Wi-Fi. She had me when she folded out a work platform at my fingertips.

But she had more surprises. With a tap on the seat heater button, a squeeze of a lumbar support control, and a firm push on the 12-way massager, the sore back was soon history. I did not know my shoulders hurt until the Yukon made them stop.

Later, on the Interstate, I set the cruise control at about three miles above the limit and let Denali’s Super Cruise self-driver do the heavy lifting. If a trucker doing 70.5 mph wished to block the fast line while passing another doing 70.4 mph, I just let the GMC oversee it. It picked the best lane in which to wait patiently.

I kept an eye on the road and a hand near the wheel but allowed my mind to flow with her concert hall sound system. I did not physically disengage, but I certainly did so emotionally, and that’s the point. Free of non-stop fretting about the vagaries of traffic and worries of life, I could slide back the panoramic moon roof and take in the rich aromas of a moonlit springtime night in rural East Texas.

It was one of those times when it was fun to be me.

When traffic cleared, off we went. With that ‘all clear’ the Yukon signaled a lane change, made it, and turned off the turn signal. No left-lane hog, this one. When we approached slower traffic, it moved into the left lane a little sooner—and more safely—than I would have. Frankly, GM’s self-driving system is a more considerate driver than I am.

Add an 18-speaker Bose Performance Series sound system, 16-way power massaging seats, and the luxury of bespoke Alpine Umber seating, and one gets, if not love, at least a severe infatuation. 

The cabin is exceptionally well-insulated from road and wind noise, creating a serene environment for passengers. Supportive, heated, ventilated front seats and ample legroom in the first and second rows ensure excellent comfort on long drives.

Inside is premium leather upholstery, real wood trim, and a 15-inch Head-Up Display. The central infotainment touchscreen measures a massive 16.9 inches. Climate controls and entertainment screens are in the rear. 

Someday, we will have even larger, more powerful electric SUVs capable of going 600-700 miles. When? Industry optimists say three to four years. I put the even-odd at seven. In the meantime, it is hard to beat a Yukon.

In four decades of journalism, Bill Owney has picked up awards for his coverage of everything from murders to the NFL to state and local government. He added the automotive world to his portfolio in the mid '90s.

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