2013 GMC Yukon XL Walk Around

The GMC Yukon XL is the extra-long version, about 20 inches longer than a Yukon. It's the twin to the Chevy Suburban, where the Yukon plays twin to the Tahoe.

The Suburban and Yukon XL share sheetmetal body panels but differ in details such as the grille, bumpers and lamps. These are big boxes but quite smooth, rather like an ocean liner's long flat sides and tapered ends. The Denali XL adds some of the upscale cues found on the Cadillac Escalade ESV, which shares the same platform.

The running board/side steps are integrated and unobtrusive, extending no farther than necessary, with a black grippy coating; powered retractable steps are available on some models. The tinted glass behind the C-pillar is expansive, and adds to both appearance and function. The front end has a clean appearance, with block-like headlamps over a front bumper fascia. Doors close with a reassuring thud.

Wheels change visual perceptions of the Yukon XL. The standard aluminum wheel is a nice piece for look and function. You can add 20-inch wheels, some polished aluminum and others chrome-clad that merely add a chrome-plated plastic cover to an existing wheel and could fall off or pack snow and muck depending on how you treat your truck. Dealers offer a host of dress-up items, including wheels up to 22-inches. The standard 17-inch wheels offer the best ride quality due to tires with tall sidewalls. Ride quality gets harsher as wheel diameters increase.

The rear window opens separately, which is convenient for loading lighter bags and cargo. The larger liftgate is aluminum and balanced, upgradeable to power for those accustomed to a push-button world. Roof racks can carry unwieldy items that aren't too heavy, but be sure to load with the hatch open or after the cargo area is filled so the roof load doesn't interfere with the open hatch.

Interior

The Yukon XL is comfortable for long tows or major outings. It's a carefree feeling to drive down the highway in one of these, riding high with all the comforts, including the optional Bose sound system. The seats are comfortable and easy to adjust; in some cases the seat cushion is electrically adjusted and the backrest is manual. Like most large SUVs, the front row has plenty of head and leg room.

The instrument panel and center stack are worthy of a higher-end vehicle. The Denali model is richer still, with a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, Nuance leather and darker wood trim than the other models. On all models the steering wheel is not perfectly ahead of the driver, something to consider if you frequent a chiropractor.

We found the touch-screen radio/navigation system easy to use, far easier to operate than some Mercedes and BMW systems. We set the radio stations we liked and could quickly switch from favorite XM to AM to FM stations with the push of a single button; many vehicles require switching bands, then switching stations. The system has five groups of favorite stations for user assignment. While heading up the Interstate, the system warned of traffic incidents 19 miles ahead in our direction of travel.

The switchgear is simple, and the instrumentation is clean. The console is huge, with a deep storage box and a tray on top. The glovebox is large. Two cupholders are provided in a removable tray forward of the console and they work very well. There's another cupholder in each door pocket. A slot in the dash just left of the turn signal is perfect for coins or toll-road tickets. The pedals are adjustable, to accommodate short and tall drivers with the press of a button.

For reversing into tight confines, avoiding backing over a person, pet or play-toy, or easier trailer hitching, two rearview camera systems are offered. One is integral with the navigation system and the image appears on the navigation screen; the other shows the image on the inside-rearview mirror, so you get side-by-side near and far views to the rear.

The Yukon XL can seat seven, eight or nine passengers, depending on the seats selected. Our SLT had the second-row bucket seats, with room for seven, in a two/two/three layout.

The second row offers good room, nearly matching the front. Second-row passengers in bucket seats have their own console, with an elbow tray, two cupholders each, audio controls and if equipped, the DVD screen overhead; the bench-seat second-row may be ordered with power releases to fold. With the touch of a button on the instrument panel or C-pillar, the seatbacks fold flat against the lower cushions, and then the seats flip up against the backs of the front seats.

The third row 50/50 seat has three seatbelts, two headrests, and, if you order the DVD entertainment system, its own separate screen. If you want to carry long items down one side the rear row becomes a one person seat; most vehicles with a three-person third-row seat split it 60/40 so you can carry six people plus long pieces. The third-row seats fold easily but not flat into the floor like most of the competition; for a longer flat cargo floor the third row must be taken out (and these aren't light like baby seats) and left behind.

Head room in the third row is good, and leg room is okay (34.9 inches); the Expedition EL and Navigator L have a distinct advantage here because of their independent rear suspension. There is a great view through the wraparound glass, so it doesn't feel cramped or claustrophobic back there. Third-row climate control vents are inconveniently located in the headliner over the heads of the second-row passengers, but they can be aimed rearward toward the third-row passengers' knees. The second-row passengers have their own vents in the headliner, too, over their laps.

Cargo space is where the Yukon XL excels. There's 137.4 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats, with the second row folded and third row removed. Even with all seats in place, there's still 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. However, it's a nuisance to remove the third row for optimal storage space. The lift-over height at the rear bumper is relatively high, about the same as a pickup, so it's not easy to climb up into the cargo compartment to reach things, especially since there are no grab handles.

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