With the introduction of the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali, GMC has extended the trim level from the heights of its lineup all the way to the earth. For 2013, GMC will offer a Denali model of the Yukon, Yukon XL and Acadia SUVs along with Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups and the Terrain.
The Denali trim level denotes near-luxury level interior appointments, along with exterior enhancements. On the interior, Denali models feature leather seating surfaces with distinctive stitching, mahogany wood accents, premium audio systems and ventilated front seats. Each Denali exterior gets a ton of chrome trim, chrome wheels and a chrome front grille. Badging is surprisingly subtle, with a chrome “Denali” emblem on the side of each front fender.
GMC first introduced the Denali trim level on the 1999 Yukon Denali, adding the Yukon XL Denali and Sierra Denali in 2002. The now-discontinued Envoy and Envoy XL got the Denali option in 2005, while Yukon Hybrid became available as a Denali in 2009. 2011 saw the Acadia Denali, Sierra 2500 and 3500 Denali. With the Denali trim level becoming available on Terrain for 2013, the entire GMC consumer lineup is now “Denalied.”
There’s little mystery why GMC has chosen to expand the Denali option. Consumers have responded, and Denali sells. In 2011, over 50% of Yukons sold were Denalis. In just the first year of availability with the Denali badge, 28% of Acadias sold were the luxury trim level. GMC's Director of Product Marketing Roger G. McCormack said that Denali has become almost a brand within the brand. “People will say that they own a Denali, and then you have to ask them which one,” he said. “Then they tell you they drive a Yukon or an Acadia.”
GMC sales have been very strong of late, growing 19 percent for 2011 over 2010. During that same period, Denali trim level sales grew by 79%. Of course, there were many more Denali vehicles available to buy in 2011 than ever before. Still, since 1999, GMC has sold over 500,000 Denalis.
Adding Terrain to the mix is a bit of a risk. The smallest GMC vehicle is also the furthest from luxury features in standard trim levels, and the Denali package that GMC displayed upon the crossover’s introduction was a little minimal. The new Denali front grille is cool-looking, but it is constructed of chromed plastic – not the beefy wire mesh that graces a Yukon’s mouth. While some of the interior cosmetics have been upgraded, the basic Terrain strengths and weaknesses remain, including a few economy-feeling plastic surfaces. On the whole, though, the Denali treatment does fit with Terrain’s masculine, chiseled appearance. Buyers who like Terrain’s design will probably respond to the enhancements.
Terrain Denali is probably worth the risk for GMC. It is definitely the logical conclusion of an extension that they’ve been working toward, and brings a continuity to the lineup. Also, as GMC’s McCormack said, “Why not?”