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2009 GMC Yukon XL ReviewThe Good
The 2009 Yukon XL provides great power, great comfort, and great utility, and the addition of a six-speed transmission only improves its already enjoyable driveability.The Bad
With the base '09 Yukon XL starting at over forty thousand dollars, and a Denali pushing just past fifty-five, this isn’t exactly the steal of the week, especially considering the money you'll have to pour into it as a result of its abysmal fuel efficiency.
The CarGurus View
It’s hard to apply logic to the giant SUV craze of the last decade. If this is what you’re looking for, if this is something you can afford, the Yukon XL is a great choice, and the negatives probably won’t be enough to sway you. In all, the Yukon does what it was designed to do very well, the XL even better, and if you get the optional rear-obstacle-detection system and load-leveling suspension, you’ll have relatively little to complain about.
At a Glance
The 2009 Yukon XL is the extended-wheelbase version of GMC’s full-size SUV, rebadged from the full-size Jimmy back in 1992. It now sits on the GMT900 platform, shared with the Chevrolet Suburban, the longest-lived continuous automobile nameplate, in production since 1935. Specific for the XL are integrated running boards with an available power option, 16- or 17-inch wheels for the half-ton and three-quarter-ton trims, an optional powered liftgate, and standard power heated side mirrors.
With an increase in the wheelbase of 14 inches and an increase in overall length of 20, the Yukon XL adds almost 30 cubic feet to the cargo volume of the base Yukon. Available in half-ton 1500 and three-quarter-ton 2500 trims, the two XL versions can tow up to 8,100 and an impressive 9,600 pounds respectively. While available in four trim levels, it should be noted that the three-quarter-ton version is available only in SLE and SLT trims.
New for 2009 is a standard six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the four-speed offered in previous years. Also, heavy-duty towing options and an integrated brake controller account for its towing capacity. A blind-zone alert system, integrated rearview camera system, rear parking assist, and automatic wipers are all new for 2009, as well as the new Dark Crimson Metallic paint. The three-quarter-ton version features a heavier-duty multileaf rear suspension and a hydraulic brake booster to help support its extra towing capacity.
Available in both rear-wheel- and four-wheel-drive trims, the Yukon boasts not unimpressive 14/20 and 14/19 mpg ratings from its 320-hp, 5.3-liter Vortec V8, especially when considering its nine-person seating, huge towing capacity, and flex fuel capability option. A standard non-flex-fuel 5.3-liter is also available. Other optional engines for the XL are a 366-hp, 6.0-liter V8 for the half-ton and a 352-hp, 6.0-liter V8 for the three-quarter-ton, all with GM's Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation, which shuts off four cylinders during low load times to conserve fuel, producing an EPA estimate of 12/17.
All engines have more than adequate power for all situations and are suitably refined, both in power delivery and noise reverberation. Even when under load, none of the engines sound ragged or strained, and the new six-speed automatic is a smooth and crisp replacement for the old four-speed.
Ride & Handling
All trim levels are available with RWD, while SLEs and SLTs can be outfitted with a full-time 4WD system that's as at home on dry pavement as it is in mud and snow and includes a low-range gear. Ride comfort has been called very car-like, especially over bumps, with only slight float over dips and swells. The XL trims provide the smoothest ride of all the Yukons, according to many reviewers. GM's Autoride load-leveling suspension does its job combating much of the boat-like characteristics that can be encountered with a full-size SUV, but doesn’t seem to improve overall absorption. While still a large SUV, relatively little body lean or nose-plowing has been described in turns. The alarmingly progressive steering is very light at low speed, which is nice to be sure, but it tends to lean toward oversteer at speed, which can be unnerving. Brakes, however, inspire nothing but confidence.
Cabin & Comfort
The Yukon’s spacious interior has been well-received across all trim levels, with high marks for fit and finish. Comfortable seats, whether bench or bucket, and ample headroom make for a fine ride, with over 60 cubic feet of space with all seats in place and almost 109 with the rear seat folded.
Controls are well placed for both reach and vision, although some have complained about indistinct markings on the gauges themselves. Visibility is surprisingly good, hampered only in the immediate rear, where the optional rearview camera can help immensely. Interior room for the driver benefits from adjustable pedals, although there’s ample space regardless, even in the second row, although the third row is difficult to access and occupy. Additionally, with the third row in place, there’s not a lot of room left for storage, and the seat fails to fold flush, necessitating removal for larger items.
Optional packages include the 4SB package, which adds heated, 10-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustment and a memory system, heated 2nd-row seats, power-folding mirrors with integrated turn signals, and automatic day/night reverse-tilt mirrors. A convenience package adds the rear-obstacle-detection system, tri-zone automatic climate controls, power-adjustable pedals, and a remote engine start. Other appearance and suspension packages are also available.
The Denali trim adds a heated power-tilt steering wheel and heated front and second-row bucket seats. The front seats additionally come with twelve-way power controls and lumbar adjustment, as well as driver-seat memory. Second-row seats are also equipped with the power-release folding feature. Additional features include automatic day/night mirrors with integrated turn signals that tilt down to help backing up, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer fluid, an outside-temperature indicator, compass, and the new power liftgate.
With four-wheel ABS controlling its four vented discs, the Yukon XL isn’t short on stopping power. Coupled with a myriad of safety features including traction and stability control, a rear limited-slip differential, and electronic brakeforce distribution, you won’t feel like you’re cruising around in a tank. Standard front and head-curtain airbags come standard in all four trim packages, as well as a tire-pressure monitoring system and one year of OnStar, level-dependent on trim package.
NHTSA ratings are impressive at five stars in all categories except rollover and rollover resistance, which garnered three stars.
What Owners Think
Owners welcome the power and capacity that comes with the Yukon XL, especially considering that style and comfort don’t need to be sacrificed. Many have found that the Yukon occupies a niche nestled between entry-level large SUVs and luxury SUVs, with most of the benefits of its higher-end competitors. This is especially true with the XL, which is able to boast the smoothest, most comfortable ride of the entire Yukon line.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.