Review: The 2019 GMC Yukon XL is a $74,000 monster truck
If you want a large SUV, there are a lot of options. Toyota makes the Highlander, Volkswagen makes the Atlas, Ford makes the Explorer and GMC makes the Acadia. If you want an extra large SUV, you can get a Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, GMC Yukon or many more gargantuan cruisers. But in the world of mega SUVs so big that it's comical, your only options come from General Motors and Ford.
Despite not facing a ton of competition, the Yukon XL still feels in need of an update. It's cavernous inside, comfortable on the road and capable, but we think it's a tough sell at $74,630 as tested.
The GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe twins are well known. The Suburban and Yukon XL are those same trucks, stretched. That means you get the same truck-like, body-on-frame construction, burly V-8 powertrain and three rows of seats. The big difference is that the XL model has a lot of space behind that third row of seats.
The result is an insane ability to swallow cargo. The Yukon XL is one of only a handful of SUVs that can truly handle seven passengers and all the luggage they'd need for a vacation. Minivans can pull off the same feat, but they can't tow 8,300 pounds like a Yukon XL can.
Everything in the Yukon XL is mega-sized. The cabin is so massive that it's not hard to understand why NFL players are often caught in Yukons, Tahoes, and Escalades. Still, even our 5' 6" reviewer never felt swallowed or overwhelmed. This truck is fit for all sizes.
It's also comfortable. Our tester came with the optional magnetic suspension, which adjusts constantly to provide the maximum amount of body control without giving up comfort. There's still some business in the ride, mainly from a jiggly rear end, but the Yukon XL is perfectly pleasant if a tad bouncy.
It's also user-friendly. GM's current infotainment system is a breeze to use, though the new system in the Sierra AT4 had useful improvements like the ability to show navigation, music and phone information at the same time.
Finally, the Yukon looks good. There's something to be said for the brawny bombast of these huge American SUVs. While the current Expedition tries to smooth out its big body, the Yukon XL is unashamedly huge. Especially with the Graphite Appearance Package that blacks out the wheels and trim, this thing looks mean.
Though we appreciate the old-school looks of the Yukon, the old-school behavior of it isn't as welcome. It's been a long time since we've gotten an all-new Yukon and the age shows.
First, it feels more lumbering and big in its operation than the similarly large Expedition Max. It helps that the current Expedition dates back to late 2017 for the 2018 model year, whereas the Yukon's last full redesign hit dealerships in winter of 2014.
That's obvious inside. Though GMC has added in a lot of tech over the years, the cabin feels far cheaper than a $74,630 price tag would suggest. This Yukon XL is only $630 cheaper than the Expedition Max we tested but feels years behind inside.
Plus, despite the high price tag, our tester still lacked adaptive cruise control and other active driving assists. Adaptive cruise control is available on the Yukon Denali, but that's even more expensive. Regardless, you can't get a 360-degree camera or automatic parking. For a vehicle this big, those tech features could really be useful.
The powertrain has also fallen behind the competition. Despite a massive 6.2-liter V-8, the Yukon XL can't tow as much as the Expedition with its 3.5-liter V-6. It also delivers worse fuel economy.
The Yukon XL is not a bad vehicle. The bigger problem is that we can't see what would lead someone to buy one over the competition. Minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica offer just as much room and practicality while beating the Yukon XL on price, technology and refinement.
If you need the capability of a three-row mega-SUV, the Chevy Suburban is the Yukon XL's cheaper sibling. But if you want the best mix of practicality, capability, value, technology and refinement, the Ford Expedition Max wins out in every category.
Driving Experience: 2
Price as tested: $74,630
*Ratings out of 5.
The Yukon and the long-wheelbase Yukon XL don't offer as much driving enjoyment or brand cachet as the Mercedes-Benz GLS450. Additionally, the Yukon's uninspiring interior materials raise serious questions as to its value compared with its nearly identical corporate siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe and the Suburban. But the GMC is not without charms: There's the Corvette-derived 420-hp V-8. A 10-speed automatic pairs with that engine in a semi-successful attempt to improve its gluttonous fuel economy, but no Yukon will please environmentalists. Then there's its excellent infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. For the subset of the population whose idea of a fun time includes hauling the entire family and all their stuff up a mountain while towing a travel trailer and six kayaks, there are few alternatives.
