GMC Yukon XL Review

2015 GMC Yukon XL SLT 4dr SUV Exterior

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Known in its earlier years as the GMC Suburban, the GMC Yukon XL is actually one of the longest-running models sold in the United States. This popular SUV debuted back in 1936. After serving faithfully for many evolutionary years as a truck-based station wagon primarily meant for commercial or rural use, the renamed gentle giant has increasingly become the go-to choice for families or anyone needing class-leading passenger and cargo capacity as well as solid truck-based towing capability.

With stout underpinnings, strong powertrains, a comfortable ride and spacious seating for up to nine plus their cargo, the current truck is a very capable large SUV. A short list of competitive sport-utilities may offer more refinement and ultra-lux conveniences for more bucks, but the Yukon XL (as well as its Chevy Suburban equivalent) remains the only full-size SUV available in both light- (1500) and heavy-duty (2500) versions. It certainly comes recommended, and older models are also good choices for consumers desiring a used SUV.

Current GMC Yukon XL
The Yukon XL comes in two versions -- standard 1500 and heavy-duty 2500 -- and three trim levels: well-equipped SLE, leather-lined SLT and top-dog Denali (1500 only). The 1500 versions come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 (320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque). The 2500s come with a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque, while the Denali trim features a 6.2-liter V8 with 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. All are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. GMC offers either two- or four-wheel-drive versions of each Yukon XL except for the Denali, which is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that doesn't have low-range gearing. Towing capacities can approach 10,000 pounds.

For such a big SUV, the GMC Yukon XL is relatively quick when unloaded and can reach 60 mph in less than 9 seconds. However, the base V8 doesn't always feel so quick when carrying a heavy load of passengers or cargo. On the move, the Yukon XL is composed and offers up a smooth ride. When pointed straight down an interstate or out in the wide-open spaces, there aren't many better, more capable cruisers than the GMC Yukon XL. Overall, it's a compelling and top-rated choice for shoppers with lots of people- or gear-hauling needs.

Used GMC Yukon XL Models
The present-generation GMC Yukon XL debuted for the 2007 model year. Compared to the previous Yukon XL, this version rides on an updated chassis that provides all of its prior strength along with a more comfortable ride and improved handling, performance and efficiency. These Yukon XLs also boast safety advancements like front seat side airbags, stability control and side curtain airbags for all three rows.

Apart from a six-speed automatic replacing the four-speed unit for 2008 on the 2500 and for '09 for the 1500, and some minor equipment changes the next few years, these Yukon XLs are identical to the latest offering.

The previous-generation Yukon XL that debuted for the 2000 model year and lasted through 2006 was packaged more efficiently than before and heralded the debut of this model name, as this vehicle was previously called a Suburban. Although increasingly outclassed by newer competitors in its later years, this Yukon XL's warehouse-sized interior made it an easy pick for families and home remodelers who truly needed massive passenger and cargo space. Interior materials and fit and finish were merely adequate, however, and the exterior design was beginning to look a tad dated by the end of its run.

This generation was slightly shorter than its predecessor and several trim levels and a couple of modest V8s were available initially, but by 2001 the two "small-block" engines were up to 285 and 320 hp, while an available new 8.1-liter V8 with 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque offered even more grunt. The Yukon XL inched further up the comfort scale as the years went by, but the big news for '03 was the availability of an innovative Quadrasteer four-wheel-steering system on 3/4-ton (2500) models -- reducing the turning circle by a substantial 8 feet and also improving towing stability. The cabin also received numerous improvements including tri-zone climate controls and available DVD entertainment, second-row captain's chairs and power-adjustable pedals. Updates including OnStar, steering-wheel audio controls and tire-pressure monitoring carried the big GMC through 2006.

Previous to this was the Suburban from 1992-'99. After a long, enduring model run by the previous generation that extended from 1973-'91, the then-new '92 GMC Yukon XL finally adopted the sleek body design and freshened interiors of its previously updated pickup truck siblings. In addition to handsome new looks, this completely redesigned Suburban boasted more glass area and a lower step-in height than its antiquated predecessor.

After a few years of detail improvements, redesigned seats and a new modular dashboard graced the Suburban's interior in '95, and a year later daytime running lamps marked the adoption of several powerful new Vortec gasoline engines ranging up to 290 hp. For off-roaders, four-wheel-drive models adopted a modern independent front suspension and a more convenient Insta-Trac electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case. In '98, four-wheel-drive operation was enhanced again with an optional AutoTrac automatic full-time 4WD system for set-it-and-forget-it convenience.

Read the most recent 2015 GMC Yukon XL review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used GMC Yukon XL page.


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