It’s no secret to anyone who’s been paying attention—since you’re here, I’ll count you among those who have—that GMC has upped its game in recent years. They’ve done more than just show themselves off as Chevrolets with a different badge. Sure, if you head to your local GMC dealer, you’ll find that they’re still basically rebadged Chevrolets on the outside. But what’s on the inside is a whole other ball game.
Now, we know it’s not fair to simply say that GMCs are just “fancy” Chevrolets, though they share much of the same vehicle platforms and styling. GMC has always been its own brand—with unique engines and its distinct list of must-have features. Today, there is one major feature that helps GMC stand above the crowd: the Denali trim package. Every single GMC model is available in the Denali trim, which entails all kinds of goodies: updated exterior styling, refined interior comfort, engine modifications, and tech up the wazoo.
While the Denali package stretches across the lineup, as I mentioned, I’m going to look at 4 standout models—Acadia, Canyon, Sierra, and Yukon—as I feel they best represent the essence of the brand. Let’s begin.
2022 Acadia Denali/Ultimate
The Acadia is GMC’s answer to the three-row SUV that’s not an SUV. Acadia is more of a crossover, though it has taken on a more boxy appearance for the present generation. AWD capability is available across all trim levels, and the spacious cargo capacity certainly provides the feeling one is driving a larger SUV. The standard 2.0-L 4-cylinder turbo engine gets an upgrade in the Denali to a 3.6-L V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This pairing creates 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, offering the Acadia a towing capacity of 4,000 lbs—which is quite substantial for a midsize crossover.
But the Denali trim offers far more than additional engine power. The exterior is sported with 20” machined aluminum alloy wheels with black accents, a chrome grille, body side molding, unique door handles, and Denali badging at various points. Inside, you’ll find a spacious cabin with specially trimmed first and second-row leather seats, as well as ashwood accents on the dash and armrests. Denali badging is embroidered into the headrests and embossed into the steering wheel.
Much like other 3-row SUVs, the Acadia is capable of holding up to 7-passengers. The second row comes with a feature called Smart Slide, which folds the row forward at the push of a button to allow access to the 50/50 folding third row.
A gamut of tech features abounds, including a 6” diagonal head-up display, built-in Amazon Alexa, rear camera mirror, high-definition surround vision, and the GMC Pro Safety Plus tech suite. I’ll go over the features of that later on. One special perk for the Acadia is the available Denali Ultimate Package, which adds a 2-panel moonroof, Adaptive Ride Control (only available in this package and with AWD), the trailering package, and a rear camera mirror cleaner.
2022 Canyon Denali/Denali Black
Next up, the Canyon—the ever-popular midsize pickup truck. Like the Acadia, the Canyon is outfitted with a 3.6-L V6 paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, making 308 hp and capable of towing up to 7,000 lbs. However, there is another engine option: the Duramax 2.8-L Turbo Diesel engine, which ups the torque to 369 lb-ft. The exterior is much the same story you’ll find on many Denali models: chrome grille and accents, 20” cut aluminum alloy wheels, spray-in bed liner, and branded badging. The Canyon includes a chrome side step to allow easier access to the vehicle, which has an over-9” ride height.
The Canyon is also available with the Denali Black package. As you may have guessed, this blacks out the truck with features like 20” low-gloss black wheels, gloss black chrome assist steps, a black exhaust pipe, and black all-weather floor liners for the interior. Inside the regular Denali, once again, is a comfortable cabin suited up with heated leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ashwood trim, wireless charging for your phone, and a Bose premium audio system. On the tech front, you see an 8” diagonal head-up display, Apple CarPlay with Waze, Amazon Alexa, Pro Safety Plus, and a high-def rearview camera.
Additional capability includes a maximum payload of 1,570 lbs, automatic rear locking differential, an integrated automatic trailer brake or diesel engine braking control, and Stabilitrak electronic stability control. All of these add peace of mind for the truck owner that does it all.
2022 Sierra Denali/Ultimate
Now we have the Sierra, GMC’s big boy truck. Like the Acadia—and, as it turns out, the Yukon, Sierra comes with both the standard Denali and the updated Denali Ultimate packaging. What does this mean? Well, it means we get the same chrome exterior statements we’ve already seen, except on the Ultimate; this trim features a Denali Vader grille, which is completely blacked out, invoking the essence of a particular movie villain.
Now, engine-wise, you can have one of the following three: the 5.3-L V8 (standard on Denali), a 6.2-L V8 (standard on Ultimate), or 3.0-L Duramax Turbo Diesel (available option for both).
Standard Denali specs for the Sierra also include a 13.4” diagonal center touchscreen, a 12.3” digital driver information center, open-pore wood trim with brushed aluminum, and Forge leather seats. Adaptive Ride Control also comes standard with AWD. This system allows for various levels of power throughout all 4 wheels when traversing difficult terrain.
Denali Ultimate ups the game with that Vader grille; 22” low-gloss black aluminum wheels; a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system; and, quoting directly from GMC here: “[an] Ultimate Alpine Umber interior featuring full-grain leather seating and authentic open-pore Paldao wood and 16-way power front seats with massage.” Insert appropriate emoji here.
Before I move on to the Yukon, it’s worth mentioning that both the Denali and Denali Ultimate come with GMC’s new Super Cruise, which is the very first hands-free cruise control system by GM. It comes with automated lane changing and is available only on roads that have been programmed into the system. So, you can’t drive hands-free everywhere, but there is a good chance you can do it in most places. Another emoji would be appropriate here.
2022 Yukon Denali
Finally, the Yukon. This SUV is probably on par with the Cadillac Escalade for its unnecessary, ridiculous luxury. Available in Regular or XL, which adds several inches of cargo space and legroom, the Yukon is the people hauler for the ages.
Now, since people who haul other people are very interested in keeping their hauled people safe, I’ll take a quick look at what is offered in the Pro Safety Plus. Here we have: rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert with blindspot monitoring, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, a following distance indicator, and rear parking assist. Phew, that’s a lot. But it’s important, because one of the biggest sellers of vehicles, these days, is safety. For the actual Denali trim, we’re looking at the same chrome accents as before, C-shaped headlamps, dual exhaust with stainless steel tips, and premium wheels.
Engine options are the 6.2-L V8 with a 10-speed automatic transmission—making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.0-L Duramax Turbo Diesel, again matched to the 10-speed automatic. This creates 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, has a maximum driving range over 750 miles, and can tow up to 8,100 lbs. Each powertrain is compatible with 2WD or 4WD.
Inside is seating for 8 and a total cargo capacity of up to 122.9 or 144.7 cu.ft. Leather upholstery and wood accents abound in the Yukon, but more interesting features are the available sliding center console, which provides up to 10” of additional cargo room, available rear-seat media touch screens attached to the back of both front headrests, and a panoramic moonroof—which stretches the length of the vehicle. Denali embossing and badging abound as well.
The Denali packages are as varied as they are similar across the various SUV and truck models GMC offers. I won’t bother with the pricing here, as you can go to the GMC website yourself. Just be ready to reattach your jaw, as it’s likely to fall off. But, if you’re looking at the Denali, chances are neither price nor exorbitant luxury or tech bother you. If that is the case, search away and indulge yourself. The rest of us will enjoy our window shopping.