What's New for 2019?
The 2019 Yukon and the 2019 Yukon XL receive two new special-edition packages. The Graphite Edition is available on the SLT model and includes 22-inch wheels and numerous black and body-color exterior accents. These extend to everything from the assist steps to the grille surround to the beltline molding. This package also adds an upgraded suspension. The Graphite Performance Edition (also available on the SLT model) includes the 420-hp V-8 and 10-speed automatic transmission plus adaptive dampers and a trailer-brake controller. Inside, Bose active noise cancellation helps keep the cabin quiet by cancelling out wind and road noise and the driver is treated to a head-up display. New metallic exterior colors for 2019 are Dark Sky, Pepperdust, and Smokey Quartz.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Yukon's long-wheelbase XL model is our pick, as its cavernous interior largely remedies the standard short-wheelbase version's struggle to accommodate seven passengers plus all of their luggage. We'd avoid the top Denali trim—and its expensive but not truly luxurious trimmings—and would choose the SLT, which includes heated and cooled front seats, power-folding second- and third-row seats, and blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, and lane-keeping assist. We'd also add the Heavy Duty Trailering package to maximize towing capability. All-wheel drive costs an additional $3000.
Engine, Transmission, Performance, and Towing
Likes: Larger engine has effortless power, quiet highway cruising, can tow up to 8500 pounds.
Dislikes: Fuel-thirsty engines, fancier models ride harsher.
The Yukon's naturally aspirated V-8 engines get the job done the old-school way: with displacement. The larger, son-of-Corvette 6.2-liter is an excellent mate for this heavy SUV. An available 10-speed automatic transmission adds a dose of modernity. The Yukon's standard powertrain is a 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 engine paired with a six-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. In the larger, heavier Yukon XL, it accelerates smoothly but unhurriedly. Either V-8 is relaxed and quiet on the highway, and both can be ordered with a selectable all-wheel-drive system. Rear-drive models can tow up to 8500 pounds, and all-wheel-drive versions are rated up to 8200 pounds.
The tall, heavy Yukon responds slowly to steering inputs, but the chassis reacts with surprising alacrity to spirited driving. The base suspension on our test truck shrugged off pavement blemishes without ever feeling flustered or unsettled, and the Yukon proved as comfortable as many a luxury sedan when wafting down the highway. We never experienced harsh impacts despite Michigan's famously pockmarked roads, but Denali models, which have standard adaptive dampers (called Magnetic Ride Control), have a much sharper, less comfortable ride. There's not a vehicle in the class that can stop on a dime, though most come to rest in similar distances. The Yukon's brake pedal feels substantial and responds in a stable, linear fashion.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
In a class where fuel efficiency is an afterthought, the Yukon employs some tricks to save gas, but its appetite for fuel remains healthy. The Yukon uses a cylinder-deactivation system that allows the engine to operate on four or all eight cylinders, depending on your need for speed; all eight cylinders are rarely employed around town. The 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic proved to be slightly more efficient in the EPA's tests than the previous eight-speed was, but those gains didn't translate to our real-world highway test, where the new powertrain returned 20 mpg—1 mpg less than the old one.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Spacious and functional cabin, can seat nine people, terrific infotainment system.
Dislikes: Denali model fails to feel upscale, uncomfortable third row, high lift-over height.
The Yukon's interior is not lacking in features, especially in the upper trim levels. The SLE model is available with a front bench seat, which ups its capacity to nine passengers. The mid-level SLT trim adds leather, front bucket seats, and power-folding second and third rows; it can also be ordered with second-row captain's chairs. Even so, the full list doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. The interior materials and build quality don't live up to GMC's luxury aspirations or the high price on the window sticker, and the third row is tight for all but children. In both models, the high floor in the third row forces knees skyward and makes comfort impossible.
