If you need a full-size SUV, built on a truck chassis, ready to tow a trailer, and haul large amounts of cargo with nine-passengers, there aren’t many choices. The GMC Yukon XL will fill your order and can even take the abuse of rough, unpaved roads on a regular basis, something car-based crossovers won’t handle. Add the Denali trim and you’ve got a rugged SUV with the style and trimmings of a luxury vehicle.
This weekend, we drove the top-of-the-line, 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD.
The Yukon Denali, the top GMC trim, adopts a sophisticated 10-speed automatic transmission. There’s also a new Denali Ultimate Package with 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, and a large helping of safety tech add-ons.
Features & Options
The 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD ($71,865) comes loaded with features including tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, and 60/40-split folding second- and third-row seats. Also included is a 110-volt power outlet, an eight-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, and OnStar communications (with a 4G LTE connection and Wi-Fi hotspot). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compliments a nine-speaker Bose audio system, which includes a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and a USB input.
Other features include foglights, side steps, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, and a trailer hitch receiver with a wiring harness. GM’s Teen Driver monitoring system, which limits certain vehicle settings for young drivers, also comes standard.
The top-of-the-line Denali trim adds 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, adaptive suspension dampers, a trailer brake controller, a heads-up instrument display, active noise cancellation, second-row bucket seats, navigation, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
The new-for-2018 Denali Ultimate package ($8,030) adds 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, power side steps, adaptive cruise control, a rear seat entertainment system with DVD player, an extended satellite radio and traffic information subscription, and enhanced security features. The Ultimate package also adds forward collision alert with automatic low-speed emergency braking, a vibrating safety-alert driver’s seat, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning and intervention systems.
Total MSRP on this Denali tester including destination: $80,190.
The GMC Yukon XL is just that: it’s super-sized for extra cargo and passenger-carrying abilities. Yukon XL is 20.5 inches longer than the normal Yukon, on a wheelbase that’s 14 inches longer. Yukon XL offers a lot more third-row legroom, making the XL ideal for hauling large numbers of passengers. Stepping inside, the Denali proves handsome and luxurious, reminiscent of a high-end luxury vehicle.
The Yukon XL is absolutely cavernous inside were six-footers will feel comfortable for long trips. An eight-inch touchscreen sits high above logically-laid-out controls that are easy and quick to use. The front seats are especially comfortable with plenty of adjustments and power-adjust pedals to help find the perfect position for any size driver. The second row captain’s chairs are just as comfy, giving passengers extra elbow room. The XL provides ample stretch-out space for taller passengers and even the third row can handle adults without an issue.
With the third row deployed, it offers up a generous 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down the second and third rows, and you’ve got a whopping 121 cubic feet of maximum cargo space at your disposal. Loading cargo can be a bit of a chore, however, because of the relatively high rear tailgate floor.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
Yukon Denali gets GMC’s 6.2-liter EcoTech3 V8 engine, sending 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft. of torque to the wheels via a new 10-speed automatic. Our Yukon XL came with 4WD, a locking rear differential, two-speed transfer case, rear load leveling, and was equipped to tow 7,500 lbs.
The EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 14/21 city/highway and 16 combined mpg.
When we pushed the gas pedal to the floor, the big 6.2-liter came alive quickly and delivered a remarkably eye-opening response. Of course, the price is a big drop in fuel mileage, but the demographic that will buy the Yukon XL aren’t all that concerned with the price of gas. Although the V8 can run on half its cylinders during light-load usage to help reduce fuel consumption.
The ride is comfortable in spite of the bigger wheels and thanks in part to the Denali’s Magnetic Ride Control. The SUV smoothed out the bumps on the dirt roads with ruts. We experienced a spring snow storm in Denver and the 4WD system allowed us to cut through the ice and snow. Denali comes with a 2WD mode, 4-wheel automatic, 4-High, and 4-Low for unpaved roads and trails.
The cabin is quiet even when we stood on the gas. The new 10-speed automatic was smooth and we never felt it hunting for the right gear, even at altitude going up the steep I-70 incline heading out of town. The GMC Yukon Denali can haul a boat-load of people without an issue and the only problem we had was slower traffic getting in our way. The big vehicle gives the driver a feeling of power and authority on the road.
If you are doing high-traffic city driving, the Yukon XL is a challenge trying to navigate tight parking lots and narrow streets. It requires a rubber neck and paying attention to how you park. Denali does come with an array of parking sensors, rearview camera, and a vibrating safety-alert driver’s seat, which we thought was a bit over the top.
The GMC Yukon XL Denali offers a rugged SUV with the style and trimmings of a luxury vehicle. It will handle all your people and cargo-hauling needs with room to spare. The Denali is luxury grade. Add in the 4×4 capability and you’ve got a big family hauler that will go anywhere you point it.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy