The Yukon Denali XL is the top-of-the-line trim level of the GMC luxury body on frame full-size SUV line-up. The name tells the story, ‘Denali’ for the complete complement of luxury features and amenities – with ‘XL’ designating it as the biggest Yukon you can get. Yep, it costs a bit more, but if you want or need to haul up to nine passengers and cargo regularly in a luxury manner, you need to go with the GMC Yukon Denali XL – fitted with a few extras.
We had occasion early this summer to thoroughly test a new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali XL 4WD in Midnight Amethyst Metallic with a Cocoa/Dark Atmosphere interior on a 10-day and a nearly 3,000 mile round-trip from Austin, Texas to Lake Michigan. We needed cargo space to haul nearly 700 pounds of household goods from storage in Austin to a family summer cottage at Union Pier on Lake Michigan.
While there, we needed the capability to easily haul up to five adults and four children comfortably to and from the beaches each day. And most importantly for us, as experienced long distance drivers, we knew the value of driving a powerful full-sized SUV loaded with the latest convenience and safety features that was also a very comfortable ride – for upwards of nine-hours each day.
The 2015 Yukon Denali XL 4WD exceeded our expectations.
Powerful V8 Powertrain
Our ride and drive Yukon Denali XL 4WD came with more than enough power to do the job under any road conditions. The Denali is powered by the new 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 with Active Fuel Management that delivers 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque through an (also new) Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission that improves performance using smaller shift steps between gears, keeping the engine more fully in the heart of its rpm band in order to optimize both horsepower and torque delivery to the road.
The eight-speed automatic transmission works with the EcoTec3 engine cylinder deactivation system to precisely deliver power without hesitation as the engine moves from 8-cylinder to 4-cylinders and back depending on the driving situation. Working together, the Yukon Denali XL is fuel economy rated at 14/20 mpg city/highway and a combined 16 mpg.
We did much better, running the just under 3000 miles – mostly highway – getting 20.7 mpg combined over the ten days. With fuel tank capacity of 31 gallons, our Yukon had an effective range of nearly 650 miles, keeping our fuel stops to a minimum.
Command of the Road
With plenty of power, the Yukon Denali also handles the road with ease. Starting with the seriously comfortable full-power command bucket seating up front, the Yukon Denali is very responsive and easy to drive.
The 2015 Yukon Denali XL uses a fully boxed frame made of high strength steel for a firm and quiet ride. It is well set up for the road with independent coil-over-shock twin tube shock absorber front and solid axle with 5-link coil spring rear suspension and electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering. The Yukon Denali ride is managed by the third-generation Magnetic Ride Control real-time damping system that reads the ride and adjusts the ride continuously.
Our Yukon Denali XL was also equipped with the optional 22-inch wheels and tires which added to the physical handling presence of the Yukon Denali XL – particularly on the highway.
Ride and Drive Comfort and Convenience
A very wide range of features in the Yukon Denali XL make it nearly the perfect road trip SUV as well as a great daily driver.
Some of them included Perforated Leather Trimmed Front Bucket Seating that is both heated and ventilated, Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert, Power Retractable Running Boards, Powered Sunroof, Tri-zone Automatic Climate Control, Front Fog Lamps, HID Projector Headlamps, Keyless Start, 110-Volt AC Power Outlet, Power Adjustable Pedals, Driver Information Center and Heads-up Display.
Technology features include Wireless Charging, GMC IntelliLink 8-inch Touchscreen Display with Navigation, 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound Audio System, SiriusXM, XM NavTraffic and Bluetooth w/Audio Streaming. On the safety side they include Blind Side and Lane Change Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Vision Camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Stabilitrak Electronic Stability Control System.
Another feature we really liked is the OnStar 4G LTE WiFi Hotspot that we used extensively, particularly at Lake Michigan beaches, enabling several of us to stay in communication with our respective offices and media outlets, even while relaxing under umbrellas at water’s edge.
The Yukon Denali XL has a 14-inch longer wheelbase and is 20-inches longer overall which, dramatically, increases the interior capacity as compared to a regular Yukon Denali. Increasing the second row legroom slightly, it importantly increases the third row seating leg room from 24.8 to 34.5-inches making it possible to reasonably accommodate adults, when needed.
Our Yukon Denali was fitted out with the 60/40 Power Fold Split Bench that included heated outboard positions and readily accommodated four with the third row handling another three no problem. Of note, with the XL, was the easy fold and tumble feature of the second row that enabled quick and wide access to the third row.
The extra length of the Yukon Denali XL, similarly adds to cargo capacity when seats are folded down (second and third row are power fold-flat). Capacity is increased (compared to the regular Yukon) from a meager 15.3 feet behind the third row to a whopping 39.3 cubic feet in the XL. And, with the third row folded flat, the XL provides 76.7 cubic feet of cargo space – an increase of just over 19 cubic feet from a regular Yukon. Overall it has a capacity of 121.1 cubic feet of cargo (and 1,492 pounds) with both second and third rows flat.
We had anticipated that we would need both third and second rows flat to load nearly 700 pounds of household goods plus our luggage for the trip. We found that every bit of it fit well into just the space behind the second row. Loading all of it with only the third row folded flat, we were still able to keep the load height low enough to allow visibility through side and rear windows. And, to handle that load weight all behind the second row, the Yukon XL load-leveling feature easily brought the Yukon to level for travel.
With the easy access power hands free variable height lift gate and 34.1-inch lift to the load deck, getting cargo in and out was very easy.
Worth the Price
We told you that going all out with the top-of-the-line GMC Yukon Denali XL 4WD was going to be a tad expensive.
Our ride and drive Yukon had a base price of $70,220. Add-ons were the Premium Package ($3,165) which included Head-up Display, Power Retractable Running Boards and Adaptive Cruise Control. An Open Road Package ($2,860) added the Power Sunroof and Rear Seat Entertainment system for second and third rows. The upgraded 22-inch wheels and added $895, the Midnight Amethyst Metallic paint was $495 and a Theft-Deterrent system was $395.
Including delivery, our 2015 GMC Yukon Denali XL 4WD priced out at $78,725.
Even at the price, based on our road trip, we think that when you have a need for regular nine passenger and serious cargo hauling or towing (tows up to 7,900 pounds) plus a desire for a great drive and ride experience with a full range of luxury convenience features, the GMC Yukon Denali XL 4WD is a very wise choice.
Note: For reference, read our reviews on the 2015 Yukon SLT, Lincoln Navigator L and Ford Expedition King Ranch EL