GMC's infotainment system has practically every feature available on the market and an easy-to-use interface. The navigation-equipped 8.0-inch touchscreen we tested had large, easy-to-read graphics and generous touch zones, so users won't be required to pinpoint a tiny icon while the vehicle is moving. It's as intuitive as many smartphones, and it responded quickly to our inputs. The interior has enough USB ports and other outlets to charge an army of smartphones.
The long-wheelbase Yukon XL has massive carrying capacity at only a slight cost premium. We were able to fit 13 carry-on bags behind the third row of the Yukon XL we tested, matching the number put up by a five-passenger Range Rover. The available power-folding mechanisms for the rear rows are crucial if you hope to avoid clambering into the cargo area to stow them. Front-seat passengers enjoy a center console so wide that driver and passenger will never so much as brush elbows. That console easily harbors several water bottles or a medium-size purse.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Yukon has not been fully tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it delivered a solid performance in its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration exam. A bevy of driver-assistance technology is standard in all but the base trim level, but at this price, we'd expect at least some of that tech to be standard across the board. Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and low-speed automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
GMC's warranty includes one complimentary scheduled maintenance visit within the first year of ownership. Still, it's not the best warranty coverage; other manufacturers offer longer periods of coverage when it comes to limited warranty or roadside assistance.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance covers one visit in the first year
2019 GMC Yukon Denali review: Steady as she goes
Enter the 2019 GMC Yukon, currently going grille-to-massive-grille with the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser. The Denali trim tested here ups the luxe a bit, giving the 2019 Yukon enough amenities to stand tall with the Lexus LX 570, Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX80, not to mention the Cadillac Escalade, with which the GMC shares a platform.
Go big or go home
Now in the fourth year of its fourth generation, the Yukon is available in SLE and SLT trims, with a 5.3-liter V8 under the hood. The Yukon offers seating for seven, eight or even nine passengers, depending on configuration (the base SLE can be had with a front bench seat). Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is optional.
And then there's my tester, the ne plus ultra Denali XL. This luxury-focused version comes exclusively with a 6.2-liter V8, seating for seven and four-wheel drive. The XL model is a full 20 inches longer than a standard GMC Yukon, measuring a sizable 19 feet in overall length. The good news here is the XL affords you hella cargo space. The bad news, of course, is that this big boy is a chore to drive in congested cities.
Huge inside, but could be nicer
Thankfully, the Denali's cabin is quiet, spacious and comfortable, though it's starting to feel a little outdated. This most-loaded Yukon gets leather-trimmed, heated and cooled seats (for both front- and second-row passengers), but they lack the massage function of both the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks a little small in the GMC's expansive cabin. It runs GMC's incredibly straightforward Intellilink software, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. Now that the latest version of Apple iOS brings Google Maps to CarPlay, something that was already available on Android Auto, I recommend just using this interface instead of Intellilink. It's easier to get navigation directions right onto the touchscreen, avoiding GMC's sometimes laggy system.
Wireless charging is standard in the 2019 Yukon Denali, as is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices. Keeping things charged should be pretty easy, with two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet up front, plus 110- and 12-volt outlets for second-row passengers and an additional 12-volt outlet in the way-back. Add the optional rear-seat entertainment package and the second row gets an HDMI port, two USB ports, wireless headphones and even wireless projection. Or, you can just kick it old school (relatively speaking) and play DVDs on the pair of 9-inch displays.
The Yukon's second-row seats flip forward with the touch of a button, so it's easy to get in and out of the third row. Once back there, you'll find a respectable amount of legroom -- of course, I'd expect nothing less in a vehicle of this size.
Where the Denali XL truly excels is in its ability to haul your cargo. You've got over 39 cubic feet of space behind the third row, expanding to nearly 95 cubic feet with both back rows folded. The Ford Expedition Max, meanwhile, offers 34.3 and 73.3 cubic feet, respectively. However, and somewhat oddly, the Yukon's almost-identical twin, the Cadillac Escalade, offers 121.7 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats folded.
