2018 GMC Yukon XL

2018 GMC Yukon XL Review

Expansive cargo space and classic V8 power make the Yukon XL an ideal, mission-specific SUV.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

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.



what's new

The 2018 GMC Yukon XL receives only minor changes. The Denali version comes with a new 10-speed automatic transmission that should slightly improve fuel economy and acceleration. Other changes include a new chrome grille design and a new Denali Ultimate package with 22-inch wheels, a sunroof and a large helping of tech add-ons.

we recommend

Even though the base SLE model can carry nine passengers, it's limited in the features and options it offers. Between the standard and optional features, the midlevel SLT strikes a good balance of comfort, convenience and safety without going all-in on a Denali trim.

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).

trim tested

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.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration3.5 / 5.0
Braking2.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling2.5 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

4.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration5.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.5 / 5.0

Ease of use4.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality4.5 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The 6.2-liter V8 is powerful. There's ample oomph to move the Yukon rapidly. The Denali's adaptive suspension manages the solid-axle suspension well.

acceleration

edmunds rating
The 6.2-liter V8 sounds good and allows the Yukon to hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. There's ample yank for passing at freeway speeds, too. Our test example had the previous six-speed transmission; this year's 10-speed should slightly improve acceleration.

braking

edmunds rating
Stopping from 60 mph required 134 feet, which is average, if not long, for the class. In regular use, the brakes feel just OK with a relatively soft, long-travel pedal. Many competitors will perform better.

steering

edmunds rating
Steering weight is adequate if not a bit light. Steering feel is minimal, but response is decent. Keep the Yukon on open roads and steering is predictable and easy.

handling

edmunds rating
The Denali, with its adaptive suspension, is more controlled when going around turns than a standard Yukon XL or Chevy Suburban. The Yukon's size and weight are there, but it manages pretty well considering those drawbacks.

drivability

edmunds rating
Though its reactions are slow by the standard of smaller SUVs, the Yukon exhibits decent road manners.

comfort

edmunds rating
The Yukon Denali is a luxury SUV, and it treats its occupants accordingly. It is both quiet and comfortable. The solid-axle rear suspension limits ride comfort. Entertainment features are abundant.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
The front seats are both heated and ventilated and offer ample adjustability and good support. The second-row seats are more than adequate for large passengers. Even the third row will accommodate adults. This is a big SUV. Space is its strength.

ride comfort

edmunds rating
Body motions are well-controlled in the Yukon Denali, though there's no denying the presence of big heavy wheels and a solid rear axle. Most drivers will be satisfied.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Admirably quiet inside. Active noise cancellation works effectively in the Yukon to deaden interior noise. Wind and road noise levels are insignificant. This isn't Lexus-quiet, but it's close.

interior

edmunds rating
Materials and build quality are quite high, and there are many comfort and entertainment features. Navigation is standard on Denali. Second- and third-row entertainment displays are available.

ease of use

edmunds rating
A power tilt-and-telescoping steering column is standard, as are power-adjustable pedals. The audio and climate control buttons and knobs are generously sized.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
It's tall, but the big door openings, running boards and grab handles ultimately make the Yukon a pretty easy vehicle to get in and out of. The power fold-and-tumble second row makes for excellent access to the third row.

roominess

edmunds rating
Abundant front and rear leg- and headroom. Depending on seat position, the driver's elbow may make contact with the large center armrest when steering. Otherwise, both second and third rows are on par or ahead of the competition.

visibility

edmunds rating
Good view out of the front and sides. The windshield pillars are thin. A rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert come standard on the Denali trim.

quality

edmunds rating
Except for Cadillac, any GMC in Denali trim is the best-built vehicle to come from GM in recent memory. Perforated stitched leather seats are a nice touch. We witnessed no quality problems.

utility

This is where the Yukon XL truly shines. With massive cargo space, available nine-passenger seating and a maximum 8,300-pound towing limit, the Yukon XL is nothing if not a master of utility.

technology

A standard 8-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a solid Bose audio system make the Yukon XL as connected as possible. Optional rear seat entertainment and a full suite of driver assistance features help the Yukon XL keep pace with its tech-minded rivals.

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.