Somewhere between the massive mainstream of its full-size sport-utilities -- the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL -- and the prestigious pinnacle of the Cadillac Escalade, General Motors sees an opportunity. On that narrow ledge stands the 2001 GMC Yukon Denali and the GMC Yukon XL Denali. They're upscale, full-size SUVs that neither dabble in the mainstream nor wade in the luxury stream. Launched about three years ago, the Denali SUVs have found their niche, reaching about 35,000 customers so far. And the all-new 2001 versions, on sale shortly, should extend that recognition, said Denny O'Donnell, the Yukon brand manager for General Motors' GMC division. "The Denali's been a pretty fair success for us," O'Donnell said. "It's pretty much a recognized name." Los Angeles magazine recently named it as a hot vehicle in Southern California. "We were quite tickled at that," he said. The Yukon Denali is 198.9 inches long, the same as the 2002 Cadillac Escalade. The Yukon XL Denali is 219.3 inches long. Both are four-door, four-wheel-drive vehicles with a 320-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8. Standard equipment includes third-row seating; the AutoRide real-time dampening suspension system with automatic load leveling; front and rear air conditioning, a Bose Acoustimass audio system with 11 speakers and a six-disc CD changer; dual front and side air bags; fog lamps; the OnStar navigation system; leather seats; and a towing package. In fact, O'Donnell said, options are few. Buyers chose from five colors, decide whether they want a sunroof and, if they're buying an XL model, whether they want second-row bucket seats. "The truck was really done for Yukon and Suburban customers who would come in and they'd just check everything that was available. And if we had more, they wanted more," he said. The exterior of the Denali models have a cleaner, uncluttered look than do the basic Yukons. Most distinctive is the grille with hundreds of small (15 millimeter) air outlets, which have both a functional (engine cooling) and a design (they look cool) role. "It still has an imposing look," O'Donnell said. "When you see one coming up behind you in the rear-view mirror, we want people to go, `Whoa, something's back there.' ..." While the Denalis share many features with the Escalade, there's enough differences -- appearance, engine and more -- to keep them separate in buyer's minds, O'Donnell said. And Cadillac buyers and GMC buyers are very different, he said. "We're a truck company. We're proud of that fact that these are trucks," he said. That's why GMC will emphasize the capability of the Denalis, their towing ability, their heavy-duty automatic transmission and their all-wheel-drive systems. Plus, the ride is much improved on this generation of GM full-size pickups and SUVs. "These trucks, and most trucks, for a long time have had lots o f capability," O'Donnell said. "You can load them up, and carry a lot of junk, but they haven't always been very much fun to drive. The new trucks are a gas to drive." The base Yukon XL Denali will be priced at $48,215. The shorter Yukon Denali will be $46,680.
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