Lots of power, nice to drive
As I mentioned, the GMC Yukon Denali only comes with GM's 6.2-liter V8, good for 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The Yukon comes standard with GM's excellent Magnetic Ride Control, which can adjust the suspension electronically at all four corners, as well as actively reduce body roll. No, it doesn't turn this nearly 6,000-pound beast into a corner-carver, but it does allow for a smooth, controlled ride. Magnetic Ride Control is probably the best thing about the Yukon.
A 10-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but doesn't do much to help quench the Yukon's thirst for fuel. During my week of testing, I only saw 13.2 miles per gallon, well short of the EPA's combined rating of 16 mpg. The Yukon is officially rated at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, which bests both the Infiniti QX80 and Lexus LX 570, but the Lincoln Navigator is the most fuel-efficient of the large-and-in-charge SUVs, with 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.
Two-wheel-drive Yukon Denalis can tow 8,400 pounds, though this XL with four-wheel drive reduces that number to a still-plenty-useful 7,900. Regardless, the Yukon comes with a 2-inch receiver hitch and both four- and seven-pin wiring harnesses. An optional trailering package includes an integrated trailer brake and automatically leveling rear suspension, but I wish it had the awesome Pro Trailer Backup Assist of the Ford Expedition.
Other standard tech goodies include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Unfortunately, the ACC won't engage below 15 miles per hour and automatically shuts off below 10 mph, making it useless in heavy stop-and-go, rush-hour traffic. Other manufacturers offer full-range adaptive cruise control. GMC's system could really use an update.
Worth the money?
For my money, I'd skip the XL and just go for the regular Yukon Denali. Features like the aforementioned Magnetic Ride Control, a head-up display and active noise cancellation are all standard at a $66,200 price point. I could pony up $8,000 to get the Denali Ultimate Package that adds things like power-retracting steps for easier ingress and egress, but that's a lot of money. Instead, I'll jump out the door with a lightly optioned Yukon Denali that costs just $69,600, including $1,295 for destination. A far cry from the $82,190 of the test car you see here.
That said, if you're dead set on something in the GM family, the Cadillac Escalade offers the same engine and driving dynamics, but feels nicer inside. Or, save some coin and just get a Chevy Tahoe or Suburban. Good and useful as the 2018 Yukon is, it's hard to recommend it when newer offerings like the Expedition and Navigator are so much more refined.
Emme's Comparable Picks
Operating on the theory that big is good and bigger is better, GMC offers its full-size Yukon SUV in two sizes, the standard-issue Yukon and long-wheelbase Yukon XL.
And, because stronger outstrips strong, the Yukons are available with a choice of two powertrains. The base engine is a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8; the up-level option is a 420-hp 6.2-liter eight.
Until this year, the 6.2-liter engine was available only on the top Denali trim ($67,995). But now it can be had as part of a new options package available on the SLT ($58,895).
(We tested a 2019 Yukon XL SLT and the prices in this review reflect the $2,800 premium commanded by the XL.)
Roomy and well equipped
The Yukon XL is sold in four trims: SLE ($50,895), SLT Standard Edition ($56,095), SLT ($58,895) and Denali ($67,995).
The Yukon is built on a rugged ladder-frame chassis with a solid rear axle. It’s heavy (5379/5610 pounds) and carries its weight up high.
But even beefy SUVs are expected to offer comforts that rival those of sedan-based crossovers. Here, the Yukon succeeds in large measure. Standard gear includes tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats and 60/40-split folding second- and third-row seats.
Cupholders and incidental storage spaces dot the roomy cabin.
The standard Yukon seats seven, with scant room for cargo behind the third row of seats. Twenty inches longer than its mate, the XL seats seven, eight or nine, depending on trim level and seating options selected.
The first- and second-row seats are large and comfortable but the third row is essentially uninhabitable for all but the smallest passengers.
Yukon’s voluminous cargo space doubles its sibling’s.
Quiet cabin, iffy materials quality
A user-friendly touchscreen-based infotainment system includes 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 five USB inputs
Cabins are also equipped with a household-style, three-prong 110-volt power outlet. A rear-view camera is standard.
