2016 GMC Yukon XL

Starting MSRP: $51,015 - $71,025

Estimated MPG: 16 city / 23 hwy

2016 GMC Yukon XL Review

The 2016 GMC Yukon XL is as large as SUVs come. This full-size, eight-passenger SUV offers excellent interior room, generous storage space and ample towing capacity. Well-equipped models, including a top-of-the-line Denali edition, give the 2016 Yukon XL many of the same amenities found in more expensive models.

By Matt Keegan
Last Updated 05/16/2016

Room for eight, powerful V8 engine choices and generous cargo space are among the chief attributes of the full-size 2016 GMC Yukon XL. The Yukon XL is offered in SLE, SLT and Denali trims. This model is GMC’s equivalent of the Chevrolet Suburban, and when offered in Denali guise it provides a compelling alternative to the Cadillac Escalade.

For 2016, the Yukon XL gains an updated IntelliLink infotainment system and a revised driver assistance package that now includes lane keeping assist and automatic high-beam control.

Exterior

Exterior
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GMC’s full-size SUV is composed of two models: the standard Yukon and the extended-wheelbase Yukon XL. Both models are based on General Motors’ full-size pickup truck platform and have Chevrolet counterparts. The Cadillac Escalade is also based on this platform.

All GMC Yukon XL models are marked by a broad, upright grille with upswept headlamp assemblies featuring LED daytime running light accents. A long and wide hood, massive wheel wells, upper and lower profile character lines and an oversized liftgate are among its defining features. 

Denali models add chrome touches on the grille, wheels, around the doors, on the roof rails and across the rear bumper.

Interior

Interior
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There are many reasons why people remain drawn to stretched wheelbase, full-size SUVs. Chief among them are the cavernous interiors that offer comfortable seating in all three rows. Choose GMC’s Denali line and you’ll find the highest level of premium features outside of a full-blown luxury model.

The test model, a 2016 Yukon XL Denali, features leather nearly everywhere, including around the seats, across the dashboard, on the center stack and in the door inlays. Burnished aluminum trim and wood grain accents only advance the Yukon XL’s upscale interior.

The Yukon XL features a six-analog instrument panel along with a digital driver’s information center. The face of the steering wheel features cruise and secondary driver controls. To the left of the wheel on the face of the dashboard are the four-wheel drive and trailering controls.

Numerous features are standard on the Denali trim, going well beyond the expected power accessories, tilt-and-telescopic steering column and audio package. Tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, a power liftgate and HD Radio are included.

The front seats are broad, thickly padded and supportive. One of the standout features of this SUV is its seat system — the second- and third-row seats move forward, fold and flip when using switches located at the rear of the SUV. The multi-switch system enables a variety of seating arrangements to maximize people and cargo carrying capacity.

That same seating system makes third row access a snap. Like the second row, the third row offers a bench seat with ample head- and legroom. The result is an uncommon and penalty-free seating experience.

Ample storage throughout the cabin includes an oversized center console, which is large enough to hold your personal files or a purse. Upper and lower in-door storage pockets, seat back pockets and a sectioned storage compartment under the third row are also included. In-door as well as in-wall drink holders and cup holders easily outnumber the passenger count.

Performance

Performance
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GMC offers two V8 engine choices for the Yukon XL. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is available.

A 5.3-liter V8 engine making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque is standard. A 6.2-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque is standard with the Denali edition. The base engine comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the larger engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA rates the 2016 GMC Yukon XL at 16/23 mpg city/highway with the 5.3-liter V8.

Models outfitted with the 6.2-liter engine are EPA-rated at 15/22 mpg city/highway.

My test Yukon XL Denali featured the larger engine, which produces excellent power off the start and when passing on the highway. The transmission shifts smoothly through all forward gears, enabling this massive SUV to move with authority.

Steering is light to the touch. It’s an electronic system that provides surprisingly tight turns, which is especially helpful when towing a boat or trailer. The Yukon XL maintains its composure on curvy roads with average body roll experienced. Off-roading is effortless, and you can remain in rear-wheel drive often, with four-wheel drive available when it is absolutely required.

Technology

Technology
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Infotainment systems have been often been criticized for failing to do what they promise. The GMC IntelliLink system is one of the better ones on the market and is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The latest version of IntelliLink also offers OnStar 4G LTE connectivity, turning the Yukon XL into a Wi-Fi hot spot. OnStar provides a host of driver features including turn-by-turn directions and emergency assistance. A live person can be contacted at the push of a button.

GMC provides a large display to feature colorful app-like icons. Audio, phone, navigation and other apps are prominently featured, easy to access and work as tested. The turn-by-turn directions were understood and clearly displayed on the monitor.

Safety

Safety
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The Yukon XL’s sheer girth is a safety feature in and of itself. Beyond its size, GMC supplies a suite of air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. A rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and the OnStar telematics system are also standard.

The Denali model offers the most comprehensive list of safety features, though many are optional on lower trims. These include forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.

In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Yukon XL received an overall score of four stars based on a five-star grading criteria. It received three stars in rollover tests and four stars for frontal crash testing. The Yukon XL received five stars in side crash testing.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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GMC prices the Yukon XL from $51,015 for the rear-wheel drive SLE trim. Add $3,000 to obtain four-wheel drive. The SLT edition costs $59,700 and the Yukon XL Denali is priced from $68,025.

Choosing the Denali package brings in such high-end features as burnished aluminum trim, perforated leather seating, wood-grain inlays and full power accessories, including power-adjustable pedals. An open road package ($2,860) adds navigation and also brings in Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment and a power sunroof.

Adaptive cruise control with a head-up display ($1,420) is another option package.

Fully loaded, a Yukon XL Denali can top $75,000, but that is at least $10,000 less than a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade.

Overall

Overall
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Lower fuel prices have consumers turning to SUVs in record numbers. Large models such as the GMC Yukon XL provide unparalleled room, storage and performance and are also more efficient than previous generation vehicles.

A wide price differential between the base and Denali editions should not be easily dismissed, but the latter choice offers many of the same amenities found in pricier luxury models. Besides the Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon XL shoppers might consider the Ford Expedition EL and Toyota Sequoia.