Road Trippin’ to Monterey in (Denali) Style

    (This post is in partnership with GMC.)

    GMC Yukon DenaliOver Memorial Day weekend, I had the good fortune to test drive a 2018 GMC Yukon Denali through a promotion with the San Francisco Mom’s Blog. My husband, ten and twelve-year old daughters, and I, along with my childhood BFF and her boyfriend, who were visiting from Denver, traveled together in this full-size luxury SUV on a road trip from San Francisco to the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel and Big Sur. While traffic was brutal during much of our trip, the Yukon Denali eased our pain with its many comforts and features and was a stylish ride to boot.   

    Read on for my notes from the road . . .

    Handling & Ride

    Truth be told, I had never before driven anything larger than a station wagon, and was at first a bit intimidated by the sheer size of the Yukon Denali. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this full-size SUV actually handled quite well, with a turning radius that belied its large size. I was also impressed with the smoothness of the ride throughout our trip. From the pot-holed streets of San Francisco to the curvy, cliff-hugging stretch of Route 1 that took us through Big Sur, the Yukon Denali’s “magnetic ride control,” which adjusts the vehicle’s suspension to account for varying terrain, gave us a consistently smooth and comfortable ride.


    Shiny and black with a bold, sculpted grille and other attractive chrome details, our Yukon Denali was a good looking piece of machinery that fit right in among the mansions on Pebble Beach’s exclusive 17-Mile Drive and at the posh Inn at Spanish Bay, where we went for sunset drinks one night. As large as the Yukon Denali was – we came to affectionately call it “the Beast” – it was nevertheless a beauty, with elegant lines and a confident, sophisticated presence. I especially enjoyed the illuminated, power retractable assist step that came out upon opening the door, a stylish way to enter and exit the SUV.  


    With three rows of cushy, leather seating, the Yukon Denali – which can fit up to eight passengers – comfortably accommodated our group of four adults and two kids for the ten-plus hours we spent in it over the course of the three-day holiday weekend. Legroom in the front and second rows, where we adults sat most of the time, was more than ample. The third row, with about 25 inches of legroom, was a bit tight for my leggy tweens. Nevertheless, they appreciated the third row cup holders and thought the car was “cool,” “sturdy,” and “comfortable.” There’s also a Yukon XL Denali – the larger version of this SUV with 34.5 inches of third row legroom – a nice option if the third row will be in regular use. 

    Climate Control

    The weather on our trip was constantly changing as we drove in and out of microclimates, from pockets of swirling fog along the cliffs of Big Sur on our way to go hiking to intense sun and baking heat in Carmel Valley on a wine tasting pit-stop. As a result, we made good use of all of the Yukon Denali’s climate control features, including heat, air conditioning and seat heaters in both the front and second row seats. All of these features were user friendly and worked well.

    Entertainment System

    Given how much time we ended up spending in the Yukon Denali over the course of the weekend, the car’s excellent entertainment features were a godsend. Using the “Infotainment System’s” color touch screen, we were able to play movies for our daughters, listen to music, view the weather, and navigate our way through traffic. During a particularly bad backup where it took us three hours to crawl for ten miles on our way out of Big Sur to Carmel, our daughters happily watched a couple James Bond movies on the rear seat video screen using wireless digital headphones, while we adults rocked out to music of our choosing. Keeping everyone’s phones fully charged was also no problem with the car’s multiple USB ports and even a wireless charging station on the front, middle console.

    Trunk Space

    With the third row up, we had a tough time squashing all of our bags into the 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space. Fortunately, there was extra room between the two second row seats where we were able to wedge in the case of wine our friends bought at a winery in Carmel Valley and a few other purchases we made in Carmel when it came time to pack up for the journey home. For more trunk space, the Yukon XL Denali, with 39.3 cubic feet of trunk space, would be a better bet.    

    When the GMC representative came to collect the Beast from us on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I was sad to see it go. This, my first SUV, had served us very well on our road trip, and after all we had been through together, kind of felt like a good friend if not part of the family. I will remember fondly our time together, and if we’re in the market for an SUV at some point down the road, the Yukon Denali will be on my list for sure.   

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    Born and raised in the Philadelphia-area and holding both a U.S. and Swedish passport, Inger, a former environmental attorney who is in the process of reinventing herself, has lived in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters (born in 2006 and 2007) since 2008. Inger’s “son,” Charlie (a Ragdoll cat) joined the family in 2015, followed by two rabbits. Inger finds spiritual inspiration in yoga and the great outdoors and counts Swedish summers, Italian reds, and impromptu 80’s dance-parties among her favorite things. In addition to writing about all things mom, Inger especially loves to write narrative style pieces about her travels, which can be found at



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