Full 2014 GMC Yukon XL Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the GMC Yukon XL sees the heavy-duty 2500 series dropped from the lineup, leaving just the 1500 series. Also, the SLE trim gets a number of newly standard features that include a remote ignition, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and power-adjustable pedals.
With their superior fuel economy, greater comfort and superior maneuverability, crossover SUVs have largely replaced traditional full-size SUVs like the 2014 GMC Yukon XL. If, however, you truly need a vehicle that can carry up to nine people, provide huge cargo space and tow a big trailer or boat, then the Yukon XL (and its twin, the Chevy Suburban) might still make perfect sense.
With its beefy architecture and powerful engine lineup, the GMC Yukon XL is ready for some serious passenger hauling and towing tasks. This big SUV is also surprisingly refined, providing a smooth ride within its classy, quiet cabin. But there's no avoiding the inherent negatives of driving such a bulky vehicle: dismal fuel mileage and the difficulty of negotiating downtown parking structures and city traffic. And then there are the Yukon XL's 50/50-split third-row seats, which don't fold down and must be removed from the vehicle to maximize cargo capacity.
Beyond its Cadillac Escalade ESV and Chevy Suburban platform mates, the 2014 GMC Yukon XL has few rivals. The 2014 Ford Expedition EL and 2014 Toyota Sequoia both offer folding third-row seats, but have less maximum cargo space and top out at eight passengers rather than nine. Should you be in the majority of SUV shoppers who don't need the Yukon's heavy-duty skill set, though, we strongly suggest that you consider a large crossover like GMC's own 2014 Acadia or Mazda's CX-9, or a minivan such as the Honda Odyssey. These lighter-duty vehicles will also move plenty of people and things and are easier to drive and maneuver, especially in tight parking situations.
Waiting for next year's redesigned 2015 Yukon XL is another option, of course. But if you're currently in the market for a vehicle with eight- or nine-passenger seating and extreme cargo and towing capacities, it really doesn't get much better than the 2014 GMC Yukon XL.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 GMC Yukon XL full-size SUV is available in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. The Yukon XL comes standard with eight-person seating capacity, but an available 40/20/40 front bench (SLE only) increases that to nine.
The base SLE trim comes very well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, recovery hooks, running boards, remote vehicle start, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with a built-in rearview camera), full power accessories, keyless entry, six-way power front bucket seats, power-adjustable pedals, dual-zone manual climate control, rear seat air-conditioning, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SLT adds heated front bucket seats, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control and a premium Bose sound system with nine speakers.
The top-shelf Denali gains unique styling touches that include lower body cladding and a unique grille, 20-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension with load leveling, a blind-spot monitoring system, a power liftgate, 12-way power front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats with a power-folding feature, a 7-inch touchscreen display, 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
Two V8 engines see duty in the GMC Yukon XL. SLE and SLT trims come with a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The Yukon XL Denali features a 6.2-liter V8 engine that's rated at 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.
On the regular Yukon XL, you have your choice of rear-wheel drive (2WD) or one of two four-wheel-drive systems. The standard 4WD system is a light-duty single-speed unit without low-speed gearing; it will serve you fine if you just need a little extra traction on slick winter roads. If you need more capability, there's also a traditional 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case. The Denali version, meanwhile, comes with either 2WD or a fully automatic all-wheel-drive system that does not offer low-range gearing.
In Edmunds testing, a mechanically identical Chevrolet Suburban with the 5.3-liter V8 and 4WD accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds. That's a respectable time, but the Sequoia is quicker.
Equipped with the 5.3-liter V8, the GMC Yukon XL earns EPA fuel economy ratings range of 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway), regardless of whether you get 2WD or one of the 4WD systems. The Denali version rates 16 combined (14/18) with 2WD and 14 combined (13/18) with AWD. Properly equipped, a Yukon XL can tow up to 8,100 pounds.
Stability control is standard, as are antilock disc brakes, side curtain airbags, front side airbags and an updated version of OnStar. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard across the board, while a blind-spot warning system comes standard on the Denali and is optional on the SLT.
In government crash tests, the 2014 GMC 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 similar Chevy Suburban stopped from 60 mph in 145 feet, a long distance even for a large SUV.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though it may not be as stylish as some of GMC's more recent models, the Yukon's cabin is still handsome and well made. Furthermore, the gauges are easy to read and the controls simple to operate. The overly large column-mounted gearshift seems a little dated, as does the absence of a telescoping steering wheel (although the standard power-adjustable pedals partially compensate). Smartphone users will also notice there's no ability to stream music, as the Tahoe's Bluetooth connection allows only phone calls.
Arguably the strongest selling point for the 2014 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 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 strong V8s, the 2014 GMC Yukon XL feels fairly quick for such a large vehicle. 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 that, combined with the large SUV's relatively quiet interior, makes the GMC a fine road trip machine. As expected, though, this SUV is far from nimble, and handling suffers due to its nearly 3-ton curb weight.