Class: Large SUV
Miles Driven: 264
Fuel Used: 18.6 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 14.2 mpg
Driving mix: 80% city, 20% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 14/20/16 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gasoline recommended
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||A+|
|Power and Performance||A-|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Base price: $72,300 (not including $1295 destination charge)
Options on test car: Denali Ultimate Package ($8080), Denali Ultimate Black Edition ($1000), roof rack cross rails ($265), Interior Protection Package ($250), Denali Ultimate Package discount (-$1000)
Price as tested: $82,190
The great: Cavernous interior room; smooth, confident acceleration
The good: Absorbent ride, upscale attitude inside and out
The not so good: Serious thirst for premium fuel; XL exterior dimensions make parking a chore
Every journey in a GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate Black Edition should not start with the sound of a 6.2-liter V8 cranking over but with mechanically assisted heavy breathing. Nothing says “Luke, I am your father” quite like one of these imposing sport-utilities sprayed Onyx Black with 22-inch black-painted alloy wheels, and a Jet Black leather interior with matching premium carpeted floor mats in the first and second rows.
That was the look of the 2019 Yukon Denali that Consumer Guide editors tested, an 18.7-foot-long XL, the imperial battle cruiser of the GMC fleet. Only this spaceship’s domain is inner space, with true room for seven adults and up to 121.7 cubic feet of storage space. It’s a strong runner with copious features, but at a not-inconsiderable starting price—$73,595 with delivery for the four-wheel-drive model—that can easily go galactic.
The newest things about the ’19 Yukon, the addition of Graphite Edition and Graphite Performance Edition option packages, don’t even apply to the Denali. They are confined to the SLT trim level. Meanwhile, the deluxe Denali picks up where the 2018 model left off.
Its standard V8 makes 420 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4100 revs, and it works through a 10-speed automatic transmission. With this powerteam the XL Denali’s 5900-and-some pounds leave the line from a stop eagerly and fairly quietly. The transmission is smooth and subtle, and helps the truck get up to highway speed in a hurry. Timely kickdown enables secure passing. Other driveline features are a fully automatic locking rear differential and an electronically controlled 2-speed transfer case. The 4WD long-body Denali is rated to tow 7900 pounds.
Not that it’s a surprise, but this is no fuel miser, even with variable displacement. EPA ratings are 14 premium-fueled mpg in the city, 20 on the highway, and 16 combined—that should put a ripple in your Force. In 127 miles of commuting and local errand-running, with 60 percent city driving and no more than two people aboard, this driver saw 14.6 mpg.
If there’s any great dynamic virtue to length, it’s in ride. The Yukon XL has a 130-inch wheelbase that’s 14 inches longer than that of the “short” Yukon. (The Ford Expedition Max, CG’s “Best Buy” pick in the large-SUV category, runs 131.6 inches between the wheel centers.) Equipped with standard magnetic ride control, the test truck was hardly bothered by the majority of road irregularities, and automatic rear load leveling will be a boon to those who haul heavy loads. Handling is less comforting. Steering is decently precise but a big 43-foot turning circle means picking one’s spots carefully in parking lots, and the sheer size of the thing calls for prudence and forethought when changing lanes—you don’t just dart into holes in traffic.
In fact, the Yukon XL stretches 224.4 inches from nose to tail—20 more than its shorter sibling. With the longer body, there are 9.7 more inches of third-row legroom, which means that up to three adults could find the rear row hospitable and habitable—and it’s no chore to get back there with second-row bucket seats that pitch forward for access, or by sidestepping through the wide gap between the seats. Front- and middle-row passengers have ample stretch-out space, and no shortage of headroom. Rear riders will find themselves a little closer to the ceiling.
The extra size also pays off in cargo space. The figure cited at the start is what’s available with middle- and rear-row seats down (and marginally more than what the 2.5-inch-shorter Expedition Max holds). But even with the seats up there’s room for 39.3 cubic feet of stuff—plus some room under the floor. The third-row 60/40 seat backs fold flat with the floor, thanks to power switches in the cargo bay. The cargo floor had to be raised to make this happen, which results in a higher liftover, but it also made the underfloor bins possible.
Passengers enjoy a fairly sumptuous cabin ambience in top-level Denalis. Soft-surface material is readily present on the dash and door panels. Wood highlights portions of the dash, console, and doors. Comfortable and supportive leather seating is found in all three rows—though seat-back padding is thinner in the back row. The driver grips a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Occupants are warmed or cooled by a 3-zone climate system with easy-to-use controls. The GMC Infotainment System includes navigation, apps, communication, and no-drama audio settings that can be accessed on an 8-inch color touchscreen. Drivers face a full array of gauges and a color head-up display.
The touchscreen powers up to reveal a storage cubby behind it. A huge covered console box overshadows the glove box—we don’t know if this is a thing, but the console is two-beef-sandwiches/two-orders-of-fries big. Pop-up doors on the console reveal a bay for electronic-device inputs, and a pair of cup holders. The middle row is served by pouches on the backs of the front seats and cup holders in the door armrests. Rear-seaters have cup holders and small open storage bins molded into the sidewalls. Pockets are in all four doors.
Other Denali standard features are keyless entry and starting; power tilt/telescoping steering column; heated and vented front seats; heated second-row seats; memory settings for driver’s seat, external mirrors, steering wheel, and pedals; fog lamps; and hands-free tailgate. Connectivity items are Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety minders include forward-collision alert and automatic braking, lane-change/blind-zone alert, lane-keep assist, and rear-cross-traffic alert. The test truck’s $82,190 bottom line came about via the Black Edition package, but that required the Denali Ultimate Package (power running boards, moonroof, video entertainment system, and more). Roof cross rails and an interior-protection group completed the shopping list.
The GMC Yukon XL Denali clearly is a substantial vehicle in terms of features, yes, but also sheer size. Make it an Ultimate Black Edition and you’re sure to find that it’s kind of on the, uh, dark side.