2009 Yukon XL 1500 New Car Test Drive
The GMC Yukon XL is GMC's version of the Chevy Suburban. As its name suggests, the XL is extra-long, 20 inches longer than the standard-length Yukon. Like Suburban, Yukon XL is offered in half-ton or three-quarter ton capacities, and also the luxurious Denali that encroaches on Cadillac Escalade.
The Yukon XL is a great choice for a big family towing cars, boats, horses, and travel trailers. Maximum towing capacity is 8100 pounds on 1500 and 9600 pounds on the 2500; subtract 1500-2500 pounds if the Yukon is fully loaded. With its long wheelbase and heavy-duty construction, the Yukon XL is a stable platform for towing while offering the interior cargo advantages of a full-size SUV. The standard 5.3-liter V8 can be upgraded to a 6.0-liter V8, the only size offered on 2500-series, and Denali uses a 403-hp 6.2-liter V8.
The Yukon XL seats six to nine people, depending on configuration. There are many vehicles that seat seven people without taking up so much space to do it, but few with so much room left over for cargo.
The optional leather seats are comfortable while the third row is vinyl in deference to (probably sloppy) riders. The driver sits way up high and feels like he or she is master or mistress of his or her domain. The pedals adjust for long or short legs. The instruments and gauges are best-in-class, elegantly clean yet very functional. Interior small items storage is intelligently designed and all over, including a huge center console.
Those in the second row will find a lot of leg room. Heated bucket seats with a center console between them are available for the second row, turning them into first-class accommodations; and there is an optional power folding option, making it easier for third-row passengers to climb in. There's even decent legroom and good headroom in the third row.
At the top of the line is the Yukon XL Denali. The Denali is almost a separate breed. It has its own engine, a 6.2-liter V8 rated at 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. The Denali is offered with 2WD or all-wheel-drive for inclement weather but not serious off-road use. The Denali comes standard with the AutoRide active electronic suspension, which is optional on the regular Yukon XL.
A liftgate is available that raises and lowers under power, a Bose sound system, a navigation system, and a DVD rear-seat entertainment system are available. Rearview cameras are standard with navigation and available for others with display in inside mirror.
For 2009 all Yukon XL's get a six-speed automatic transmission, OnStar 8.0, Bluetooth, and available features such as an integrated trailer brake controller, XM radio NavTraffic, and Side Blind Zone Alert. Denali adds a power adjustable steering column and available heated/cooled front seats. The Yukon XL was completely redesigned for 2007.
Yukon XL competes for shoppers with the Chevy Suburban (essentially same equipment and pricing), Ford Expedition EL, and if cargo space isn't as important as tow rating the Toyota Sequoia. Denali XL alternatives include the Lincoln Navigator L, Cadillac Escalade ESV, Mercedes-Benz GL450, and BMW X5 4.8i.
The 2009 GMC Yukon XL comes in SLE1, SLE2, SLT1, and SLT2 trim levels and half-ton (1500 series) and three-quarter ton (2500 series) carrying capacities. The Yukon XL SLE (2WD $41,225/4WD $44,065) and the better-equipped SLT ($43,315/$41,810) offer a choice of V8 engines, including flex-fuel versions of the Vortec 5.3-liter V8 that can run on E85 ethanol (which drops EPA ratings from 14/20 to 10/15). Whether iron or aluminum block and flex-fuel or not, each 5.3 makes 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. A 6.0-liter V8 with variable valve timing, delivering 366 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque is optional for these 1500-series models ($1,095). The Yukon XL's available four-wheel drive includes a full-time position that can be used on dry pavement and has low-range gearing. All Yukon XL and Denali models use a six-speed automatic transmission.
Virtually ever major mechanical component, including the engine, transmission, axles, suspension, steering, brakes, wheels and tires is different on the 2500-series Yukon XL. The SLE 2WD 2500 ($39,585), SLE 4WD 2500 ($45,685) and the SLT 2WD 2500 ($46,895) and 4WD SLT 2500 ($49,740) come only with a 352-hp 6.0-liter V8 with 383 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed automatic, and rear or 4WD.
