XL-happiness: GMC Yukon XL Denali is large and in charge

  • Jimmy Dinsmore
12:00 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 Cars
The 2017 GMC Yukon Denali models are available in 2WD and 4WD configurations. The XL Denali has a wheelbase that is 14 inches longer (20 inches overall) than the Yukon Denali, with more than twice the cargo room behind the third-row seat. GMC photo

Aside from the general, which-vehicle-do-you-recommend type of questions, the other question I get asked regularly is, “What do you personally drive?” For transparency sake, I have a 2016 Honda Fit that’s my daily driver and will become my daughter’s vehicle when she gets her license, but just recently, we got a new vehicle for my wife – and it’s one she always dreamed of owning.

For her daily driver, she now has a 2013 GMC Yukon. She’s always wanted a Yukon. Mrs. Driversside is as savvy as anyone about today’s vehicles, so she was thrilled when we swapped our used Honda Pilot for a used Yukon. We needed more towing capacity to pull our camper, so this was the main reason for the switch. What’s the purpose for all this story telling? This week’s tester is the 2017 GMC Yukon and as the saying goes, happy wife, happy life. It was a happy week for the Driversside household.

For 2017, there’s just a few changes to the Yukon. But mostly, the Yukon remains a strong, capable, full-size SUV. In this era of puny, downsized crossovers, the stout Yukon, with its truck-like frame, can do all the heavy lifting of a GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado, but offer a bigger interior for family hauling, too. Alas, it also drives like a truck, so maneuverability does take a hit.

For this reason, the Yukon isn’t the right vehicle for everyone. While ours serves as my wife’s her daily driver, she’s aware of its fuel economy and how some parking spots will be off limits. Just as with my week in the Yukon, I appreciated the SUV for what it was and looked past what it wasn’t.

My tester was the swanked-out Denali, which made the wife envious, since we couldn’t afford that trim. With it, you get a 6.2-liter V8 engine that makes 420 horses and 460 lbs.-ft. of torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission is outstanding. While rear-wheel drive is an option, no way I’d ever consider a Yukon without four-wheel drive. My tester had a towing capacity of 7,900 pounds (you lose 200 pounds of towing with 4WD).

Inside, the Yukon Denali is luxurious. There are heated and ventilated seats in the front. The second-row seats boast impressive leg room and headroom. It’s downright cavernous back there. In the XL Yukon, the third row even has ample legroom for adults, but of course it’s much longer which affects the maneuverability. The fold-flat feature of the second and third rows makes for an impressive 121 cubic feet of cargo room. With all seats upright, there are 39.3 cubic feet behind the third row in the XL trim.

For the 2017 model year, a new head-up display keeps eyes focused ahead and off the center stack. The 8-inch touchscreen has Android and iPhone capability, and there’s a 4G LTE WIFI hotspot for up to six devices to be connected. Other safety features new for this model year include forward collision warning with adaptive braking and adaptive cruise control.

The Yukon XL has new, beautiful, 22-inch aluminum wheels and redesigned aero shutters in front to help improve aerodynamics. The result is a slight increase in fuel economy. The 4WD Yukon XL has an EPA rating of 14 mpg/city and 20 mpg/highway. There is a slight improvement in fuel economy for the 2WD version. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged nearly 18 MPG, and the wife noted that’s better than what she usually gets with her Yukon.

A big SUV like this with the Denali trim comes with a big price tag. The 2017 Yukon XL Denali has an MSRP of $71,665. With extra options like a rear-seat entertainment system, running boards, adaptive cruise control and a theft deterrent system, my tester had a final MSRP of $80,900.

The GMC Yukon may not be the right vehicle for everyone, but if you have a big family, and big recreational vehicles, you can’t go wrong than this XL-sized SUV.

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