Power. Toughness. Capability. For the big jobs, you just canít beat the utility of a truck-based sport utility vehicle like the GMC Yukon. But what happens when you need to haul more people and cargo than the standard-issue Yukon can swallow up while retaining the ability to tow heavy loads as well? Thatís when standard Yukon steps aside and calls in its big brother: the aptly-named 2011 GMC Yukon XL.
At 222.4 inches in overall length (thatís just over 18.5 feet - 20 inches longer than the standard Yukon), the Yukon XL can fairly be called Texas-sized. That size translates into a truckload of interior space. The GMC Yukon XL (in its base SLE trim level) seats nine passengers, three adults in each of three rows of seats. As you walk up the trim and option-package ladder, a variety of seven- and eight-passenger configurations become available.
Cargo volume behind the third row seats is a generous 45.8 cubic feet, which still affords the rearmost passengers over 34 inches of legroom. Remove the third-row seats and that space almost doubles to 90 cubic feet. For major hauling needs, with the third row removed and the second row folded, the Yukon XL can eat up a full 137 cubic feet of cargo. In every configuration, the Yukon XL provides best in class numbers.
Interior space is only part of the practicality equation. When set up for trailering, the GMC Yukon XL turns into a big steel ox. With the standard 320 hp 5.3-liter FlexFuel V8 that also delivers 335 lb/ft, max towing capacity is 8,100 pounds with two-wheel drive and 8,000 even with four-wheel drive. (The 5.3Lís power and torque numbers actually increase slightly when the engine is running on E85 Ethanol.) The available Denali-spec 6.2-liter V8 with 403 hp and 417 lb/ft of torque can handle trailer loads from 7,800 pounds (with all-wheel drive) to 7,900 pounds (two-wheel drive). Finally, the available 6.0-liter V8 used in the Yukon XL 2500 can pull a monstrous 9,400 (four-wheel drive) to 9,600 (two-wheel drive) pounds. Every Yukon XL engine is paired with a six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.
While the GMC Yukon XL offers a wide array of individual options and packages in addition to the three aforementioned powertrains, the family can basically be broken down into three broad trim levels: the standard SLE, uplevel SLT and the range-topping Denali luxury model.
The Yukon XL SLE features the 5.3L V8, basic power amenities, premium cloth seating in the nine-passenger configuration and 17-inch wheels. The key SLE options are a Convenience Package, (which adds features like power-adjustable pedals and a remote starter) and the SLE Exterior Package, (which adds foglamps, tow hooks and luggage rack rails). Purchasing those two makes you eligible to add the SLE-2 Equipment Package, which swaps the front bench out for a pair of power bucket seats and adds a nine-speaker BOSE audio system, tri-zone climate control and rear-seat audio controls. All Yukon XLs include standard Bluetooth phone connectivity and USB ports for digital audio playback.
Yukon XL SLT models start where the SLE leaves off. Leather seating is standard, and a litany of both a la carte and package-driven options are available that offer up available upgrades such as heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, a wide variety of wheel upgrades, various audio systems including a navigation audio unit with rear-seat entertainment, plus safety options like Blind Zone Alert. In addition to the standard 5.3-liter V8, the Yukon XL SLT can be ordered with a 395 hp version of the top-tier 6.2-liter V8. (Like the 5.3, this version of the 6.2 features Active Fuel Management technology that shuts off half the cylinders when theyíre not needed.)
The 3/4-ton GMC Yukon XL 2500 is offered in both SLE and SLT trim levels. Its key difference is that its standard engine is the 352-hp 6.0-liter Vortec V8, which, as detailed earlier, offers the best tow capacity of the entire Yukon XL range.
Capping the family tree is the fully loaded GMC Yukon Denali (even the navigation audio system is included). A number of different wheels are available along with rear-seat entertainment and power-assist sidesteps, among other options. Its standard engine is the 403-hp version of the 6.2-liter Vortec V8 (again with Active Fuel Management).
A full suite of airbags is standard in all Yukon XL trims, as is StabiliTrak electronic stability control and OnStar.
With a competitive package of all-American toughness, many comforting amenities, undeniable tow and hauling power and sophisticated safety features, the 2011 GMC Yukon XL comes up as big as its name suggests.