Debuting as a luxurious version of the Yukon sport utility vehicle for the 1999 model year, the GMC Denali married four-wheel drive capability with superior cabin comfort. A premium-equipped GMC Yukon, the 1999 Denali stood apart through its own distinct front grille and headlight design. Standard exterior features 16-inch, 6-spoke polished aluminum wheels mounted to Firestone Firehawk tires rolled while Bilstein shock absorbers provided a smoother, high-end ride than traditionally expected from a GMC sport utility vehicle.
Offered with standard on-demand four-wheel drive utilizing an AutoTrac active transfer case, additional traction for the sport utility vehicle was provided with a locking rear differential. Power for the 1999 GMC Denali was sourced from a 5.7-liter V-8 engine. Creating 255 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, the powerplant of the Denali was paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Both the engine and transmission came with standard oil cooler units. The luxury sport utility vehicle could tow up to 6,500 pounds.
Inside a five-passenger cabin, the 1999 and 2000 GMC Denali was tastefully appointed with Nuance leather and Zebrano wood accents. Six-way power front seats, multi-zone air conditioning as well as seven-speaker Bose audio system with cassette player and six-disc CD charger was included inside all Denali's. Heavily equipped with standard comfort-related features, one of the only options left on the Denali was OnStar. After the 2000 model year, the Denali was formally integrated with the GMC Yukon line-up as the top trim model. The GMC Denali was largely similar to the Cadillac Escalade differing only in badging as well as front and rear fascia treatment.