If your family is about to get bigger, it’s time to start shopping for that new family hauler. One of the best options out there is the 2019 GMC Yukon XL Denali. There’s a good reason that most livery companies employ the Yukon XL to deliver people and their cargo, and the Denali trim level ups the ante with more premium features, screens and a brawny powertrain.
The Denali package comes fairly loaded, including a bigger powertrain and magnetic ride suspension, however there are still a few options to stack on top of the $82,875 MSRP. This particular Yukon XL had a block heater ($150) and the 22” six-spoke chrome wheels that are typically found on the Escalade. The Denali Ultimate Package ($9,895) includes powered side steps, adaptive cruise control, an enhanced security system, power sunroof, as well as an overhead tv screen for each row and some wireless headphones for those passengers to give some peace and quiet to whoever is piloting the $92,090 (as tested) truck.
The interior design of the Yukon is muted and somewhat utilitarian, which is the typical GMC design language; clean and practical. The interior is riddled with cupholders, cubby holes and storage pockets to ensure that no matter how big of a mess your family makes on that long road trip, you’ll be finding empty candy wrappers for years. For example, hidden behind the 8” infotainment screen in the dashboard is a pretty sizeable storage compartment that could hold something as large as a mirrorless camera, and the centre console storage compartment is big enough to hold a laptop or handbag.
Lower trim levels of the Yukon XL can be had with either a three-seat bench or captain’s chairs for the second row, however only the latter is available on the Denali. The second row (heated) captain’s chairs are comfortable, however they do not slide as one might expect in a vehicle of this caliber. The third row seats on the other hand, are not as adult-friendly. The backrest angle is near vertical, and to save space, the seats are made of a very thin and firm foam. Raising and folding them is an effortless affair, as you can do both at the push of a button, and the second row can be power folded as well.
With all seats raised, cargo volume is still greater than most other vehicles on the market at 1,113L. Drop the third and second rows and that volume increases to 2,172L and 3,447L respectively. With all seats flat, 4×8’ sheet materials can be loaded inside with the trunk closed, a feat that can’t be claimed by any other vehicle on the market save for a minivan. Unsurprisingly, towing capacity for the Yukon XL exceeds that of any minivan or mid-sized SUV, topping out at 7,900lbs (3,583kg).
Tipping the scales at 5,846lbs (2,652kg), it takes a lot of muscle to push this much metal around, and thankfully the absolute best feature of the Yukon Denali is the powertrain. The 6.2L Ecotec V8 is a beast of an engine with smooth power delivery, rated for 420 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 460 lb-ft. of torque at 4,100RPM. Tapping the throttle brings on that strong instant response that only a big brawny American V8 can provide.
Along for the ride with the 6.2L V8 is the fantastic GM-Ford joint venture 10-speed automatic transmission that is always a pleasure to find sharing bolts with a V8. Shifting is smooth and quick, keeping the engine in just the right spot for any driving conditions and keeping a good amount of torque on tap to move the 224-inch long slab of steel around. Denali trim levels come with a two-speed transfer case for the 4×4 system, controlled by a knob on the dash that includes an “Auto” mode to kick on 4×4 when wheel slip is detected.
Accompanying the 10-speed transmission is Active Fuel Management, direct injection and variable valve timing. All of these help in keeping fuel economy numbers within a reasonable range for such a large vehicle. The Yukon is rated at 17.1L/100km in the city, 11.3L/100km on the highway, for a combined rating of 14.5L/100km. This produces a highway range of just over 1000kms on the 117L fuel tank, and we observed 10.4L/100km over one longer highway haul.
When it comes to full-size SUVs there are very few options to choose from. From the home camp there is the Yukon XL’s lower end sibling, the Chevrolet Suburban and the higher end Cadillac Escalade ESV (reviewed here). From the other side of the domestic battle are the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator L (reviewed here). Both Ford products are ground-up overhauls released for 2018, and have been giving the GM models a run for their money after enjoying years of market dominance.
For those who do not need the large towing capacity and ground clearance, top trim levels of minivans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna (reviewed here) should be considered as well. These minivans have more room inside for passenger comfort and can haul nearly just as much stuff with all seats folded.
2019 is expected to be the final production year of the current generation of the Yukon, which debuted in 2015. A new model is due sometime next year, riding on the same platform as the all new 2019 Sierra (reviewed here). Despite being near the end of its run, driving the 2019 GMC Yukon XL Denali is a treat. The Yukon’s powertrain is wonderful, and somewhat refreshing in the current automotive space full of smaller forced-induction four and six cylinder engines. Being such a large vehicle, piloting and parking the Yukon XL around the city can be a daunting experience at first, but it takes up less road than a pickup truck, and the optional Enhanced Driver Assist package makes it even easier. Take one out for a test drive and we’re sure you’ll enjoy viewing the world from above.