Escalade Vs. Denali

by Michael G. Sanchez
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David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali were premium, full-size SUVs. The two models shared the same platform and engine. They varied primarily in appearance, price and interior fitments. The Escalade was the right choice for buyers who wanted the most luxurious, opulently appointed large American SUV on the road -- and who didn't mind paying substantially for the privilege. With its dramatic, angular styling and massive Cadillac badges, it was the definite "statement maker" of the pair. The Yukon Denali, on the other hand, represented a better deal for those who could do without the Cadillac's greater curb appeal and moderately cushier interior. It was nearly identical to the Escalade in numerous ways, but at a substantially lower price.


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Both the Escalade and the Yukon Denali rode on the same 116-inch wheelbase. Their exterior dimension were almost identical, as well. Both SUVs stetched 203.9 inches in length and were 74.4 inches high. At 80.5 inches, the Escalade was half an inch wider than the 80.0-inch wide Yukon Denali. Inside, the two luxurious trucks offered the same amount of passenger space. The front row provided 42.8 inches of headroom, 64.9 inches of shoulder room, 60.9 inches of hip room and 45.3 inches of legroom. Second-row passengers got 38.7 inches of headroom, 64.4 inches of shoulder room, 60.2 inches of hip room and 39.0 inches of legroom. The third row offered passengers 39.0 inches of headroom, 62.6 inches of shoulder room and 24.8 inches of legroom. Both SUVs provided 15.3 cubic feet of storage space with all three rows of seats in place. With the seats folded down, cargo capacity expanded to a maximum of 94.2 cubic feet for the Escalade and 94.7 cubic feet for the Denali.


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The same high-displacement engine lurked beneath the hood of both GM SUVs. The 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V-8 produced a copious 420 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 460 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 rpm. A six-speed automatic was the sole transmission choice. Both SUVs could be had with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. A locking rear differential came standard on bpth models.

Towing & Payload Capacity

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Both SUVs had a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,100 pounds when equipped with two-wheel drive and 7,300 pounds with four-wheel drive, but the Denali was the slightly more capable hauler. With two-wheel drive, the Escalade had a payload capacity of 1,506 pounds and a towing capacity of 8,200 pounds. The four-wheel-drive version had a payload capacity of 1,460 pounds and could tow up to 7,900 pounds. The two-wheel-drive Yukon Denali had a payload capacity of 1,604 pounds and a towing capacity 8,400 pounds. With four-wheel drive, its payload capacity was 1,554 pounds and it could haul up to 8,100 pounds.

Features & Options

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The Escalade came in three trim levels: standard, Luxury Collection and Premium Collection. The standard model came with 20-inch chrome-plated aluminum wheels, GM's Selectable Magnetic Ride Control suspension, leather seating surfaces, 12-way power adjustable driver and front passenger seats, heated and cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column with memory, and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Also included were LED headlights and taillights, power, a fold-flat third-row seat, a hands-free power, programmable liftgate, a rearview camera, front and rear parking assist, the OnStar system, Cadillac's CUE infotainment system with integrated GPS navigation, a 12-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster and a 16-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system with SiriusXM and HD Radio. The Escalade's Luxury Collection trim added 22-inch premium painted wheels with chrome inserts, IntelliBeam headlights, second-row, power-release fold-and-tumble seats, a color heads-up display, a sunroof, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist and the Driver Awareness Package, which consisted of forward collision alert, the Safety Alert seat and a lane departure warning assist. Finally, the range-topping Premium Collection added illuminated exterior door handles and a rear-seat entertainment system with 9-inch screen, Blu-Ray compatibility, a remote control and two-channel wireless infrared headphones. Also included was the Driver Assist Package, which comprised an automatic safety belt tightening feature, adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation and front and rear automatic braking. As the GMC Yukon's top trim level, the Denali was also very well-equipped. It came with 20-inch aluminum wheels, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, leather seating surfaces in the first row, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, power-folding second- and third-row fold-flat seats, keyless entry, active noise cancellation, an 8-inch color driver display, a programmable power rear liftgate, a heated steering wheel, a power-tilt and telescoping steering column, the OnStar system, a 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround sound system with SiriusXM and HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen display with five USB ports, a GPS navigation system and a suite of driver-alert technologies, including forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, side blind zone alert and the Safety Alert seat. Optional equipment included a selection of 22-inch wheels, a heads-up display, adaptive cruise control and a Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system. Overall, while the Denali wasn't quite as upscale inside or out as the Escalade, it offered the majority of the same luxury, convenience and technology features as its more expensive cousin.


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In addition to the previously mentioned electronic assists, both SUVs shipped with four-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control, dual front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a special airbag located between the front seats that helped in the event of a side-impact crash.

Consumer Data

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With rear-wheel drive, both SUVs received an EPA fuel economy rating of 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. With four-wheel drive, they were rated at 14-21. The 2015 Cadillac Escalade began at $71,695 for the standard version, $75,695 for the Luxury Collection and $80,195 for the Premium Collection. The Yukon Denali was less expensive by about $10,000, with a starting price of $62,680.

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