Road Trip Review: You Won’t Believe How Far This 2021 GMC Yukon Denali Diesel Will Go On One Tank!

It's one of the best road trip SUVs you can buy right now

(Photos: GMC)

This 2021 GMC Yukon Denali diesel may be the best road trip rig we’ve ever tested.

I honestly cannot think of a better, long distance, road trip vehicle than the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali with the 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel. Everything about it, from the comfort, ride, handling and – most importantly, range, is exceptional. General Motors built something special here, and if you’re a long-distance type, you need to keep the Yukon diesel in mind.

Kase and I drove from Boulder, Colorado to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a video shoot. With current restrictions, and our need to keep to a specific schedule, we specifically asked for the GMC. Up until this point, we knew it was capable and thrifty, but a 1,600 mile run in 72 hours… now that’s a test.

2019 chevy Silverado 1500 Duramax turbo diesel
First launched in its half-ton trucks, the 3.0-liter Duramax diesel made its way into GM’s SUVs with the 2021 model year. (Image: General Motors)

2021 GMC Yukon Denali diesel’s mechanical setup

Like the Escalade and Suburban, the Yukon has the diesel option, and it is the best of all of the choices in my book. The 277 horsepower 3.0-liter diesel makes 460 lb-ft of torque, and it’s hooked up to a 10-speed automatic transmission. GM says this setup will give you up to 765 miles of range, depending on the configuration. For that sort of distance, you need the rear-wheel drive model. As it stands, our four-wheel drive model should get well over at least 572 miles on a 26 gallon tank of fuel, according to official EPA numbers.

Throw Nebraska and Iowa highway speeds into the mix, and let’s just say I wasn’t aiming to conserve fuel.

These new GMT T1XX platform sharing vehicles are pretty much all-new. At least, that’s the case in terms of body, frame and suspension. GM optimized to new platform to give a feeling of solidity, regardless of what terrain you’re on. Having a four-wheel independent suspension absolutely helps with overall performance. If you add four-corner air suspension to the equation, you have one of the best riding large SUVs, period.

So, it was a comfortable ride, but how did we manage in terms of MPG?

The results

You have to consider our circumstances on this 1,600 mile haul. We had to make it to each destination within a certain (limited) time. I didn’t hyper mile, draft or keep the truck running in an Eco-mode. Nope, we charged head-long toward Iowa and back home.

Our first fill-up happened at about 615 miles. At that point, the vehicle’s instrumentation was yelling at us to add fuel. I was amazed. Guys, this truck weighs over 5,800-lbs, has massive 20-inch wheels, and it’s not exactly shaped like an egg. Despite those facts, we averaged about 25 mpg, and did even better on our (slightly slower) return trip.

Other than the mechanical excellence, we loved the massive heads-up display, outstanding infotainment audio setup. We both agreed that the GMC is the best looking truck among its peers.

Overall, we were extremely comfortable. What’s more, we were coddled in luxury all the way.

Not everything was perfect

Our complaints are minimal. The biggest issue was the location and function of the cruise control systems on the steering wheel. While driving in the hotel parking lot, Kase accidentally reactivated the cruise control – which made us a little uneasy as it quickly sped up on its own.

Compared to many of its rivals, some may consider the infotainment screen to be small. Not everyone will like the power side steps, especially if they are tall. We agreed that the mirrors were pretty good, but I would like a slightly bigger mirror for occasional towing.

It’s worth every cent, though

The 2021 GMC Yukon Denali with the Duramax diesel starts at $68,195. You’ll have to add $3,000 for four-wheel drive. From there, packages can easily push the price past the $80,000 mark. Despite the hefty price-tag, the Denali is a relative bargain compared to the Escalade, or the equivalent Lincoln Navigator.

If you mix in the mechanical excellence, outstanding drive and oodles of luxury amenities, I seriously think this is the best truck in its class.

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.