CRITICS' CORNER

GMC's people hauler is big, comfy and practical

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali

General Motors' biggest SUVs at Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac were redesigned for 2015 just as Americans, aided by falling fuel prices and fatigue with the family sedan, started reconnecting with SUVs and crossovers. The revamped 2015 GMC Yukon, Yukon XL and flagship Yukon Denali models feature more capability and refinement, greater performance, new fold-flat rear seats and a quieter interior. They're also better connected, with next-generation IntelliLink. A look at some reviews of the Yukon family.

"With every drive of the latest generation of GM's big body-on-frame SUVs, I come away very impressed by them. Heck, you can even say that I like the Chevrolet Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and this 2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali. A couple of nights in it saw me using all the generous cargo space on a supply run for the family restaurant and then the following night I hauled five people to the movies in a snow storm.

So who needs something this big? Well, I suppose someone who owns a Chinese restaurant could find all the space useful. Both the second- and third-row of seats are power folding and fold flat. This allowed me to load up plenty of Styrofoam containers. I believe I stuffed 16 cases in there in addition to various other items. It was a great haul of supplies.

The next night it was off to see "Taken 3" with a car full of friends who enjoyed all the space and comfort in the Yukon XL Denali's interior. Heated second-row seats were a hit and all the legroom was enjoyed, preventing people from being scrunched together.

At no point during my two nights with this Denali did I test out the 6.2-liter V8 because I never towed anything. For the restaurant supply run, I'm sure a minivan or something like a Ford Transit Connect or Nissan NV would have done the trick just fine. The movie trip could have been managed in a midsize sedan or small SUV, but just in not as much comfort for occupants. Sure, there are people who have boats or campers to tow and have a bigger family where something like this Yukon XL makes a lot of sense. In other cases it's a luxury item for people who enjoy having something this big and plush, which is perfectly understandable. Ask any of the people I took to the movies, and I'm sure not one of them will turn down a ride in this again. Not only does something like this Yukon XL Denali tick off the luxury boxes, but the practicality boxes as well." -- Jonathan Wong, Autoweek

"The Yukon comes amply powered by a EcoTec3 5.3-liter V8 engine that generates 355 horsepower with a muscular 383 pound-feet of torque available at one's right foot that enables lively launches and brisk highway passing abilities with smooth operation throughout its effective range. Mated to a stalwart six-speed automatic transmission, the base V8 affords a top towing rating of 8,500 pounds with the standard rear-drive setup and the necessary towing accoutrements. Four-wheel-drive is optional for added foul-weather traction and conquering rugged terrain, with low-range gearing to accommodate adventurous off-roading. The top Denali version, meanwhile, packs a 6.2-liter 420-horsepower V8 and a new eight-speed automatic, the latter of which we'd like to eventually see made standard across the line.

The Yukon's fuel economy is rated at 16/23-mpg city/highway with rear-drive or 16/22 with 4WD, which is hardly economical, but at least that represents increases of around 7 and 10 percent, respectively, over the previous generation. This is due in large part to modern engine technology like direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and automatic cylinder deactivation that shuts down half the cylinders at cruising speeds." -- Forbes

"If you're wondering, yes, I did ride in the third-row seat, and for a 90-minute cross-town jaunt while working on a laptop. This experience reminded me of sitting in row 38 of a crowded 737, with the guy in front of me reclined, and the pilot combating moderate turbulence. Certainly, the Yukon XL's solid rear axle and optional 22-inch wheels were partly to blame, but grown-ups aren't likely to be happy in this seat for very long.

Chances are good that you'll leave that third-row seat folded flat most of the time, anyway, expanding cargo space from 38.9 cu.-ft. to 76.7 cu.-ft. That latter measurement can't match a minivan's capacity for cargo, and the Yukon's maximum cargo volume measurement of 121.4 cu.-ft. is well short of what an Odyssey, Sedona, or Sienna will provide.

Compare those numbers to the previous Yukon XL, and you'll notice that cargo room has actually shrunk. That's because the third-row seats no longer require removal to maximize space, and the second row seats fold flat instead of tumbling forward. This new design adds simplicity and practicality, but robs the Yukon of space." -- Christian Wardlaw, New York Daily News

"Prodigious weight works for you at times, against you at other times. Startup traction is excellent, but braking and cornering performance on slippery surfaces suffers with so much mass to manipulate. In addition, parking in tight spaces is always a chore, even with the backup camera and corner sensors helping out. This is a big rig with a large turning radius and severely challenged up-close outward visibility. The obvious message: If you don't really need and use seats for eight and their luggage, shop smaller. Also, the ratio of interior space versus exterior volume pales in comparison to more efficiently packaged SUVs and minivans." -- Car and Driver

"The SportWagen is quiet on the highway. The steering is quick, with good on-center feel. The suspension absorbed the bumps from broken pavement well, and kept the wagon securely planted on twisty roads.

"It's an enjoyable little car that also happens to be practical. The price and features could be more competitive, but what else are you going to buy if you want a compact station wagon? The Golf SportWagen is the only game in town." -- Detroit Free Press

You can reach at autonews@crain.com. -- Follow on Twitter
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