The 2018 GMC Yukon Denali and Yukon XL Denali get several updates for the 2018 model year, and the most noteworthy is the addition of the new 10-speed automatic transmission. Gone is the older 8-speed, but the 6.2L V8 is still there. How does the new Yukon Denali drive? Check out this first drive review.
The big V8 still produces 420 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm and keeps the cylinder deactivation mode, which allows it to run in V4 mode. The 10-speed automatic has been unique tuned for the Yukon and Yukon XL. You may know that GM and Ford developed the 10-speed transmission together. Ford uses their version in the F-150, Raptor, Expedition, and the Mustang. GM now uses their version of the transmission in the Camaro ZL1, the Yukon Denali lineup, Tahoe RST, and the Cadillac Escalade.
GM says, the GMC Yukon’s transmission has unique mounting hardware and software calibration to satisfy the needs of the Yukon Denali customers. In case you are curious, GMC is matching a 3.23 rear axle gear ratio with the new 10-speed automatic.
In the end, the updated 2018 Yukon Denali drives in a very similar way to the 2017 Yukon with an 8-speed. The gear changes are quick and smooth. The transmission behaves smoothly in easy around-town driving, and it can also execute quick and precise downshifts. However, the overall driving experience is still very familiar. If you were given two GMC Yukons: one with an 8-speed and the other with a 10-speed, you would be hard pressed to identify which one you were driving, if you didn’t use the manual shifting mode and saw the “9” and “10” gear selection.
Some of you may be happy to know that the 2018 Yukon Denali does not offer engine start/stop. However, the new 10-speed has a Tow/Haul mode and automated downhill Grade Braking feature. If you are going down a significant hill and are using the brakes for a certain amount of time, the Grade Braking feature will automatically downshift and use the engine/transmission to help slow you down.
The 2018 Yukon XL with the 10-speed gets a slightly better EPA fuel efficiency rating: 14 / 21 / 16 MPG. Check out the image for comparison.
At this time, only the premium Yukon Denali models are getting the 10-speed automatic. Other 5.3L and 6.2L V8 models stay with a 6-speed or an 8-speed transmission.
Other 2018 Yukon Denali updates include a new front grille and different wood treatment on the interior. The Denali is also available with features such as: heads up display, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, power-folding steps, integrated trailer brake controller, and more.
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