The 2018 GMC Yukon XL's nine-passenger capacity and strong towing power make it ideal for big families and recreational activities. But the Yukon's imposing mass and traditional SUV design take a toll on maneuverability, fuel economy and ride comfort.
You expect as much in an SUV of this size. The utility is undeniable. Even with the third-row seats deployed, it has 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space available. Fold down the second and third rows, and you've got a whopping 121 cubic feet of maximum cargo space at your disposal. If towing is your thing, the Yukon XL can lug up to 8,300 pounds.
All of this makes the Yukon XL a fairly mission-specific vehicle. Sure, for a big SUV, we've found it easy to drive — as long as you're going straight. But navigating tight parking lots and city streets requires caution, calculation and some amount of faith in the space around the vehicle.
There's also no escaping the Yukon XL's roots. The truck-based suspension can't deliver the carlike ride comfort of a crossover. Nor is the Yukon a picture of efficiency with an EPA-rated 18 mpg combined for a base four-wheel-drive version. Finally, the price premium attached to GMC vehicles is a little hard to justify given that the related Suburban has nearly all of the same features at a lower price.
That said, the Yukon XL's size, power and style will undoubtedly hit the mark for a very specific buyer.
trim levels & features
The 2018 GMC Yukon XL is a full-size SUV offered in SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels. The smaller Yukon is covered in a separate review.
The SLE base trim starts with a 5.3-liter V8 engine (355 horsepower, 383 pound-feet of torque) paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; four-wheel drive is optional.
Standard SLE features include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, side steps, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and a trailer hitch receiver with a wiring harness. Standard interior features include tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, and 60/40-split folding second- and third-row seats.
Also included is a 110-volt power outlet, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, OnStar communications (with a 4G LTE connection and Wi-Fi hotspot), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with CD player, satellite and HD radio and a USB input. GM's Teen Driver monitoring system, which limits certain vehicle settings for young drivers, also comes standard.
The optional Enhanced Driver Alert package adds forward collision alert with automatic low-speed emergency braking, a vibrating safety-alert driver seat, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning and intervention. The Convenience package adds a power-operated liftgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals and a universal garage door opener.
The SLE also offers an optional front bench seat that increases capacity to nine passengers.
The SLT trim includes all of the features listed above and adds a hands-free liftgate, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, power-folding second- and third-row seats, and driver-seat memory functions.
The top-of-the-line Denali trim adds a more powerful 6.2-liter V8 engine (420 hp, 460 lb-ft of torque), a 10-speed automatic transmission, 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, adaptive suspension dampers, a trailer brake controller, a head-up instrument display, active noise cancellation, second-row bucket seats, a navigation system, a wireless smartphone charging pad and a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system.
The new-for-2018 Denali Ultimate package bundles 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, power side steps, adaptive cruise control, a rear seat entertainment system with DVD player, and an extended satellite radio and traffic information subscription, among other items.
Many of the Denali's features are offered as options on SLT trims, while options for SLE and SLT trims include 22-inch wheels and a heavy-duty trailering package (unique axle ratio, trailer brake controller and a self-leveling suspension).
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali (6.2L V8 | 6-speed automatic | 4WD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Yukon XL has received some revisions, including a new 10-speed automatic transmission for 2018 Denali trims. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Yukon XL.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
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.