In the GMC lineup, Denali is the top dog. It's the trim with all the bells and whistles, and often provides an experience comparable to Cadillac. Unfortunately, that's not the case in the GMC Canyon Denali we drove recently. In the Canyon's case, the Denali trim isn't worth the price premium because it isn't luxurious enough and doesn't distinguish itself from the midlevel SLT trim.While the outside maintains the Denali look with a unique chrome grille, chrome door handles, 20-inch wheels, and big Denali badges (which a guy at a car wash immediately noticed when this editor drove past), the interior and feature set doesn't rise to meet the borderline Cadillac image of Denali. All GMC did to spruce up the already drab, gray, plasticky interior of the Canyon was give it black leather, some real aluminum trim, some fake wood trim, and stitched soft-touch surfaces. The aluminum and leather are nice touches, but they don't look much different from the black and aluminum-look plastic in lower trim models. The fake wood also looks really fake.

They're also exactly the same upgrades as what you'll find in an SLT. But the SLT offers a dark brown color scheme as an option, which would help alleviate the dinginess, and the SLT, equipped exactly like a base Denali, costs $2,690 less at $41,575. The same issue comes up with equipment. The Denali has heated seats and steering wheel, navigation, automatic climate, and navigation, but so does the SLT.

The big problem here is that Denali is supposed to indicate the best, most luxurious vehicle GMC has to offer, but there's not enough differentiation — or specialness, even — to separate it from a well-optioned SLT. GMC needs to give the Denali something more. It needs some real wood trim, or perhaps some interior schemes with contrasting materials you can't find in other Canyons. It should have some other special luxury features included that can't be added to lower trim GMCs such as a heads-up display, automatic windshield wipers, push-button keyless entry and starting, things like that.

The real reason to buy the Canyon Denali is really to get the prestige that the Denali badge brings, rather than the specific equipment it has — the Denali name has some value, after all. But if you can look past the badge and focus on practicality, the SLT is the runaway winner, offering the exact same experience for a notably lower price.

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