Also offered are the luxurious 2WD Denali ($52,850) and AWD Denali ($55,935). The Denali's all-wheel-drive system lacks low-range gearing. The Denali models come with a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, six-speed automatic transmission and GMC's Autoride active electronic suspension. Denali AWD EPA numbers are 12/19 on gasoline and 9/14 on E85.
They all have a tow/haul mode which reduces upshifting and downshifting, and also shifts quicker, so the transmission doesn't work so hard when pulling a big load. Transmission oil temperature is part of the instrumentation (along with a tire-pressure monitor).
The SLE1 standard equipment includes cloth upholstery; dual-zone manual climate control; auxiliary rear AC; AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM six-speaker stereo; Bluetooth; cruise control; OnStar Safe & Sound with one year subscription; driver information center; power windows/locks/heated mirrors with manual folding; leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel with audio controls;; 40/20/40 split front bench seat; six-way power driver's seat; 60/40 split folding second-row bench seat; 50/50 third-row split folding seat; automatic headlights; roof rails; side steps; locking rear differential; three power outlets; P265/70R17 all-season tires on bright aluminum wheels; tow package (receiver hitch, seven-pin wiring harness); intermittent rear wipe/wash; and floor mats. 4WD models also get an aluminum-block engine, 3.42:1 axle ratio, and front tow hooks.
Major options for the SLE1 are a $1060 Convenience package (adjustable pedals, remote start, rear park assist, rearview camera), fog lamps and tow hooks for 2WD ($190), CD changer audio upgrade ($295), integrated trailer brake controller ($200), and towing cooler package ($230).
SLE2 (about $900 above SLE1) adds rear audio controls with headphone jacks (you supply headphones), power front bucket seats and center console, power outlets, fog lamps, tow hooks, and center roof rails.
SLT1 models add to SLE2 three-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio system, auto-dimming inside mirror, rear park assist, remote start, adjustable pedals, and universal remote. At the SLT level you can upgrade to Autoride suspension with rear self-leveling ($1120), the 6-liter engine ($1095) and second-row bucket seats ($590).
SLT2 (roughly $800 above SLT1) adds leather upholstery (vinyl third row), more adjustable front seats, two-person driver memory, heated front and second row seats, and power folding mirrors w/signals and parking tilt-down. Options include virtually anything not standard, including navigation, rear seat entertainment, and moonroof ($4790 as the Sun/Entertainment/Destination package), third row screen ($600), Preferred package (rain-sensing front wipers and power liftgate, $675), 20-inch wheels ($1795-1995), rearview camera in mirror ($450), and power release second-row bench ($425).
Denali models come fully loaded, with a wood and leather-wrapped, heated, power-tilt steering wheel; heated first- and second-row seats; 12-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment; memory for the driver's seat and mirrors; power-folding second-row seats; removable three-passenger split-folding third-row seat; power-folding exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, driver's side auto-dimming and reverse tilting; rain-sensing wipers with heated washers; power liftgate; roof rack, Autoride suspension with rear load-leveling; Bluetooth; 10-speaker Premium Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System; 403-hp 6.2-liter engine; added noise insulation and cooling capacity; and 20-inch wheels and tires (18-inch wheels are available for a $995 credit, for poor roads, tire chains, etc.).
Since a Denali has features like an SLT2 and then some, factory options are limited to those in the Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package ($4,790, or separately), Side Blind Zone Alert ($500), and heated/cooled front seats ($650). The integrated trailer brake controller is not listed among Denali options, and the tow rating is less than a 2WD XL 1500.
Regardless of model options are often interdependent with ifs, ands, or buts. For example, a 6-liter upgrade ($1095) usually requires Autoride suspension ($1120) as well.
Safety equipment on all models includes dual frontal airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes with electronic proportioning, and StabiliTrak, GM's electronic stability control with anti-rollover mitigation and traction control. Options include rear park assist, two rearview camera choices, and on Denali, Side Blind Zone Alert. Side airbags are not available. The XL earned the maximum five stars in the government's head-on crash tests.