Big, bold, and capable of hauling up to 8 300 pounds and 9 occupants simultaneously, the GMC Yukon XL is the king of leisure vehicles for the big family. Rear wheel drive is the standard on all models, though all-wheel drive is available with either single- or two-speed transfer cases. A base 5.7-liter V8 engine produces 355hp with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The Denali trim adds extra chrome exterior accents, leather-lined luxury, and a 6.2-liter V8 with 420hp and an 8-speed self-shifter. Available safety features include forward collision warning and blind spot monitoring for a 5/5 star NHTSA rating.
The Chevy Suburban is nice, but if you want exclusivity, you want a GMC Yukon – the other General Motors twin on this platform. If you want space for a driver and eight passengers in a larger package, then the Yukon XL is your pick. It’s a big truck-based SUV, sharing a platform with the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Sierra, and Cadillac Escalade, but, with an additional 20.4 inches added between the axles, delivering more legroom and more cargo space. With a big V8 under the hood it can tow too, a lot – making the Yukon XL a multi-tasking SUV for the whole clan, including their extensions.
9 seats may be appealing, but the front bench seat is only available as an option on the base SLE model. In mid-spec SLT trim, you can opt for 2nd row buckets, reducing the seat count to 7 – which is the standard setup on the range-topping Denali model. Regardless of which configuration you opt for, there’s an abundance of space for all occupants onboard – though in SLE trim tall drivers might find it difficult to get comfortable without telescopic reach adjustment on the steering wheel. On all models with 2nd and 3rd row benches, the benches split in a 60/40 ratio to enhance load capability, with a maximum cargo capacity of 121.1 cubic feet when both those rows are folded. With the second row in place, the figure is still a massive 76.7 cubes, and even with all 9 seats up, there’s still space enough for 39.3 cu ft in the Yukon XL.
The Yukon XL is a big machine, but it’s aimed at the luxury end of the segment, and to that end there’s very little noise, vibration, and harshness when on the road. It’s best to avoid the 22-inch alloy wheels available in favor of improved ride quality – and to that end the optional Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension is a must-have from the options list. It eliminates lumps and bumps from the road surface impressively, though smaller imperfections aren’t filtered out as well as perhaps they could be. The ride when using it for heavy duty work is impressive, and the work horse ethic suits the weekend adventurer – but in town and during the commuter week, it’s hard to ignore the big, cumbersome Yukon XL’s sheer size and lack of maneuverability. Get stuck in traffic, and you’ll empathize with big rig driver’s more than SUV drivers.
SLE and SLT versions of the GMC Yukon XL are powered by a 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic gearbox and rear wheel drive is standard, though all-wheel drive is available as an option, in both single, and two-speed transfer case versions. With rear wheel drive, the 5.3 enables a towing capacity of 8 300 pounds. The Denali model gets a larger 6.2-liter V8, developing 420hp and 460 lb-ft, paired with an 8-speed auto and RWD, with all-wheel drive an option. Despite a more powerful engine, tow capacity is 200 pounds less than the base engine.
All three trim levels enjoy generous trim and levels of luxury, and what the lower trims lack, they can add as options – features such as an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power adjustable pedals. But on SLT and Denali trims, you get telescopic steering, wireless device charging, a leather steering wheel, and available adaptive cruise control. An 8-inch infotainment screen is standard on all, but the Denali gets navigation as standard, in addition to its second row buckets and chrome exterior trim. Safety features on the Yukon include front and rear park assist, and rear camera, available forward collision alert, and lane keep assist.
Offering more luxury and exclusivity than a Suburban, the 7-, 8-, or 9-seat Yukon XL offers a complete package for leisure and heavy hauling. Though the Denali is well-specced, the smaller engine on the SLT offers a better towing capacity and can be optioned similarly. For that reason, it’s the one to pick.