Active noise cancellation stifles wind and road noise, but iffy materials quality and inconsistent fit-and-finish undercut Yukon’s luxury aspirations.
Outside, standard gear includes foglights, side steps, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and a trailer hitch receiver with a wiring harness.
Ride and handling are a mixed bag. In the corners, the body Yukon is susceptible to body lean and undulating road surfaces can cause some sway. The big rig is clumsy in traffic and a handful in parking lots.
Adaptive shocks boost ride, handling
GM’s Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers are standard on the Denali and available on the SLT. They tamp down unwanted body motions and produce a ride that’s firm but compliant.
Equipped with Magnetic Ride Control and 22-inch wheels, our SLT tester absorbed potholes and other broken surfaces without drama. At speed, it felt stable and well-planted.
The lightly weighted steering reacts slowly and communicates little. It’s accurate, though, and a good on-center groove makes for steady in-lane tracking.
The Yukon's standard powertrain is a 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 engine paired with a six-speed automatic. The available 6.2-liter V-8 is mated to a new 10-speed automatic. Rear-wheel-drive is standard; driver-selectable AWD, with low-range gearing, is available, though Yukon is no one’s idea of an off-road ninja warrior.
A properly equipped rear-drive Yukon XL can tow up to 8,500 pounds; 4WD models can tow 8,200 pounds.
A full suite of driver-assist functions is available via assorted options packages, though none are standard.
For 2019, the SLT trim is eligible for two new special-edition packages. The Graphite Performance Edition ($6,095) adds the 6.2-liter engine, Magnetic Ride Control, two-speed transfer case, 22-inch wheels and a trailer-brake controller. Inside, there’s a head-up display and active noise cancellation.
The Graphite Edition ($2,995) includes assorted black and body-color exterior accents and suspension upgrades.
Large, sturdy and non-nonsense in design and purpose, Yukon succeeds as a workhorse, ready to handle a crowd, their gear and a big trailer for good measure.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at [email protected]
2019 GMC Yukon SLT 4WD
Vehicle base price: $50,895
Trim level base price: $58,895
As tested: $74,830 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Graphite Performance Edition; Graphite Edition; second-row bucket seats; interior protection package
Tow rating: 8,500 pounds
EPA rating: 16 combined/14 city/20 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified
Yukon price 2019 xl
2019 GMC Yukon XL Pricing
$72,500MSRP / Window Sticker Price
Additional or Replacing Features:
- 6.2L V-8 Engine
- 10-spd w/OD Transmission
- 420 @ 5,600 rpm Horsepower
- 460 @ 4,100 rpm Torque
- four-wheel Drive type
- 20" machined aluminum Wheels
- driver and front passenger heated-cushion, heated-seatback Heated front seats
- leather Seat trim
- Navigation system
- 5.3L V-8 Engine
- 6-spd w/OD Transmission
- 355 @ 5,600 rpm Horsepower
- 383 @ 4,100 rpm Torque
- rear-wheel Drive type
- 18" machined aluminum Wheels
- premium cloth Seat trim
- ABS and driveline Traction control
- front air conditioning, dual zone automatic
- rear air conditioning, with separate controls
- SiriusXM AM/FM/HD/Satellite, seek-scan Radio
- 2 - 1st row LCD monitor
- keyfob (all doors) Remote keyless entry
- front Fog/driving lights
- Heated mirrors
- Windshield wipers - rain sensing
- driver and passenger Lumbar support
- 60-40 split-bench Third row seats
- Front and Rear Park Assist Parking assist
Crimson Red Tintcoat
Dark Sapphire Blue Metallic
White Frost Tricoat
Satin Steel Metallic
Dark Sky Metallic
Smokey Quartz Metallic
Jet Black w/Perforated Leather-Appointed Seat Trim
Cocoa/Shale w/Perforated Leather-Appointed Seat Trim
Cocoa/Dark Atmosphere w/Perforated Leather-Appointed Seat Trim
Fees & Taxes
Total Cost to Own
See the cheapest SUVs to Own
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GMC Yukon XL
Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit.
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