The 2021 GMC Yukon Denali Is a Budget Cadillac Escalade

The newest Cadillac Escalade is here, and per usual, it’s outrageous. Many enthusiasts still consider the Escalade as the pinnacle of luxury. But if you want Escalade amenities for less than $80K, General Motors has other options for you, like the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali. 

The 2021 GMC Yukon Denali is ‘cut from the same cloth’ as the 2021 Cadillac Escalade 

The Yukon is GMC's full-size SUV and competes with the likes of the Chevy Tahoe.
2021 GMC Yukon Denali | GMC

Both the Yukon and the Escalade are redesigned for 2021. Since these two full-size SUVs share the same platform, it’s like comparing apples to apples. Both have a commanding presence and flashy grilles. They also offer plenty of power, but the fuel economy is pretty laughable.

The Denali trim is the top-of-the-line option for the Yukon, while the Luxury trim is the entry-level option for the Escalade. Both models come with a 6.2-liter V8 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard for both SUVs. When properly equipped, these brutes can tow up between 7,500 to 7,700 pounds. Additionally, they both having EPA ratings of 17 mpg overall with premium fuel.

2021 Cadillac Escalade driving on street
2021 Cadillac Escalade | Cadillac

GM updated the Yukon and the Escalade with an independent rear suspension, replacing the previous live-axle system. As Car and Driver highlights, the updated suspension has dramatically improved the SUVs’ ride quality. Additionally, the new setup translates to a roomier third-row and increased cargo space.

The Yukon Denali’s interior does a good imitation of the Escalade’s 

The 2021 Yukon Denali offers leather seats and intricate trimmings.
2021 GMC Yukon Denali interior | GMC

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Of course, the Escalade becomes insanely lavish on the upper-level trims. The base Luxury model isn’t too far off from the Yukon Denali’s, though. You might even like a few more things that Yukon offers here than what the Escalade does. 

The Yukon Denali comes with ambient lighting, perforated leather upholstery, and real wood trim. It also has room for up to eight people. The Escalade comes with similar trimmings, but you have to go up to the Premium Luxury level to get genuine leather. Yukon Denalis come with a power-release second-row 60/40 split-folding bench; this feature is an upgrade for the Escalade. 

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade's luxury SUV interior
2021 Cadillac Escalade interior | Cadillac

What’s annoying is that a panoramic sunroof isn’t standard for the Yukon Denali or the Escalade. On a brighter note, both SUVs come with amenities such as a driver’s seat with memory settings and heated seats. They also come with a heated steering wheel.

What about tech?

A close up of the Yukon Denali's updated infotianment system.
Cockpit area of the 2021 GMC Yukon Denali | GMC

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There are many things to like about the Yukon Denali’s in-car tech. It now comes with an easier-to-use 10.2-inch touchscreen with available navigation and wifi connectivity. And like the new Escalade, the Yukon Denali comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can add on a super fancy rear-entertainment system for either SUV. The Yukon is more impressive regarding advanced equipment, though. 

The Yukon Denali’s standard safety features include a 15-inch heads-up display that allows you to see important notifications/directions on your windshield. This feature is an upgrade for the Escalade. Another gadget that’s standard for the Denali trim but not for the Escalade is a blind-spot monitoring function. More similarly, both SUVs come with automatic emergency braking and parking sensors. 

Would you get the 2021 Yukon Denali over the Escalade?

It’s hard to beat the Escalade’s level of class and refinement. Nevertheless, the Yukon Denali will give you various Escalade upgrades for about $16K less. The 2021 Yukon Denali starts at $66,900.