Type to search

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to Work


Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to Work

The 2018 GMC Yukon XL may play second fiddle to its better known brother, the Chevy Suburban, yet with the XL length and a Denali trim, it makes a strong case for being the better looking one.

Looks aren’t everything and the GMC Yukon XL Denali does real work as well. We loaded it up with building materials and towed a small trailer during a week of testing. The only downside was when we had to give up the keys.

Before we get into putting the Yukon to work, let’s start with how great the styling is on the full-size SUV. Prior generations of the SUV had round corners and a soft look, the latest generation has strong character lines and a brash front grille. With chrome surrounds on the fog lamps and generous amount of chrome throughout, it also has a luxury feel.

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to WorkClimbing into the cabin, it immediately puts you at ease. The driver’s position feels like a miniature cockpit with all the knobs and buttons within easy reach.  Scanning the gauges and buttons, it really does seem like the Yukon has it all from the comfortable heated and cooled seats, 8” infotainment screen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and 4G LTE WiFi. Also, there are a slew of USB ports, accessory power outlets, wireless charging, etc… Really, we could keep going.

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to WorkThe other immediate thing you notice is how quiet the SUV is on the interior. It is literally whisper quiet and this is thanks to a considerable amount of engineering effort. This is especially surprising considering our test model came with the 6.2L V8, 420 HP, 460 lb-ft of torque, mated to a new 10-speed transmission. One would assume a large V8 like this would rumble the cabin or be so loud as to disrupt conversations. Nope.  It really is that quiet.

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to WorkEven on the highway, putting the pedal, down the V8 just doesn’t roar like you would expect (or maybe you would want). Mated to the new transmission, the GMC Yukon effortlessly slips through the gears and with the Magnetic Ride Control it feels so smooth, it could trick you into thinking you are driving an electric Chevy Bolt and not a 7-passenger SUV.

Now it is a full-size SUV with 224.4” of length and a 130” wheelbase as well as being 74.4” tall (a little over 6’2” tall). During our week of testing, we folded down both rows of seats and put 8-foot dog ear fence panels in the back without an issue. No tying the rear tailgate shut or driving with the gate open. Toss them in and shut the tailgate, simple as that.

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to Work

How did it do with a load? We hauled a small trailer and loaded it up with trash. It was a lot of work loading up the trailer and while we got tired and sweaty, the Yukon ignored the trailer and barely broke a sweat.

The rear still features a solid axle with five-links and coil springs with the Magnetic Ride Control. This combination pulls strong and provides an independent rear suspension ride quality. With the 6.2L, the Yukon can really move some weight with a max towing capacity of 7,900 lbs with 4wd models and 8,100 for 2wd – about half of what a half-ton pickup can tow.


Critics of the Yukon XL will point to its abysmal fuel economy of 14/21 city/highway with 4wd models (14/23 city/highway 2wd) and its massive size. Apparently, the Yukon XL Denali is overkill in their view on what people really need vs. want. The starting MSRP of $68,900 also causes them some concern.

Review: 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Putting the Full-Size SUV to WorkOn paper, they may be correct, yet behind the wheel, their arguments feel foolish. When you have a large family, you actively do outdoor adventures with campers or boats and you want some comfort, the GMC Yukon XL Denali is really hard to beat. It is a purpose-built vehicle and it flat out excels.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

  • 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *