Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, July 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 62° Clear

Autos

2019 GMC Yukon XL: Jumbo SUV ready to do the heavy lifting

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 don@dadair.com.

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



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.