Behind the Wheel

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Review: This 3-row SUV is a mature and stately bargain

GMC has a winner with its new Yukon Denali.

Photo courtesy of GMC

The 2021 GMC Yukon isn't just a new SUV. It's a maturation of the brand, continuing the growth ushered in by the Sierra truck redesign two years ago.

GMC, a division of General Motors, didn't just make the SUV more luxe than the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, or a more rugged choice than the Cadillac Escalade. The Yukon is its own beast. And make no mistake, it is a beast in proportions though on the road it proves impressively maneuverable.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Each Yukon Denali comes with the Denali trim level's new grl Photo courtesy of GMC

The three-row full-size SUV is solid and capable. It's also the most elegant model in the GMC lineup, especially as tested in the Denali trim level. From the unique grille with satin chrome surround to the dual exhaust system with dual steel tips, the Yukon Denali stands out.

Riding on 20-inch wheels and powered by GM's 6.2-liter V8 engine, the Yukon Denali makes a proficient 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The engine is connected to a GM's 10-speed automatic transmission, which cannot be smoother in its operation.

The four-corner air suspension ensures that the ride is stable whether on smooth pavement or dirt, rounding corners at speed, or turning into a parking lot. It also raises and lowers the vehicle to an optimal height depending on the vehicle's current driving or resting function.

Pulling into that parking lot and getting properly into the space is easy thanks to accurate steering and the Yukon Denali's class-leading nine camera views.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali The rear of the Yukon Denali is a new look for the model. Photo courtesy of GMC

Shifting of the Yukon Denali is done via a new lever and button configuration that is placed on the dashboard near the steering wheel. In a world of stick, column, push-button, and rotary shifters, this new take is easy to use and intuitive. It's certainly head and shoulders ahead of the push-button shifter featured in the current generation Traverse's center stack when it debuted a few years ago.

GMC has equipped the Yukon Denali with a four-wheel drive system that allows proper traction in a variety of weather conditions. Only sunshine graced the SUV during its 36-hour test drive so there was no opportunity to truly put the system through its paces.

The Yukon Denali's cabin is more premium than ever before. It truly feels luxurious, even despite its parts bin center console controls, which are shared with the Sierra. Leather and soft-touch surfaces abound. The cabin is appointed in authentic materials in the areas where your eyes traditionally rest while being a passenger.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Fine materials are on display throughout the cabin. Photo courtesy of GMC

It has a unique moving center console that allows front row passengers to have more space while making the center console more accessible to second-row occupants.

Speaking of the second row, its captains chairs are made for comfort. In front of the passengers are twin 12.6-inch entertainment screens. The screen system no longer supports DVDs. The shift is in favor of USB- and Bluetooth-connected devices as well as streaming content. It can now accommodate Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Playstation, Apple TV, Roku, and Sling devices.

Access to the third row is easy through the center of the second row and adults can more comfortably sit back there thanks to the Yukon's elongated body style for the 2021 model year.

In front of the driver is a 15-inch head-up display that offers music information from the 14-speaker Bose sound system, navigation, and speedometer in an unobtrusive way.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali A new push button and lever shifting system is employed in the model. Photo courtesy of GMC

At the center of the dashboard is a sizable 10.2-inch infotainment screen that utilizes GM's standard operating system and graphics. Unlike what's in Genesis and Lincoln models, GMC's parent company hasn't refined the system with different styling for the premium model line. The Yukon Denali has up to eight USB ports, wireless charging, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

GMC has equipped the Yukon Denali with a host of standard safety features - most everything you'd expect. GM's Super Cruise hands-free driving technology hasn't yet made it over to the model, which is a shame.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali The Yukon Denali utilizes switchgear from the Sierra. Photo courtesy of GMC

Despite the complete redesign and impressive enhancements to the Yukon Denali for 2021, GMC has upped the price just $600 from the cost of the 2020 model. Including the destination charge the SUV comes in at just over $75,000. While $75,000 might sound steep to many buyers out there, compared to what you get from luxury automakers and truck sellers for that price, the Yukon Denali's cost is impressively low. That includes three rows of seating, high-end appointments, comfort, style, and a towing capacity of up to 7,900 pounds. The Yukon Denali could be priced at $90,000 and it would hardly elicit a second thought.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali Dual entertainment screens are available in the Yukon Denali. Photo courtesy of GMC

From the interior to the exterior it's easy to see that GMC has gotten this one right. Twenty-five percent of GMCs sold are Denali badged and it wouldn't be surprising to see that number creeping up with the freshly enhanced model.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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2022 Hyundai Kona N revealed, but the automaker isn't telling all just yet.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai is giving its highest performance Kona the same transmission that you'll find in the Veloster N. For enthusiasts, that's a very good thing.

The compact crossover is more and more being seen as the American successor to the hot hatch. The Mazda CX-30 Turbo recently piqued enthusiasm among true drivers who can't afford supercars and need something more practical to hoon around in.

Now, the Kona N is poised to deliver similar driving dynamics and performance. Hyundai has slowly been leaking out details about the 2022 Hyundai Kona N over the last year and the revelation that it will have an eight-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission, known as N DCT, is just the latest tidbit to come to light.

2022 Hyundai Kona Hyundai has upgraded its wet DCT mechanics in recent years making it hard-wearing.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

2022 Hyundai Kona

The Kona N DCT is based on a modified version of its in-house-developed 8DCT. It's had enhancements in recent years that have made it more durable and ready to handle the demands of high-performance vehicles. The N DCT will be standard on the Kona.

Hyundai will pair the N DCT with a 276-horsepower, 2.0-liter direct-injected engine that has been tuned especially for the model. The transmission control unit is calibrated for N enthusiasts.

The wet-type DCT is structurally similar to a manual transmission but, instead of the typical dry-type gearbox, it uses two electric oil pumps that are designed to reduce friction between the moving parts, cooling the clutch, and allowing greater torque.

Other features of the N DCT include N Grin Shift, N Power Shift and N Track Sense Shift functionality. These settings have dedicated shift-logic management. N Power Shift engages when the car accelerates with more than 90-percent throttle. N Grin Shift maximizes engine and DCT performance for 20 seconds, providing a boost. N Track Sense optimized adaptive shift for the race track.

The N Grin Control System has five different drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, N and Custom. Unlike with a traditional automatic transmission vehicle, in Hyundai vehicles with N DCT, the driver can choose to turn off the creep function. When the creep function is turned "off" and the car is in gear D, the car does not automatically roll forward when the brake pedal is released.

Drivers can switch to manual mode for more control over shift points, utilizing the paddle shifters or gear knob. In manual mode, the downshift memory logic will avoid downshifting during high RPM operation. Memory functionality remembers the command and executes only when the acceptable RPM is reached.

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