- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

In another day and time, the GMC Yukon XL would have been called the GMC Suburban. However, in its effort to distance its trucks from those of Chevy, GMC renamed its largest SUV, dropping the Suburban nameplate shared with Chevy for the proprietary Yukon XL. Of course, changing the name doesn't alter the fact the Yukon XL is closely related to the Suburban, but it does help define the GMC version. Exterior styling is somewhat different and the Yukon XL is a more upscale translation of this wildly popular SUV.

Even more upscale is the Yukon XL Denali I recently tested. Having as much in common with the Cadillac Escalade than the Suburban, the Denali's highend luxury masks Yukon XL's workhorse credentials. Quite at home in the parking lot of the opera house or country club, the Denali is a highly competent work vehicle at heart. It's the best of both worlds.

A brand new vehicle in 2001, the Yukon XL Denali is basically unchanged for 2002. An awesome vehicle by any measure, the Yukon XL is outsized only by Ford's Excursion. Its bold styling exudes a rough and tumble elegance. My test Denali was black. With its tinted side and rear glass, it presented a truly sinister profile.

The image must have been equally intimidating in the rearview mirror of other vehicles which didn't dally long in the passing lane with this black behemoth bearing down on them. Clear lanes simply opened up in front of this beast.

Only one powerplant is offered in the Denali. It's a 6.0-liter Vortec V8. Thanks to some technology borrowed from Corvette, this V8's intake and exhaust ports enhance air flow, boosting power. Horsepower is 320 at 5000 rpm, while peak torque is a whopping 365 foot-pounds at 4000 rpm. A beefed up 4-speed automatic transmission translates engine output into wheel spin. All-wheel-drive is standard on Denali. It's an intuitive system requiring no driver input. When encountering slippery surfaces, it puts the power to the wheel or wheels with grip.

A favorite among boaters and the travel trailer crowd,Denali is capable of towing 8,500 pounds. Fuel economy, though, doesn't make the conservationists cheer. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Yukon XL Denali's miles-per-gallon at 12 in the city and 16 on the highway.

Depending on how it is equipped, the XL Denali can seat either seven or eight occupants. The number is determined by whether the 60/40 split second row seat is replaced by the dual bucket seat option. Both the folding third row bench seat and the second row seat or seats can be removed to create more cargo room. With nearly 46 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third seat, however, most owners probably will never need to remove the seats.

With the Denali upgrade come standard extras such as two-tone leather seats, the OnStar driver assistance system with one year's free service, front/rear automatic climate controls, heated 10-way power front seats, and an 11-speaker Bose Acoustimass audio system with AM/FM stereo/cassette and 6-disc CD changer. Although requiring a step up or down, the Yukon XL is easy to enter and exit. There is sufficient leg, shoulder and head room in all seating positions. Relatively quiet for a large truck, the Yukon XL is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours of road time.

Although its suspension is engineered to accommodate heavy loads, its independent front suspension and coil spring rear suspension deliver a remarkably smooth ride. The suspension sponges up most surface inconsistencies without transferring them to the passenger compartment. Rather tall, the Yukon XL does sway a bit in the turns.

Thanks to speed-sensitive power-assisted steering, steering response is quick and the Yukon XL is more nimble than its size indicates. There will be no disguising its size, however, when searching for that ever elusive parking space on a crowed street or packed parking lot. Docking requires a healthy amount of real estate and some maneuvering room.

Base price of the GMC Yukon XL Denali is $48,050. Standard features not already listed include 17-inch aluminum wheels, dual frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, daytime running lamps, remote keyless entry, dual power/heated outboard mirrors, roof-mounted luggage rack, power windows/door locks, auto-dimming rearview mirror with outside temperature gauge/compass, and cargo tie-down anchors and net.

My test Denali had the $1,000 sunroof and $490 second row bucket seat option. Adding the $765 delivery charge brought the total as tested to $50,305.

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