Inside and out, 2015 Yukon XL takes a step up

GMC's 2015 Yukon XL Denali. The new Yukon is prettier, safer, and more technologically evolved than its predecessor.
GMC's 2015 Yukon XL Denali. The new Yukon is prettier, safer, and more technologically evolved than its predecessor.
Posted: August 24, 2014

If someone were to film a vehicular variation on the documentary Super Size Me, the redesigned GMC Yukon XL would certainly costar.

At 18.5 feet long, it dwells among the redwoods in the SUV forest. Its stablemate, the Yukon, is a large SUV. The Yukon XL is a very large SUV. (I think they should call the regular Yukon the Yukon XL and rename the XL the XXL.)

The 2015 Yukon XL, like its corporate cousin, the Chevrolet Suburban, is a truck-based SUV built off GM's 130-inch-long wheelbase pickup platform. Both also utilize the same mechanicals. But unlike in days of yore, GMC's XL, like its Yukon and Sierra pickup, is no longer simply a re-badged Chevy. GMC has made a legitimate effort to individuate its wares through exterior and interior design variations, and it shows.

The XL is one of the last of the traditional SUVs. It is built on a muscular truck frame and is capable of serious hauling and off-road use, unlike almost all of the car-based crossover SUVs. The XL I tested could carry a 1,725-pound payload. Its standard, three-row seating would accommodate nine people. It could also tow 6,300 pounds of boat, horse, or travel trailer in base form.

The new XL, which is prettier, safer, and more technologically evolved than its predecessor, comes in three flavors, the SLE, SLT, and Denali, each of which can be equipped with either rear or four-wheel-drive. Prices range from $49,035 for the base SLE with rear drive to $68,380 for the 4WD Denali. I drove a middling 4WD SLT.

The price tag on the tester was a fat one, of course, but this vehicle was loaded to the gills before you ever got to the options. Standard gear included electronic alerts for forward collision, blind spot, lane departure, and rear cross-traffic; leather-trimmed seats, including heated and cooled ones up front, heated, power-folding ones in the second row, and power-folding third-row seats. (The seats fold flat with the touch of a button in the rear cargo area.)

And then there are the memory settings for the driver's seat, steering column, pedals and mirrors, the Bose sound system, and the big color infotainment screen. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

The extensively reworked Yukon XL does offer more to love than the earlier big guy. It boasts more interesting body styling, a richer, more aesthetic interior, better handling, more comfort and convenience, more power, and better highway mileage.

The addition of direct fuel injection, and the higher compression ratio that system permits, allows the horsepower rating of the XL's 5.3-liter V-8 to rise from 320 to 355, and its torque, or pulling ability, from 335 pounds per feet to 383. (That torque bump permitted a hefty increase in towing capacity.)

While the new direct injection and variable-valve timing systems are helping performance, the direct injection and cylinder deactivation systems are improving fuel economy. (The latter system does so by pinching off four of the eight cylinders during undemanding engine use.) The 4WD model I tested had EPAs of 15 city and 22 highway, up from 2014's 15 and 21.

The XL proved surprisingly road-able for a big, truck-based vehicle. The interior of the nice-riding tester was comfortable, quiet, and classy - with the exception of the cheesy faux wood trim. I'm sorry, but when you are charging people in excess of $60,000 for a vehicle, it shouldn't be adorned with bogus burl.


2015 GMC Yukon XL SLT (4WD)

Base price: $60,435.

As tested: $65,460.

Standard equipment: 5.3-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission, 4WD, automatic locking rear differential, and a safety and amenity litany that amounts to about anything you can think of.

Options: Include bigger, 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, a maximum trailering package and an antitheft package.

Fuel economy:

15 city and

22 highway.

Engine performance: Quite willing.

Styling: More comely than 2014's.

Ride quality: Good with the "Smooth Ride Suspension."

Handling: Surprisingly good.

Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper

to bumper.

The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.

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