Going & Stopping

The biggest drawback I found with the Yukon was the powertrain. A 380-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 is standard in the Denali, but it was sluggish in almost every passing situation I could simulate. The top power found in the regular Yukon range is a 320-hp, 6.0-liter V-8. That engine also has a fuel management system that shuts off four cylinders when they're not needed, improving gas mileage.

On the highway, the Denali's engine strained to pass both semis and the more common Sunday driver. Going from cruising speed to passing momentum meant enduring a long and slow climb through the revs, even with the foot depressed solidly on the accelerator.

Around town I was constantly applying the wrong pressure to the gas pedal. The transmission was counterintuitive at every turn and left me feeling like a 17-year-old who just got his license as I routinely jerked my passengers. Overall mileage was pretty impressive, remaining in the mid- to high teens throughout the week of testing; I logged around 300 miles, all on one tank. GM rates the Denali at 13/19 mpg city/hwy. The Yukon with the 6.0-liter V-8 and Active Fuel Management gets 16/22 mpg, which is exceptional for a vehicle this large and would be my choice.

Braking was adequate, but with such a big machine I would have preferred more pinpoint control. The Denali was easy to slow at varying speeds in bumper-to-bumper traffic — something I learned thanks to the idiocy of other drivers who believed the space I intentionally left in front of me was large enough for them to squeeze into. I was actually leaving the proper buffer zone for an emergency stop in the SUV, but at least I learned how well the Denali could brake on a dime without causing a larger traffic jam.

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