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2015 GMC Yukon XL

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The GMC Yukon and its jumbo sibling, the Yukon XL, have been the grey sheep of the General Motors full-size SUV line for quite a few years now.

Without the badge cache of the Cadillac Escalade or the flagship status of the Suburban for Chevy ’s SUV line, the Yukon is a bit of an odd man out in among the GM full-size SUV nameplates that are redesigned for 2015.

At least, that used to be the case. The new Yukon is looking like a smart and savvy decision for many more buyers than ever before. This is not just a Secret Service convoy machine any more, and it brings subtle but elegant styling that even makes the Denali chrome grille look really out-of-touch versus current preferences toward more-subtle matte finishes.

While the new Denali , Escalade and even the Tahoe wear so much chrome up front that it might cause blindness in direct sunlight, the latest Yukon has a very mature, simple and timeless grille execution up front.

While still ringed in chrome, the dark inner grille detailing and the whole presentation just seems much more refined than the grinning Suburban and Tahoe.

But what about the Escalade ’s big V-8 that is not shared with the Suburban at all, or the Denali ’s high-tech LED headlight accents?

The best of the GM SUV buffet goes into the new Yukon and Yukon XL, which are expected to continue their mid-tier value pricing when the pair arrive in showrooms around February 2014.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2015 GMC Yukon and GMC Yukon XL, with all the details on the best shared Cadillac technology and features available on this lovable family truck.

Exterior

GMC Yukon XL

The exterior of the Yukon is great for this latest generation. It is actually more appealing without the exaggerated nose styling of its peers, while the LED taillights are finally looking like an OEM product.

The exterior styling of the Yukon and Yukon XL is largely smoothed and redesigned to increase efficiency and road refinement. The biggest contributors to this new smoothness on the road is the far more rigid chassis and the in-laid doors. Where the previous door-tops rounded above the roof, the new doors are flush-fitting with triple (or perhaps quadruple) sealing across the entire leading edge of this surface.

A small change in looks, but very difficult to achieve without almost a totally redesigned platform.

Otherwise, the Yukon is the least-embellished of the group, with clean bodysides and less decoration than the Escalade , in particular.

The other big change is to the mounting of the window glass. The old method was firmly 1990s, so the latest Yukon now has flush-mounted windows all around. This cleans up the side styling markedly, where the previous SUVs always seemed a bit too much like a hard-top pickup truck with added glass.

Other smoothness and aerodynamically motivated changes are a much smoother and sealed underbody, a lower front air dam that can scrape speed bumps and be A-ok, and a far smoother rear tailgate.

The tailgate is totally different and now made of aluminum (like the hood) to make it lighter and easier to use. The power hinges are faster and stronger now, and mounted to the door versus the inside of the trunk like before.

The rear wiper is now totally shrouded below the rear spoiler, a la the Range Rover.

Overall, simply a much cleaner look that brings serious benefits in daily use.

LED Running Light Detail

GMC Yukon XL

Interior

GMC Yukon XL

The interior of these new GM SUV is so fantastic as to be virtually unreal versus even the swankiest previous-gen Escalade s and Denali s.

Swooping and flowing dash panels bring soft-touch plastics, and a greatly improved sense of quality and rigidity. Where the old SUVs tended to feel a bit shaky on the interior even when brand new, the improved chassis underneath keeps all the dash and trim parts from coming loose in the new models.

In addition to all the vastly improved materials, the seats are totally redesigned and look a lot like the Corvette Stingray ’s buckets. A far longer seat base and four extra inches of front legroom ensure the full-size SUV stays the car of choice for NFL and NBA players.

Infotainment is superb with standard twin eight-inch display monitors to show all the information, nav, music and vehicle settings the brain can take in. The central touchscreen is mounted low and nearby for easy reach.

The Yukon keeps traditional analog gauges for the speedometer and tachometer, which is actually pretty nice versus the new 12-inch TFT gauge panel in the Escalade . Gauge panels are not as reliable or easy to read in all light conditions, so need more fiddling with brightness and other settings.

