During the late 1990s, automakers began to dedicate greater attention to incorporating luxury into sport utility vehicles. In 1999, GMC introduced the Yukon-based Denali as a challenger in the premium four-wheel-drive marketplace. For 2001, the high-end Denali model was revived on General Motors new-generation GMT800 truck platform. In addition to a short wheelbase GMC Yukon, the Denali was also available with the Yukon XL model. Powered by a 320-horsepower 6.0-liter V-8 engine combined with all-wheel drive, the 2001 GMC Yukon Denali came standard equipped with an Auto Ride Control suspension, heated first and second row seats and an eleven-speaker audio system with in-dash six-disc CD changer.
The leather-upholstered interior seating for the 2001 Yukon Denali could comfortably fit eight occupants. Changes made to the GMC Yukon Denali between 2002 and 2006 included the addition of GM StabiliTrak electronic stability control system in 2003 and an increase in engine output totaling 335 horsepower by 2005. The traditional chrome mesh chrome of the Yukon Denali was attached to a completely redesigned version of the luxury sport utility vehicle for 2007. Standard equipped with parking aid, Nuance leather seating and 18-inch wheels, the 2007 GMC Yukon Denali was propelled by an enlarged V-8 engine.
The same engine found in the Cadillac Escalade, the 6.2-liter V-8 generated 380 horsepower and 415 pounds-feet of torque channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission. For 2009, engine performance of the GMC Yukon Denali was enhanced to 403 horsepower. The 2009 GMC Yukon Denali also gained an enriched selection of standard features that included Side Blind Zone Alert system, heated/cooled seats and power-adjustable heated steering wheel. The Denali name continued to represent high-end luxury trim version of the GMC Yukon following the 2009 model year.