Used 2015 GMC Yukon XL Review
Edmunds expert review
Smaller, fuel-efficient crossovers will serve most people better, but the 2015 GMC Yukon XL is a top choice when it comes to large, traditional SUVs that can tow heavy loads and haul large families.
What's new for 2015
Car shoppers who are in the market for a traditional full-size SUV have only a handful of choices these days. But among this group, one of the most compelling is the 2015 GMC Yukon XL. It blends traditionally rugged truck construction and V8 towing capacity with amenities and features one might expect from a full-fledged luxury SUV.
Like all of GM's full-size trucks and SUVs, the 2015 GMC Yukon XL has been completely redesigned. A bolder face and more aggressively sculpted sides and fenders give it a more modern, even aerodynamic look. Under the hood you'll find a new 5.3-liter V8, which features direct injection and cylinder deactivation for better power and efficiency. The top-of-the-range Yukon XL Denali gets a 6.2-liter V8 for even more power. This bigger V8 might also be a reason to choose this GMC instead of its close sibling, the Chevrolet Suburban, as the Chevy only has the smaller V8.
The Yukon XL's cabin sees the greatest improvement this year, especially in pricier and more luxurious trim levels. Upgraded upholstery quality, improved dash and door panels, an 8-inch touchscreen display and GMC's IntelliLink smartphone integration make the new Yukon XL even classier than before. It also finally gets third-row seats that fold into the floor, a feature that competitors have offered for years. With the seats folded, the XL loses 16 cubic feet of cargo space compared to last year's model, and the load floor is now even taller. But such added versatility is nevertheless a welcome improvement.
Based on its size and capacity, the Yukon XL is one of the most capable vehicles on sale today, with just a few direct competitors. Even other full-size SUVs like the refined 2015 Toyota Sequoia and luxurious 2015 Infiniti QX80 can't match the Yukon's capabilities. The 2015 Ford Expedition EL and 2015 Lincoln Navigator L are the Yukon's closest competitors, as both are extended-wheelbase models that provide extra space for third-row occupants and their stuff.
It's still true that many full-size SUV shoppers could be happier with smaller (but still large) crossover SUVs such as GMC's own eight-passenger Acadia, which are typically easier to drive, more space- and fuel-efficient and cheaper to buy. Overall, though, the 2015 GMC Yukon XL will be great for shoppers who need the sort of serious people-carrying, cargo-hauling and trailer-towing capabilities that only a serious SUV like it can handle.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 GMC Yukon XL is a full-size SUV available in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. Seating for eight is standard, but there are two optional seating arrangements. Second-row captain's chairs drop the count to seven, and a 40/20/40 front bench seat available only on the base SLE increases it to nine.
The Yukon XL SLE comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, running boards, heated power-adjustable manual-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar), a 60/40 split-fold second-row bench seat and a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat. Also standard are remote engine start, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch color display with the GMC IntelliLink interface (includes voice control, smartphone app integration, text-to-voice capability for MAP-enabled smartphones and Siri Eyes Free capability for newer iPhones), a rearview camera, OnStar and a Bose nine-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, Pandora Internet radio control, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, five USB ports and an SD card slot.
For the SLE, an optional Driver Alert package includes forward collision alert, lane-departure warning and a vibrating safety alert seat. The Convenience package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals and a power rear liftgate.
The SLT model includes the Driver Alert and Convenience packages as standard and adds a locking rear differential, heated power-folding outside mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, a power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), driver memory settings, leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, power-folding second- and third-row seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
All Yukon XLs are pre-wired for towing and feature a 2-inch receiver, but an HD Trailering package is available for SLE and SLT trims and includes specific gearing, a trailer-brake controller and air suspension with automatic leveling and increased load capacity. Second-row power-folding captain's chairs are optional for the SLT. The Sun, Entertainment and Destinations option package adds a sunroof, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with a USB port, SD card slot and a Blu-ray player.
To the SLT's standard equipment, the Yukon Denali adds the more powerful engine, 20-inch wheels, adaptive magnetic suspension, xenon headlights, an 8-inch customizable display in the gauge cluster and an upgraded 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system. For the Denali, the Touring package adds the sunroof, head-up display, the navigation system and the rear-seat entertainment system. Adaptive cruise control with frontal crash mitigation is also optional for the SLT and Denali.
Of course, no full-size SUV would be complete without a variety of available 20- and 22-inch wheels. In addition, GMC plans to offer an enhanced OnStar package with a 4G LTE connection that provides a Wi-Fi hotspot (late availability).
