2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4X4

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4X4

GMC’s Escalade-on-a-budget.

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After the Infiniti QX80 spent some in the Carpages Garage a few months ago, the general consensus was that it’s a properly enormous vehicle. That was before we picked up the keys to GMC’s range-topping Yukon XL Denali, whose modest dimensions eclipse the monstrous QX in every measure. So who buys these behemoths anyway? Why do you need something so vastly immense? The answer is inevitably the same- those who’ve got minivan style hauling priorities but abhor the Box-on-Wheels shleppers. More often than not these folks have something heavy to hook up to a trailer hitch, like a boat. General Motors practically invented this segment back in 1934 with the original Chevy Suburban. Since then, these full size leviathans have moved significantly upmarket, culminating in the Yukon XL Denali you see here; not exactly a Caddy Escalade, but pretty darn close.

That means the Yukon carries a sticker price that is creeping up on Escalade territory and is not for the faint of heart. $83,675 is a whole lot of dough for what is essentially a Sierra pickup with seating for seven. But you know what? As expensive as this rig is, it doesn’t feel like an exercise in frivolity. If you genuinely do happen to fit within the profile of needs typically associated with a truck like this, it feels like money well spent. If you turn your nose up at the Yukon/Suburban twins, your only real choices are the aforementioned Escalade, the baleen-inspired QX80 and the recently revamped Lincoln Navigator.

PROS: Drivetrain is easily the class of the field, mega capability, all the toys.

CONS: Swills fuel, a bit unwieldy to drive around town, may induce sticker shock.

THE VERDICT: You know what you’re getting into when you buy one of these things, and the Yukon delivers on all fronts.

The Yukon has humble Sierra-based underpinnings, however that’s a decidedly solid foundation on which to build one of these people movers. A fully boxed hydroformed frame including a robust suspension and drivetrain assembled around very generous dimensions are just as adept cruising the boulevards as they are on the jobsite. Especially in Denali trim, the Yukon tries hard to get occupants to forget its blue collar roots.

They do this by throwing just about every luxury doodad in the General Motors catalogue. Some of the stuff we really fell for were options like super-effective cooled seats, killer stereo and hi-res Blu Ray players out back. The interior was rethought for 2015 and is chock full of pleasing textures, materials and surfaces both for the eyes and to the touch. Large thrones up front and give a theatrical view of the road in front and preside over a sharply rendered digital dash. All those niceties do wonders for hedonistic indulgences by the occupants, but our favourite feature comes standard- the 6.2 litre V8 coupled to an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Fans of the Corvette will recognize these drivetrain components right away. The engine has been adapted for use in a truck application and so isn’t quite the same lump as the ‘Vette, but push the throttle to the floorboards and you’re treated to an almost equally satisfying aural feast that only a pushrod American V8 can deliver. The Yukon gets up to highway speed way faster that it has any right to, 8-speed tranny clicking off shifts with undramatic precision. Like the Corvette, it can shut down a bank of cylinders when cruising on the highway. This brute needs all the help it can get striving for the best fuel economy possible- we saw a peak of 11.9L/100km while cruising under light load, which isn’t too bad for a vehicle with a foot print as large as this one. Our test average was a less brag worthy 15.7L/100km, but at least a 98 litre fuel tank means you won’t be stopping all that often (but when you do, brace yourself for a little sticker shock at the pumps no matter what the price of gas is.)

Dismal fuel economy shouldn’t surprise anyone when talking about vehicles that are so massive, nor should the lack of handling. Push this hulking beast into a corner with any enthusiasm and what unfolds can charitably be described as ungraceful, despite the low-profile 22” rolling stock. Best then, to leave sudden movements with the steering wheel to something with a little lower center of gravity. GM’s ingenious magnetic-ride-control is standard fare on Denali-trimmed Yukons and moves the benchmark of how such a huge vehicle should ride significantly forward. You notice mostly around town with the Yukon shrugging off imperfections with zero effort or noise, but you also appreciate the control it imparts on the highway- no more making constant steering corrections just to keep the thing straight. It feels happiest on the superslab for sure.

If you absolutely refuse to entertain the idea of owning a minivan and need something equally massive to take family and associated gear anywhere they please with the trappings of luxury to match, your choices are few. The Yukon comes from the family that started it all, and definitely pulls off the Mega-‘Ute thing with ease. You just might need a bigger driveway.

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4X4 – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $83,675
  • Body Type: 4-door SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
  • Engine:  6.2 litre V8, OHV, 16 valves with Cylinder Deactivation
  • Horsepower: 420 @ 5,600 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 460 @ 4,100 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight:  2,713kg (5,981 lbs.)
  • Fuel consumption, Observed: 15.7L/100km (14 mpg)

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