The 2021 Wards 10 Best Interiors are being revealed in random, non-alphabetical order one per day until Oct. 15. This is the second winner profile. Winners will receive their trophies Nov. 16 during Automotive TechWeek in Novi, MI.
GMC’s push for recognition as a purveyor of premium vehicles reaches its pinnacle in the ’21 Yukon Denali XL (pictured below, left), which features a refined yet rugged interior that’s exclusive to the Denali.
It sets a new benchmark for the brand and as such deserves recognition on this year’s Wards 10 Best Interiors list.
Our judges note the attention to detail in the Yukon Denali’s materials, from open-pore teakwood inlays along the dashboard and door panels, metallic trim elements treated with a shiny surface dubbed “Galvano,” to different grades of leather for various surfaces.
We love the upscale appearance of the light-shale perforated-leather seats with unique-to-Yukon stitching offset by dark accent piping and dashboard trim elements.
Michael Stapleton, who directed the development of the Yukon’s interior, notes heavier-grain leather is incorporated into the vehicle’s seats while a softer grain is stitched into touch points such as the center console and armrests where elbows would come in contact.
Not to take anything away from the Yukon’s luxury brethren Escalade, but we’re impressed by interior elements in the GMC that aren’t offered in the Cadillac.
Most innovative is the power-sliding center console, which shifts the upper console fore and aft 10 ins. (25.4 cm), opening up a huge storage area beneath the console, easily capable of providing room for a purse or a large bag.
Under that space is additional hidden storage that’s lockable in valet mode. When slid into its farthest rearward position, the console serves up twin cupholders, USB outlets and temperature controls within easy reach of second-row passengers.
A simple one-handle folding and tilting lever takes all the hassle out of access to and from the spacious third row.
But when that area is needed for cargo, controls near the liftgate (pictured above) lower the power-folding third- row seats while additional switches release the second-row seatbacks to tuck everything away, providing a phenomenal 144.7 cu.-ft. (4,097 L) of flat-floor loading capacity.
The ’21 Yukon rides on an all-new independent rear suspension that opens up an extra 10 ins. of legroom in the third row compared to the previous model, and the lower floor makes the third row much more comfortable for adults.
Combined with the Denali’s standard magnetic ride control, the new suspension lets the Yukon glide over road imperfections.
Our $84,645 test vehicle didn’t skimp on any of the top-shelf electronics that aid the driver or pamper the passengers, including heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row buckets and plenty of connectivity technology such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. We like the 15-in. (38.1-cm) multicolor head-up display, the large, easy-to-read gauges and 10.2-in. (25.9-cm) infotainment screen.
But we also appreciate that GMC’s design team retained simple knobs to manage cabin temperature and to handle volume and tuning of the 14-speaker Bose audio system.
In a nutshell, says editor Tom Murphy: “From steering wheel to liftgate, this is a beautifully executed interior.”