Some may find the 2019 GMC Yukon XL as big as a house. At just under 19 feet long, they’re not far off.
But it’s just right for folks with big families, a slew of friends, a boat, horse or small home to lug around. It can seat as many as nine, tow up to 8,300 pounds and accommodate a virtual ton of cargo with 39 cubic feet of space in the back — and nearly 122 cubes with the second and third rows folded down.
All that enormous capability comes with sacrifices: maneuvering in mall parking lots and fuel economy, for starters.
At first glance, the Yukon XL, especially in Jet Black, with gloss black wheels, looks like some sort of VIP or federal vehicle — or even maybe a hearse. It has a blacked-out honeycomb grille, gloss-black wheels and myriad chrome accents.
At nearly 6,000 pounds, it needs a brute of an engine. Not to worry: a 6.2-liter V-8 that cranks out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Yeah, that’s enough to squeal the wheels and run to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. A trailer brake controller and sway control help stabilize a load of more than four tons.
Beyond all the beef, what is notable about the top-line Yukon XL Denali is its surprisingly comfortable ride for a body-on-frame truck. It excels in both comfort and smoothness on the highway, but GMC’s Magnetic Ride Control keeps it steady on corners, too. It electronically adjusts suspension at all four corners to smooth bumps and dips in the road surface.
The lightweight steering offers pretty good feedback and enables tight U-turns for a truck of these proportions. Stopping from 60 mph is done in an impressive 139 feet — that’s equal to many family sedans.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is smooth shifting and it has cylinder deactivation, which closes down half the cylinders when they are not needed on the highway. Still, EPA estimates for the 2WD come in at 14 mpg city, 23 highway for a combined 17 mpg.
Driving this mammoth requires caution and patience in congested areas, but Denali offers lots of assistance. Besides great visibility from within, it has rear-view camera with cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring.
So how tough is it to climb up into? Not as bad as you’d think, with the help of optional power running boards and grab handles on the front pillars. Once inside, you’ll find front seats are elegant and comfortable and are trimmed with heated/cooled perforated leather. Same for the second row bucket seats.
The driver keeps track of pertinent data via a head-up display on the windshield as well as a reconfigurable virtual instrument display. And the rearview mirror converts to a rear-vision camera so neither headrests nor cargo can hamper the view.
Denali gets GMC’s smooth infotainment system, operable via steering wheel controls or 8-inch color touchscreen with voice recognition. It comes with Bluetooth and is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-capable. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot can accommodate up to seven devices.
For long drives, there’s enough to keep everyone entertained, starting with a 10-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio system. An optional rear entertainment system with DVD player, wireless headphones and HDMI port can silence the kids for hours.
One more handy item of note: Access to the cargo area can be done through a rear lift-gate window alone, a rarity these days.
With a sticker that approaches $80,000, here’s a money-saving tip: For 2019, the 6.2-liter engine with Magnetic Ride, once reserved only for the Denali, is available as an option on the SLT trim.
Either way, you’ll soon discover the big and powerful Denali commands attention on the road — especially in the blacked out version. Folks seem to glance over and yield the right of way, either because of its heft or they weren’t quite sure who could be inside. Could be somebody important, or maybe just the in-laws from the north again.
2019 GMC Yukon XL Denali (2WD)
As tested: $78,675 (Includes Denali Ultimate Package, $8,080; Denali Ultimate Black Edition, $1,000)
What’s all the excitement about? Size, presence and power; new options offered on lesser trims for 2019
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V-8 Ecotec3 engine with Magnetic Ride Control and 10-speed automatic
How’s the performance? Surprising acceleration to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds. Tow rating up to 8,300 pounds.
What about fuel economy? You had to ask? EPA estimates 14 mpg city, 23 highway