All Seats Up - Detail

GMC Yukon XL

If the new dash, seats and tech are welcome up front, the power-folding third row was absolutely a must-have in back. The new arrangement really ups the versatility of the Yukon twins, which can now flip from people to cargo duties and back in the same day.

Power Folding Third Row Down - Detail

GMC Yukon XL

Powertrain, Suspension and Brakes

GMC Yukon XL

The Yukon and Yukon XL get the pick of the bunch when it comes to engines. Where the Suburban and Tahoe will launch with only the 5.3-liter, V-8 engine, the Yukon can also be equipped with the Escalade ’s 6.2-liter, V-8 for an extra 65 horsepower or so. The bigger engine lops about a half second from the 60 mph sprint time, as well as upping tow rating.

The engines are both direct-injection EcoTec3 series now, so all the interior and front firewall insulation is critical to even keep the engines as inaudible as the old SUVs. Direct injection brings far better throttle response and about a 10-percent efficiency gain.

Paired with the standard six-speed automatic, the big Yukons come in rear-drive or all-wheel-drive.

2015 GMC Yukon - Mechanical Specifications

Engine 5.3-liter 16-valve V-8 With DI, OHV And VVT6.2-liter 16-valve V-8 With DI, OHV And VVT
Fuel GasolineGasoline
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic6-Speed Automatic
Powertrain Layout Front-engine, Rear-drive (4x4 Opt)Front-engine, Rear-drive (4x4 Opt)
Power (Horsepower) 355420
Torque (Torque) 383460
0-60 mph (Seconds) 7.4, est6.8, est
Top Speed (MPH) 108, est108, est
EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined) 16/22/18, est15/21/17, est

Safety

GMC Yukon XL

2015 GMC Yukon - New Safety Options

  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Rear Collision Alert
  • Crash Imminent Braking
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Front and Rear Park Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Lane Change Assist

2015 GMC Yukon - Standard Safety Features

  • Segment First - Front Center Airbag
  • Dual stage frontal airbags
  • Seat mounted side impact airbags
  • Head curtain side impact airbags
  • OnStar6 Automatic Crash Notification
  • Reinforced steel safety cage
  • Shoulder and new lap seat belt pre-tensioners

Pricing and Availability

GMC Yukon XL

Pricing is not yet available for the Yukon, but pricing is expected to rise about $1,000 versus the current Yukon’s $43,000 base price.

Competition

GMC Yukon XL

The biggest threat to Yukon market share is, in fact, its siblings from Chevrolet and Cadillac .

Chevrolet Suburban

Chevrolet Suburban

The current Suburban should check in slightly cheaper than the Yukon XL in its lower-level LT trim, but matches the Yukon XL in pricing with the top LTZ specification.

While the 2015 LTZ Suburban will also feature the magnetic shocks, it does not offer the uprated engine from the Escalade the Yukon lines.

Conclusion

GMC Yukon XL

Sales of all three of these SUVs have been on a roll lately since about 2011, but the top-line numbers hide the fact nearly 40-percent of them were going to fleet and commercial operators.

The biggest problem was value for money. While the Yukon and Yukon XL’s class-leading capabilities are almost untouchable by other SUVs, the lack of meaningful updates meant buyers were just as happy to keep the old trucks running for a few more years.

Paying $50,000 for a new SUV is much easier to do when there are real and concrete benefits to be had from the new models.

Luckily, the new Yukon is so much improved as to make even Audi Q7 shoppers think twice.

LOVE IT
  • Dark grille is best of the group, which all wear too much chrome
  • Features and tech are vastly upgraded in every way
  • Much smoother and versatile, but still huge and almost unbreakable
LEAVE IT
  • Big V-8 has a much nicer exhaust rumble than the 5.3-liter
  • Economy is up with the new transmission and aerodynamics, but not much by at all
  • Great value versus the Escalade ESV that quickly hits $80,000


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