2011 Yukon XL 1500 New Car Test Drive
The GMC Yukon XL is a great choice for anyone towing cars, boats, horses, and travel trailers who needs enclosed space for passenger or cargo.
Maximum towing capacity ranges from 7800-8500 pounds for a Yukon XL 1500 model, and about 9500 pounds on a Yukon XL 2500. (Subtract 1500-2500 pounds if the Yukon is fully loaded with people and cargo.) With its long wheelbase and full-size truck construction, the Yukon XL is a stable platform for towing while offering the interior cargo advantages of a full-size SUV.
The Yukon line was completely redesigned for 2007. For 2011, Yukon is not significantly changed, though it's been updated with the latest OnStar version 9.0.
Yukon XL is GMC's version of the Chevrolet Suburban. As the XL name suggests, the Yukon XL is extra-long, 20 inches longer than the standard-length Yukon. Like the Suburban, the Yukon XL seats seven to nine people, depending on configuration. While many vehicles will seat seven, few have so much room left over for cargo.
Yukon XL is offered in 1500 and 2500 versions.
Yukon XL is also available as a luxurious Denali model that compares well to Cadillac's Escalade ESV. Denali comes equipped with automatic rear load-leveling.
Inside is a comfortable cabin. We found the optional leather seats comfortable. The driver sits way up high for a commanding view of the road, and the pedals power-adjust to fit short and tall drivers. The instruments and gauges are among best in class, elegantly clean yet very functional. Interior small items storage is intelligently designed and all over, including a huge center console.
Second-row passengers will find a lot of leg room in the Yukon XL. Heated bucket seats with a center console between them are available for the second row, turning them into first-class accommodations; and there is a power folding option, making it easier for third-row passengers to climb by. There's even decent legroom and headroom in the third row.
Yukon offers a choice of V8 engines, all with flex-fuel capability, variable cam timing and active fuel management to shut off cylinders when not needed. GM's 5.3-liter Vortec V8 is the standard choice and it's a good one, making 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. We enjoyed its smooth power. The 2WD 5.3-liter gets an EPA-estimated 14/20 miles per gallon City/Highway while the 4WD 5.3-liter rates 14/19 mpg. Flex-fuel versions of the 5.3-liter V8 are available that can run on E85 ethanol, though use of less-efficient ethanol drops fuel economy by more than 25 percent.
Yukon XL Denali boasts a 403-hp 6.2-liter V8. Denali is offered with two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter an excellent aid for inclement weather but not designed for serious off-road use. Denali comes standard with the AutoRide active electronic suspension, which is optional on the regular Yukon XL. Denali models get an EPA-rated 12/19 mpg. Note that EPA ratings vary considerably, see www.fueleconomy.gov for comparison shopping.
Yukon XL 2500 models come with a 6.0-liter iron-block V8 rated at 352 hp, 382 lb-ft of torque, EPA 12/17 mpg. Yukon XL 2500 and is designed for heavy use, as are all of its mechanical components.
Yukon XL and Denali models use a 6-speed automatic transmission. They all have a Tow/Haul mode that 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 on most models.
Convenience features include a power rear liftgate, a 14-speaker Bose sound system, a navigation system, and a DVD rear-seat entertainment system. Rearview cameras are standard with navigation and available for others with display in inside mirror.
Yukon XL competes with Ford Expedition EL, Suburban, and, if cargo space isn't as critical, Toyota Sequoia and Infiniti QX56. Yukon XL Denali alternatives include the Lincoln Navigator L, Cadillac Escalade ESV, and Mercedes-Benz GL450.
The 2011 GMC Yukon XL comes in SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels. It's also available in 1500-series and 2500-series versions.
The Yukon XL SLE 2WD ($42,005) and 4WD ($44,845) and the better-equipped SLT 2WD ($46,270) and 4WD ($49,005) come standard with a 5.3-liter V8.
The Yukon XL 2500 SLE 2WD ($43,775), 2500 SLE 4WD ($46,615), 2500 SLT 2WD ($47,900), and 2500 SLT 4WD ($50,745) come with a 352-hp 6.0-liter V8 with 382 pound-feet of torque and 6-speed automatic.
Yukon XL SLE standard equipment includes three-zone climate control, rear audio controls with headphone jacks (you supply headphones), power front bucket seats and center console, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM sound system; 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. Options include a Convenience package ($1060) with adjustable pedals, remote start, rear park assist, rearview camera; fog lamps; tow hooks; CD changer ($295); integrated trailer brake controller ($200); Z71 off-road package ($230); two-speed transfer case ($100); 20-inch wheel packages; rear-seat entertainment ($1295); and towing package ($230).
SLT models add leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming inside mirror, rear park assist, remote start, adjustable pedals, and universal remote. SLT options include Autoride suspension with rear self-leveling ($1120), second-row bucket seats ($590), Sun Entertainment Destination package ($4890) with navigation, rear-seat entertainment, and moonroof; third-row screen ($600); power side steps ($1095); Preferred package ($675) with rain-sensing front wipers and power liftgate; 20 or 22-inch wheels; rearview camera in mirror ($450); heated/cooled front seats ($650); Blind Zone Alert ($500); and power release second-row bench ($425).
Denali ($55,905) and Denali AWD ($58,990) come with a 6.2-liter V8 and Autoride active electronic suspension with rear load-leveling. 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, Bluetooth; 10-speaker Premium Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System; added noise insulation and cooling capacity; and 20-inch wheels and tires (18-inch wheels are available for poor roads, tire chains). Options are limited to those in the Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package ($2,390) or separately. Among them: rear entertainment ($1295), third-row screen ($600); power side steps ($1,095); 22-inch wheels ($2795); and Side Blind Zone Alert ($500).
Safety equipment on all models includes dual frontal airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes, 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.