2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali Review

Yukon XL Denali

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2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali Overview

Those who have some serious people-, trailer-, or cargo-hauling chores might want to take a look at the 2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali full-size luxury SUV when it goes on sale in the fall of this year. Though still clothed in that familiar mid-90’s style, this 7- or 8-passenger behemoth nevertheless provides plenty of perks and a ruggedly retro, no-nonsense demeanor.

Again offered with standard rear-wheel drive (RWD), the 2016 Yukon XL Denali remains eligible for traditional part-time 4-wheel drive (4WD), with a 2-speed transfer case, electronic locking rear differential, and auto-locking hubs included. This choice separates it out into the Denali 4x2 and the Denali 4WD iterations.

Minor upgrades slated for the upcoming model year include a couple of enhancements to the available Driver Alert package, capless fuel-fill, added alloy wheel options, improved towing sensors, and two new exterior colors: Crimson Red Tintcoat and White Frost Tricoat. Also making its debut is a new theft-deterrent liftgate.

Compare the Yukon Denali's "XL" (extra length) 130-inch (10 feet, 10 inch) wheelbase and 224.3-inch overall length to the regular Denali’s 116 inch (9.8 feet) wheelbase and 203.9-inch (17 feet) overall length. This means that total cargo area for the stretched version remains an impressive (but not class-leading) 121.1 cubic feet with the rear setbacks folded. GMC cut the 2015 Yukon XL’s original 39 cubic feet of toting space behind the third-row seat to 35 cubic feet, a move that disappointed more than a few owners and reviewers.

The Yukon XL Denali will retain a number of exterior features for the upcoming model year, including restyled 20-inch alloy wheels, side steps, remote engine start, a roof rack, a trailer hitch and wiring, and a power liftgate to bolster its distinctive mesh grille.

Inside, look for the 2016 edition to boast premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front and second-row seats, keyless entry and ignition, power-folding third-row seats, and power-adjustable pedals. Cruise control, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, a remote garage door opener, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, memory for driver settings, tri-zone automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror are also expected to return for 2016.

Techno-goodies are slated to include OnStar infotainment and telematics with Bluetooth hands-free technology and the 4G LTE WiFi hotspot that GM debuted for 2015, as well as an 8-inch driver's information display complimented by the 8-inch infotainment monitor integrated with standard OnStar-interfaced GPS navigation. Also returning for the upcoming year is a standard Bose premium audio system sporting a CD/MP3 player, 10 speakers, satellite radio, a memory card slot, and an auxiliary audio input.

Options are scheduled to once again include a power sunroof, rear-seat Blu-Ray/DVD entertainment, power-folding side steps, and those restyled wheel offerings in either 20- or 22-inch diameter. An optional second-row bench seat raises passenger capacity from 7 to 8.

Powering everything is a 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, managed by a competent 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission. This combo boasts 8,100 pounds of towing capacity and has been clocked from 0-60 in 6.4 seconds. The V8-toting Yukon XL Denali is not, however, the most fuel efficient SUV out there, being estimated at 15 mpg city/21 highway/17 combined in the RWD format, and 14/20/16 with 4WD.

Safety-wise, this jumbo ute is slated to again pack standard 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front side-mounted airbags, 3-row head-protection airbags, daytime running lights, front fog/driving lights, high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights, and turn-signal-integrated mirrors. OnStar emergency alerts and communications also remain standard, as does a post-collision safety system and a remote antitheft alarm. The new tamper-resistant tailgate locking system and improved towing sensors debut for the upcoming year, while the available Driver Alert package, already boasting forward collision alerts, lane-departure warnings, and a driver-alert seat, is expected to add active lane-keeping assistance and automatic high-beam headlights (together possibly renamed as the Enhanced Driver Alert package). Be aware that neither the government nor the insurance industry test full-size sport utes for crash-worthiness because of their sheer size.

As noted, some owners of the current Yukon XL Denali are a bit disappointed at the deletion of a few cubic feet of toting capacity behind the third-row seatbacks, while others find its length difficult to handle in urban settings. Virtually all owners, however, praise this brute’s ride comfort, work ethic, muscle, and features.

Look for the 2016 Yukon XL Denali to again challenge the likes of Lincoln’s recently reworked Navigator L, Toyota’s elegant yet utilitarian Sequoia, Cadillac's legendary Escalade, and Infiniti’s luxury-laden QX80 in this small but competitive niche.


Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.

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