What's New for 2008
Side curtain airbags are standard on all Yukon XLs. A six-speed automatic transmission and stability control are now standard on 3/4-ton (2500) models. Turn-by-turn navigation is added to OnStar on the SLT and Denali trim levels.
The real Yukon is a pretty XL place. It's bigger than California, has a much larger population of moose than people and was founded by huge, burly men who survived the long trek north seeking furs and Klondike gold. The 2008 GMC Yukon XL is only slightly smaller than Rhode Island, can sustain a population of up to nine passengers (but probably no moose) and is typically driven on long treks collecting children from school and seeking furniture from Ikea. Plus, its high-end Denali trim level is named after a mountain in Alaska, which is right next to the Yukon Territory. So basically, the similarities are endless.
After a complete redesign last year, the Yukon XL receives very minor changes for 2008, with the addition of standard side curtain airbags being the most significant. Otherwise, the same attractive, thoroughly competent full-size SUV remains, providing a comfortable highway cruiser for families who need XL amounts of passenger, cargo and towing capacity.
The XL Denali is a luxuriously appointed trim level that, in terms of equipment, slots between the Yukon XL SLT trim level and the Cadillac Escalade ESV. From its chrome grille that resembles the head of a Braun electric razor to its available 20-inch wheels, the Denali also slots in between those two models when it comes to grabbing the attention of fellow motorists. For those who need the utility of a three-row SUV but want more power and luxury without the Escalade's more ostentatious style, the XL Denali is a good choice.
Few vehicles can match the Yukon XL's nine-passenger maximum capacity and 46 cubic feet of cargo space with all rows of seats in their upright and locked position (except for maybe its Chevy Suburban twin). Furthermore, with up to 9,700 pounds of towing capacity, this big GMC is ready for just about anything you can attach to its hitch. The 2008 GMC Yukon XL is a solid pick for those who need this type of vehicle size and utility, but it may be worth checking out other full-size SUVs like the Ford Expedition EL, which features more adept on-road manners and a fold-flat third-row seat.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 GMC Yukon XL full-size SUV is available in 1500 (half-ton) and 2500 (3/4-ton) models, and available in a base SLE trim level that can be upgraded with an SLT package. The top-shelf Denali is only available in 1500 form. Most folks should be happy with the well-stocked SLE. It comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, running boards, a cloth interior, power accessories, keyless entry, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat (with six-way power driver seat), dual-zone manual climate control, rear seat air-conditioning, a trip computer and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player and satellite radio. The SLT package adds leather seating, tri-zone automatic climate control, a six-CD changer, power adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starting and rear parking assist. The Denali adds a unique grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front and second-row seats and a premium Bose sound system with a six-CD changer.
Options for the standard Yukon include 20-inch wheels, heated seats, a sunroof, a power liftgate and rear park assist (SLE). Options for all trims include a navigation system, power-folding second-row seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a rearview camera and a power liftgate. Options for the Denali include a heated steering wheel and 20-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
GMC offers four V8s on the Yukon XL. Standard on the Yukon XL 1500 (half-ton) is a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with GM's cylinder-deactivation technology, this V8 provides better than normal fuel efficiency with a 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway rating for 2008. A 6.0-liter V8 that pumps out 366 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque is optional with the Yukon XL 1500 SLT package. Both 1500 engines are matched to a four-speed automatic. For the 2500 model, the standard engine is a 6.0-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic that packs 352 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The Yukon XL Denali features a 6.2-liter V8 (380 hp and 415 lb-ft) paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. Two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive versions of the Yukon XL are available, except on the Denali, which is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that doesn't have low-range gearing. Towing capacities for the regular Yukon XL range from 7,100 pounds on the 1500 2WD to 9,700 pounds for the 2500 2WD.
Stability control (dubbed StabiliTrak) with a rollover sensor is standard, as are antilock disc brakes, side curtain airbags and the OnStar telematics system. In government crash tests, the 2008 GMC Yukon XL was awarded five stars for protecting the driver and passenger in a frontal collision.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of GM's full-size SUVs and trucks, the Yukon XL's interior is a marked improvement over past versions. Materials are good, fit and finish is well executed and controls are logically placed. Depending on how you equip the XL, it can seat anywhere from five to nine people -- a total surpassed only by full-size vans. Cargo capacity is also immense, with a maximum of 137.4 cubic feet -- a full 40 cubes larger than a Nissan Armada and a few more than the Ford Expedition EL. Although the Yukon XL's second row is available with a power-folding feature, the optional third-row seats (which can seat either two or three people) must be removed manually to optimize cargo space. Based on our experience, those dense seats feel like they're constructed of depleted uranium, and removing them requires not only a strong back but the ability to wrestle them from deep inside the interior.
For such a big truck, the 2008 GMC Yukon XL is fairly quick, particularly in Denali guise. However, the 5.3 V8 version doesn't feel nearly so quick when carrying a load of passengers, and dipping into the power will quickly pull mileage down to the low teens. Its handling is more composed and its ride is smoother than past Yukons, but with its hefty curb weight, the Yukon XL doesn't feel particularly nimble around corners. We found the related Chevy Tahoe to be bested by the Ford Expedition in this regard, and it's a safe bet the Yukon XL would be equally outdone by the Expedition EL. However, when aimed for the horizon on an interstate, there aren't many better cruisers than the 2008 Yukon XL. The cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride is comfortably controlled over bumps.