Off the Porch: Seeing America from the seat of a GMC Yukon Denali

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 01:05 PM

My first trip across the United States involved the purchase of a vintage car. I’d been looking for a Mustang Convertible and found one in Las Vegas. After some negotiation, I bought a one way ticket to Vegas, bought the car, and drove it home. Within the first 100 miles, I realized I should have gotten a room and had my wife fly out so we could enjoy the trip together. I’ve since traversed this country at least a half dozen times and I marvel every time.
This year, at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s annual conference, I test drove a 2014 GMC pickup. I happen to be a fan of Chevy trucks, ,   having owned a series of them, the earliest being a 1973 Super Cheyenne. They have been wonderful and reliable trucks, my current version now going strong and quiet at 240,000 miles. I mentioned my love of Chevy trucks during the test ride and Fred Ligouri asked if I’d like to try one for an extended test. My offer to try one for a couple of years was quickly declined but he did offer as much as a two week trial. I instantly thought of a cross country trip to SHOT Show, we worked out the details and as a result, I’m writing this from the road across America.
SHOT Show is the National Shooting Sports Association’s annual trade show and is a monumental display of everything that relates to shooting and hunting. There are 1,600 exhibitors from over 100 countries and all 50 states. There are 12.5 miles of aisles and if you spend just 23 seconds at each booth, you can’t see all the exhibits. SHOT Show is the definitive show for seeing and touching everything shooting sports has to offer in one location over four days.
We’re driving a 2014 Yukon XL Denali and I have to say this is undoubtedly the best SUV I’ve ever driven. This is an impressive vehicle but the most impressive thing is the muscle car feel. Standard engine for the XL Denali is the Vortec 6.2 liter engine with a six speed automatic transmission. The Autoride real time suspension damping system adds to the muscle car feel, providing a luxury car ride that adapts to driving conditions producing a comfortable ride when simply covering ground and muscle car handling when you turn up the dial. It’s true this is an SUV, but with 403 horsepower, there’s enough muscle to move this thing like it’s a much lighter vehicle.
Other features include touch screen navigation, Blue Tooth connectivity, rear seat entertainment system, and backup safety camera make for a high tech vehicle. One of the most impressive was the Ultrasonic rear parking assist. When the vehicle is in reverse, sensors mounted in the bumper emit audible warning tones, alerting you to potential hazards behind you. As you move closer to the obstacle, the tones sound closer together. This system also warns you if someone walks behind the vehicle while you’re getting ready to back.
While I’m a truck man, the same drive train and features are available on the pickup line and this would be one heck of a tow vehicle. The power is smooth and there is so much torque it feels like the Denali could tow a house. I have ridden in the pickup version towing a 23 foot Carolina Skiff and there is none of the trailer bounce you normally experience because the Autoride suspension takes care of it. Pulling away from stop signs, you simply can’t tell the boat is there and if there’s a down side, it might be that you forget the trailer’s there and cut too short on a turn. GM has made a wonderful recovery and it’s amazing just how good this SUV is for long trips.
Of course, it doesn’t make sense to drive across America just for SHOT Show. Our wonderful United States has far too much to offer for shooters and hunters. Cherie and I plan to take advantage of the trip and sample some of what America has to offer and we think the Denali is going to be the perfect vehicle for the trip.

Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at or