Full 2012 GMC Yukon XL Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the GMC Yukon XL receives updated versions of the optional navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems.
Recently, the long-standing American philosophy of "bigger is better" has thankfully diminished in popularity. Some people have realized that they really don't need a super-sized order of French fries, a massive McMansion or an SUV big and powerful enough to carry the starting lineup of the Red Sox. But for those who actually do need an extremely capable full-size SUV, there is the 2012 GMC Yukon XL.
If you truly require a vehicle that provides seating for nine adults, an abundance of cargo space and the ability to tow a huge trailer or boat, then the 3-ton Yukon XL makes perfect sense. Given its size and available powerhouse engines, the Yukon XL's ability to handle these tasks should come as no surprise. More remarkable perhaps is the big ute's all-around refinement, which is reflected in its smooth ride and handsome, quiet cabin.
Of course, there are downsides to driving something as enormous as the Yukon XL, not the least of which are maneuvering in tight quarters and its abysmal fuel economy. We also have to ding the Yukon XL for its 50/50-split third-row seat, which has to be removed and stashed somewhere (rather than simply folded down) to make the most of the available cargo capacity back there.
Other than its Chevy Suburban and Cadillac Escalade ESV cousins, the Yukon XL has few peers. The Ford Expedition EL offers the distinct advantage of a fold-flat third row, but seats only eight passengers and is a little down on power compared to the GMC's trio of engine options. The Toyota Sequoia has power to spare, but also seats only eight passengers and offers significantly less cargo room.
Should you be in the majority of SUV shoppers who don't need the Yukon's simultaneous combination of heavy-duty skills, we would strongly recommend looking at a large crossover like GMC's own Acadia. But if you do require maximum seating, cargo and towing capacity at the same time, it doesn't get much better than the GMC Yukon XL.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 GMC Yukon XL full-size SUV is available in 1500 and heavy-duty 2500 models, which are available in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali (1500 only). The Yukon XL comes standard with an eight-person seating capacity, but an available 40/20/40 front bench increases that to nine.
The base SLE trim comes well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, recovery hooks, 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 sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. The SLT adds power front bucket seats, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, a premium Bose sound system with nine speakers, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with a built-in rearview camera) and rear park assist.
The top-shelf Denali gains unique styling touches that include lower-body cladding and a unique grille, 20-inch alloy wheels, a blind-spot monitoring system, a power liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats with a power-folding feature, a larger display for the rearview camera, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with digital music storage.
Some of the upper trims' standard features are available as options on the lower trims. Other options (depending on trim) include 20- and 22-inch wheels, power-retractable running boards, a sunroof, second-row captain's chairs and a twin-screen rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
Three V8s see duty in the Yukon XL. Most versions come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. All 1500 engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds testing of the mechanically identical Chevrolet Suburban, this engine powered it from zero to 60 in 9 seconds, a respectable time.
Yukon 2500 models come standard with a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque. This larger V8 is also mated to a six-speed automatic, though this one's geared for enhanced towing capability.
The Yukon XL Denali features a more powerful 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 XL with the 5.3-liter V8/2WD powertrain down to 12/19/14 for the Denali. Properly equipped, a Yukon XL 2500 can tow up to 9,600 pounds.
Stability control is standard, as are antilock disc brakes, side curtain airbags, front side airbags and an updated version of OnStar. A blind-spot alert system is standard on the Denali and optional on the SLT.
In government crash tests, the Yukon XL received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for both overall frontal and side protection. The lower overall total score is due to the Yukon's rollover rating. In Edmunds brake testing, the related Suburban SUV stopped from 60 mph in 145 feet, a long distance for an SUV.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though it may not be as stylish as some of GMC's more recent models, the Yukon's passenger cabin is still handsome and well made. Furthermore, controls and gauges are both easy to see and simple to operate.
Arguably the strongest selling point for the 2012 GMC Yukon XL is an interior that offers seating for up to nine passengers, a number bested only by full-size vans. Seating arrangements include a choice of a 40/20/40-split bench or buckets up front, with a 60/40-split bench or a pair of captain's chairs in the second row. The three-person third-row seat is standard.
The Yukon XL's cavernous cabin also offers plenty of cargo room, with nearly 49 cubic feet of room behind the third row and a whopping 137.4 cubic feet with the third-row seats removed and the second-row seats folded. Unfortunately, you'll need to yank out and store both halves of that third-row seat in order to make use of all that space, a process that requires no small amount of muscle.
With its big V8, the 2012 GMC Yukon XL models feel fairly quick for such big vehicles. That's especially true for the top-of-the-line Denali with the 403-hp 6.2-liter engine under its hood. The trade-off, of course, is poor fuel economy that just barely breaks into the double digits. On the move, the Yukon XL's suspension provides a comfortable ride quality that, combined with the relatively quiet interior, makes the Yukon XL a fine road trip machine. As expected, though, this SUV is far from nimble, and handling suffers due to its massive curb weight.