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GMC Yukon XL Denali: Big People Cargo Mover

By Arv Voss, December 20th, 2014

GMC still rates its vehicles "Professional Grade," and the latest GMC Yukon family is intended to deliver both comfort and capability in ample doses. The all-new 2015 Yukon and Yukon XL -- and Yukon Denali / Yukon XL Denali -- are all based on the same architecture and share similar styling elements.

Manufacturer photo: GMC's all-new 2015 Yukon delivers greater capability and refinement, with more power, new fold-flat rear seats and a quieter interior
Manufacturer photo: GMC's all-new 2015 Yukon delivers greater capability and refinement, with more power, new fold-flat rear seats and a quieter interior

All models are engineered to fulfill the various needs of different SUV customers, delivering more expressive designs, ergonomically enhanced interiors, and greater infotainment options.

Yukon models offer great interior space, capability, and maneuverability for customers on the go, but the Yukon XL delivers maximum passenger and cargo-hauling capability. If you need generous space and premium comfort, the Yukon XL Denali is the cream of the crop for seating nine people.

We'll deal here with the larger 2015 Yukon XL Denali: it rides on a 130-inch wheelbase and is 14 inches longer than its Yukon brethren, and its 224.3-inch overall length is about 20 inches longer than the standard Yukon. Inside, that provides slightly more second-row legroom for Yukon XL passengers, but nearly 10 inches more legroom for the third-row passengers.

The Yukon XL Denali's larger size also enables it to carry more cargo. Behind the XL Denali's third-row seats, there is 39.3 cu.-ft. volume; though its maximum cargo volume stretches to 121.1 cubic feet, which is 28 percent greater than the regular Yukon version.

Manufacturer photo: GMC's all-new 2015 Yukon delivers greater capability and refinement, with more power, new fold-flat rear seats and a quieter interior

The Yukon XL Denali is engineered to make trailering easier, with greater capability and features such as a tow/haul mode, trailer sway control, auto grade braking, and hill-start assist. The XL Denali's towing capacity is rated at 8,300 pounds.

The GMC Yukon XL Denali displays a rugged refinement. Inside, the Yukon XL Denali features aluminum trim with a unique, burnished and tinted appearance, along with authentic Java Burl Poplar wood accents.

All functions for the Denali cluster can be controlled via the steering wheel and are integrated with the vehicle's center stack so drivers can access audio, phone and navigation functions in the cluster as well.

The unique cluster also includes tow/haul mode information, such as brake settings, gain/output and connection data -- a first for Denali. An 8-inch color touchscreen radio in the center of the instrument panel incorporates a secured storage bin behind the motorized screen. Ambient lighting highlights all functional areas, including footwells and door handles.

Denali seating is enhanced with standard heated/cooled, perforated leather-appointed, 12-way power bucket front seats, including four-way lumbar control. Third- and second-row seats now fold flat to the floor. Power-release second-row switches on the pillar behind the rear door provide easy access to the third row. And to make loading long and bulky items easy, power switches for both the second- and third-row seats are located just inside the rear cargo area on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Manufacturer photo: GMC's all-new 2015 Yukon delivers greater capability and refinement, with more power, new fold-flat rear seats and a quieter interior

I tested the 2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD with a base price set at $68,380. Options, such as the Touring Package, power retractable running boards, adaptive cruise control, tint coat paint, 22-inch wheels with chrome inserts, and destination charge bumped the final sticker total to $77,965.

The sum of $77,965 is very large, but then again, this is a very large vehicle, weighing in at just over three tons.

It doesn't feel nearly as large as it is. Basically, it looks large, but drives much smaller. Acceleration is outstanding from the 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine, which also boasts 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Manual gear changing of the eight-speed automatic transmission may be accomplished by a thumb switch on the gearshift stalk, which is effective enough, but paddle shifters would be more to my liking. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway for two-wheel-drive models.

The ride quality and handling characteristics are also outstanding for a vehicle of this magnitude and overall mass. And it looks good, too.

To be sure, there will be full-size SUV nay-sayers who will berate any vehicle this large, but let's face it, there are different strokes for different folks, and some folks really need an SUV in this category. If they can afford it, I say "Why not?"


Base price $68,380 (as tested: $77,965)
Curb weight 6,009 lbs.
Displacement 6.2-liter
Engine type OHV EcoTec3 V-8 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 31 gal.
Horsepower (net) 420 at 5600 rpm
Overall length 224.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 460 at 4100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 9-passenger full-size 4WD SUV
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