By Keith Buglewicz
If you're buying a GMC Yukon or Yukon XL (the long and longer versions of the big SUV), GMC says there's a 60-percent chance you're getting one of the upscale Denali models. We understand. With its more powerful V8 engine and upscale interior trim, the Denali has offered high levels of content for a more reasonable price than luxury-branded competitors. However, with the 2015 GMC Yukon, we think the Yukon Denali version may actually expand its reach. Why? Because the standard 2015 GMC Yukon – with its new interior, new styling, and newfound refinement – is nicer than the old Denali ever was. That means the new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali moves even higher up the food chain.
If you need no-compromises hauling and towing ability, along with a no-compromises, first-rate interior, the 2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are just the ticket. That goes double for the high-end Denali models.
If your hauling, towing, or family-hauling needs are more modest than the GMC Yukon demands, then the combined penalties of size, poor fuel economy and – in the case of the Denali – price, probably aren't worth it.
The 2015 GMC Yukon is all new, with new exterior styling, and a fresh and comfortably luxurious interior. But the changes are more than cosmetic: Under the sheet metal is a new chassis and suspension, and the two V8 engines are significantly improved for more power and better fuel economy.
Driving Impressions The 2015 GMC Yukon comes in two distinct flavors: standard and Denali. The standard-issue GMC Yukon is mechanically identical to its 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban...... counterparts. The same can't be said for the upscale Denali models, which have no Chevrolet counterpart. The more-powerful 6.2-liter V8 engine moves the Denali with authority, be it the standard or extended XL body. The upscale interior includes real poplar wood trim, aluminum accents with a burnished tint, an 8-inch TFT (less glare, visually sharper) display between the gauges, and our test model even had a head-up display. It also comes with Magnetic Ride Control, which helps give this heavy SUV a comfortable ride while simultaneously controlling body motions. Put it all together, and you have a luxurious, comfortable and well-controlled full-size SUV that's as at home on the highway as it is on a twisting mountain road.
FOLD-FLAT THIRD ROW
It has been a long time coming, but the GMC Yukon finally has a third row that folds flat. GMC had to add a little extra height to the load floor to make it work, but it's not wasted space – lift up a panel and there's hidden storage space.
MAGNETIC RIDE CONTROL
This technology allows this big SUV to handle like a much smaller vehicle. The secret is in the shock absorbers, which read the road and adjust their stiffness instantaneously, allowing this the Yukon to absorb bumps, but not wallow in corners. Too bad it's only available on the expensive Denali models.
This is where the GMC Yukon is head and shoulders above its predecessor, and where it sets itself apart from Ford, Nissan and Toyota competitors. The materials are first rate, the switchgear is logically arranged and feels high-class, and the driver's seat is exceptionally comfortable. The same is true for the second row, which can come with either a bench or a pair of captain's chairs. The third row is best for kids in a standard Yukon, but the XL manages grownups thanks to extra legroom. The new fold-flat third row makes it easier to maximize cargo room.Exterior
GMC's designers describe their inspiration for the 2015 Yukon as a "fist in the wind." Hokey, maybe, but it certainly is a good descriptor for the blunt, nearly brutish design of the front end. The Denali models share the same sheet metal as non-Denalis, but with a chrome mesh grille instead of the 3-element one on regular Yukons. Similar to the mesh design currently used, its new design adds depth. Still, it's a lot of chrome, and some think it's simply too much.
The 2015 GMC Yukon offers more features on the SLE base model than the Chevy Tahoe does on its LS, but it also costs more. Standard on all Yukon models are niceties like automatic windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, and fog lights. Step up to the SLT and you'll get leather seats, a power-folding second and third row, and safety tech like forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning. The Yukon Denali piles on the options, adding the 6.2-liter V8, upgraded interior and exterior trim, and Magnetic Ride Control to the SLT package.
The GMC Yukon is one of the few vehicles left with an available front bench seat, for a total of nine seating positions. Other notable options include a $3,255 entertainment package that includes rear-seat entertainment, navigation and a sunroof, and a $395 security package that adds interior motion detectors. On the Denali side of things, the Touring package costs $4,110 ($4,160 on XL models) and adds a sunroof, DVD for the second and third row, the theft-deterrent system, 20-inch wheels, and a head-up display. Retractable running boards ($1,795) and active cruise ($1,695) are also available.
2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL models come standard with a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This isn't a carryover engine though, as it boasts fuel saving technologies like Active Cylinder Management, which seamlessly shuts off half the cylinders under steady cruise. It also has direct injection, an advanced fuel-injection technology that improves fuel economy while simultaneously increasing horsepower and torque. Step up to the Denali and you step up in power with a 6.2-liter V8 that puts out 420-horsepower. It also features direct injection and Active Cylinder Management. All Yukons and Denalis are available with 4-wheel drive (4WD) with an off-road-ready low range.
355 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
383 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 mpg (2WD); 15/22 mpg (4WD)
420 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
460 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 mpg (2WD); 14/21 mpg (4WD); 14/20 mpg (4WD XL)
The 2015 GMC Yukon costs a couple thousand dollars more than its predecessor, although you're getting more for your money. Base SLE trims with rear-wheel drive start a little above $47,000, while the more lavishly equipped SLT starts a little under $56,000. Yukon XL models start at about $50,000 for the SLE and $58,500 for SLT. As for the Denali models, the Yukon Denali starts at about $63,000, while the Yukon XL Denali starts at $66,000. If you want 4-wheel drive on any Yukon model, add about $3,000. Over the long haul, the GMC Yukon's resale value is about the same as its competitors from Ford and Nissan, and a bit below the Toyota Sequoia. Before you buy, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for the 2015 GMC Yukon to find out what other buyers in your area are paying.