Performance & mpg
There are two available engines for the 2015 GMC Yukon XL. SLE and SLT models come with a 5.3-liter V8 engine that generates 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. The Denali comes with a 6.2-liter V8 engine that generates 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Both use a six-speed automatic transmission to transmit power through the rear wheels on 2WD models or all four wheels on 4WD models. The 4WD Yukon XL is offered with a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing. A locking rear differential is standard on all trim levels.
During Edmunds testing, a four-wheel drive GMC Yukon Denali XL with the 6.2-liter V8 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. That performance is about average for the class.
Properly equipped, the maximum tow rating for the 2WD Yukon XL is 8,300 pounds, and 8,000 pounds for the 4WD models. The more powerful Denali actually tows 200 fewer pounds, respectively.
With the standard 5.3-liter V8 engine, the EPA's estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg combined regardless of driveline (16 city/23 highway for 2WD models and 15/22 for 4WD). The Yukon XL Denali with the larger 6.2-liter V8 and 2WD gets 17 mpg combined (15/21), while 4WD versions get 16 mpg combined (14/20). On Edmunds 120-mile, mixed-driving, evaluation loop a 4WD Yukon XL Denali with the 6.2-liter engine was able to achieve 15.9 mpg.
Standard safety equipment on the 2015 GMC Yukon XL includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control (with trailer sway control), front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. An airbag located between the front bucket seats (when so equipped) is standard and aids in side-impact crashes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard on every Yukon XL.
Depending on trim level, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, a vibrating safety alert seat, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and frontal crash mitigation with automatic braking are either optional or standard.
In government crash tests, the 2015 GMC Yukon XL received four out of five possible stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection.
During Edmunds testing, a four-wheel drive Yukon Denali XL came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet. That distance is longer than average, even considering the XL's added weight.
As always, one major benefit of choosing GMC's traditional full-size SUV is standard V8 power. The 2015 GMC Yukon XL's 5.3-liter V8 engine is beefy enough to pull around a full complement of passengers and gear, though the Denali's bigger V8 could be tempting if you are frequently pulling heavy trailers or boats. The 6.2-liter V8 has more pulling and passing power, but both engines are smooth and refined. On the whole, the cabin is as hushed as a luxury car's, especially on the highway.
We're less fond of the 2015 Yukon XL's lazy responses to gas pedal inputs, a result of efforts to calibrate the engine and transmission for maximum fuel economy. There's a noticeable delay when pressing on the gas pedal, whether you're trying to execute a pass at highway speeds or accelerate from a stop. The brake pedal doesn't inspire a ton of confidence either and if you're towing or carrying a full load of passengers, you'll need to leave some extra following distance.
Especially with the Denali's standard adaptive suspension, the 2015 Yukon feels relatively secure when going through turns, and it soaks up bumps with ease. We cannot recommend any of the fashionable 22-inch wheels, however, as their mass combined with their tires' lack of cushioning sidewalls adversely affects ride comfort. For such a large vehicle, the Yukon XL is relatively easy to maneuver at freeway speeds, but it doesn't react quickly to any inputs. Also keep in mind that this is still a large and heavy truck-based vehicle, and large crossover SUVs will generally be easier to maneuver and park as well as being more composed when driven over rough pavement.
The overall quality and design of the 2015 GMC Yukon XL's interior is noticeably improved from previous generations. Materials are of a high quality, and the gauge cluster's crisp graphics are a snap to read day or night. The large, central infotainment display is intuitive to navigate and its graphics/pictograms are simple and easily interpreted. Unfortunately, IntelliLink can sometimes be slow to respond to your touch inputs.
Most shoppers will find the front seats comfortable and reasonably supportive. The lack of a telescoping steering wheel in the SLE model will make it harder for some people to find an ideal driving position, however. Second-row space is excellent, while the third row offers much better legroom than the one in the regular Yukon. Keep in mind that if you're looking to the Yukon XL for its nine-passenger capacity, it's only available on the base trim level.
Given the very cumbersome nature of the previous-generation Yukon XL's third-row seat removal procedure (not to mention their vulnerability to smash-and-grab thieves), we're happy to see GMC has finally integrated the third row firmly into the truck's floor. The fact that both the rear rows are power-operated is an added benefit. The downside to these stow-away seats is a very high cargo floor loading height (36 inches), which makes it harder for shorter owners to load strollers or bigger shopping hauls.
Even with the reduction in maximum cargo space for 2015, the amount of room in the back of a Yukon XL remains truly impressive. With all seats occupied, you'll have 38.9 cubic feet for luggage, which is substantial for any three-row vehicle. Fold the third-row seats down and there are 76.7 cubic feet; fold both rear rows and it increases to 121.1 cubes. These figures are several cubic feet more than what you get in GMC's Acadia crossover and on par with big SUVs like the Toyota Sequoia. The Navigator L offers more.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.