Full 2009 GMC Yukon XL Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the GMC Yukon XL sees the six-speed automatic transmission fitted across the line, the debut of Bluetooth connectivity and XM Real Time Traffic, a more powerful engine for the Denali and a gaggle of new wheel options.
Driving a full-size, full-fledged, heavy-duty SUV in today's socioeconomic climate is about as politically correct as blasting around Amish country on a loud Harley with a scantily clad Krista Allen riding on the back. High fuel prices and the constant thirst of supersized sport-utes mean that folks considering the 2009 GMC Yukon XL will probably actually need its serious passenger-, cargo- and trailer-hauling capabilities. Those who used to use 3-ton SUVs for little more than shuttling their two darlings to day care and Sparky the poodle to the groomer no longer need apply.
For its part, GMC is at least helping to blunt the pain at the gas pump. The 2009 version of the Yukon XL sports a few major and a couple of minor upgrades. The former include the fitment of the six-speed automatic transmission across all trim levels (not just the top-of-the-line Denali, as before) and a more powerful 6.2-liter V8 for the Denali. Compared to the previous four-speed unit, the six-speed automatic provides both better performance and increased fuel efficiency. Other improvements include the debut of Bluetooth connectivity and the availability of real-time traffic reporting for the navigation system.
Few vehicles (apart from its Chevy Suburban twin) 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 positions. Furthermore, with up to 9,600 pounds of towing capacity, this big GMC is ready for just about anything you can attach to its hitch. The Ford Expedition boasts dimensions similar to the Suburban's, but while the Ford offers slightly more torque, it seats only eight and is shy on horsepower compared to its competitor. There's also the Toyota Sequoia, which has plenty of brawn but not as much room as the Suburban. Overall, the 2009 GMC Yukon XL is a solid pick for those who need this type of vehicle's capabilities.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 GMC Yukon XL full-size SUV is available in 1500 (half-ton) and 2500 (3/4-ton) models, which are available in essentially three basic trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali (1500 only).
The base SLE trim is actually comprised of sub-trims SLE1 and SLE2. The SLE1 comes well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, running boards, full power accessories, keyless entry, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat (with six-way power adjustments for the driver), dual-zone manual climate control, rear-seat air-conditioning, a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player and satellite radio. The SLE2 features captain's chairs for the first two rows, a power passenger seat and rear-seat audio controls (with headphone jacks).
The SLT trim is actually comprised of sub-trims SLT1 and SLT2. The SLT1 adds leather seating, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio with a six-CD changer, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle start and rear park assist. The SLT2 adds power lumbar adjustment for the front seats, heated first- and second-row seats and memory presets for the driver. The top-shelf Denali gains a unique grille, 20-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- and 22-inch wheels, heated seats, a sunroof and rear park assist (SLE only). Available for all trims are 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 blind-spot alert system, heated and cooled seats, a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheel styles and a heated steering wheel.
Powertrains and Performance
Four V8s see duty on the Yukon XL. Most versions come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 310 hp and 335 pound-feet of torque. Optional for the 1500 SLT is a 6.0-liter V8 that pumps out 366 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. All 1500 engines are paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
Yukon 2500 models also come standard with a 6.0-liter V8, but it's a slightly different variant; it's rated at 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque. It's matched to a six-speed automatic as well, though this one's geared for enhanced towing capability. The Yukon XL Denali features a 6.2-liter V8 that's rated at 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. Two- 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.
Fuel-mileage ratings range from 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for the Yukon with the 5.3 V8/2WD powertrain down to 12/19/14 for the Denali. Towing capacities for a properly equipped Yukon XL range from 8,100 pounds (2WD 1500) up to 9,600 pounds (2WD 2500).
Stability control with a rollover sensor is standard, as are antilock disc brakes, side curtain airbags and OnStar. A blind-spot alert system is optional on the Denali.
In government crash tests, the 2009 GMC Yukon XL was awarded five stars (the highest rating) for protecting the driver and passenger in a frontal collision. In side-impact tests, the Yukon XL again received five stars.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of GM's full-size SUVs and trucks, the current Yukon XL's interior is a marked improvement over the previous generation. Materials quality is good, fit and finish are excellent and the various controls, even those for the available luxury features, are logically placed.
Depending on how you equip the Yukon 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 nearly 138 cubic feet -- a full 40 cubes more 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 seat three people) must be removed manually to optimize cargo space. Based on our experience, those heavy seats feel like they're constructed of cast iron, 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 2009 GMC Yukon XL is fairly quick, particularly in Denali guise. However, dipping into the power often will quickly pull mileage down to the low double digits. 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 it's on an interstate and aimed for the horizon, there aren't many better cruisers than the 2009 Yukon XL. The cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride is comfortably controlled over bumps.