2017 GMC Yukon Denali XL Is a Super-Sized SUV That Drives With Purpose

The three-row category is heating up and GMC is there again with its upmarket take on the Chevy Suburban.

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Jim Fets Photography

Bigger is better, we're led to believe, and those who take to that gospel need to take a spin the in 2017 GMC Yukon Denali XL. It has a great cabin with room for everything, a nicely up-powered Yukon EcoTech3 V-8 engine, best in class fuel economy, 8,500 pounds of towing capability, and plenty of standard amenities, including leather-appointed and heated seating and a powerful Bose sound system. Also, there's something subtly different with a GMC. They're seen less often, and therefore a little more open to interpretation by those who see you driving it. 

The First Thing You Notice

Size, in every way possible. It's tall, it's wide, it's long, it's roomy, it's big. And yet the Yukon Denali XL doesn't feel ridiculously large. It feels purposeful, like the truck of a family of eight, or the work truck for a crew of talented tradesmen. On my way to work today, I saw a huge pickup on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with a massive crew cab, jacked up suspension, oversize tires, one person inside and on the back a huge American flag flapping in the wind. This Yukon feels like the opposite kind of huge, if you get my drift.

The Thing They Don't Want You to Notice But You Do Anyway

The driver's seat is oddly cramped! How can that be? Not sure, but the steering wheel feels close to you and boxed in between the vents and the dashboard. My arms felt too close to the door and the armrest. 

Truck Is Good At

Capacity and capability. It can hold more tennis balls, beach balls or yoga balls than you would ever want to stick in a truck, and it's got massive towing capability and an optional heavy duty trailering equipment package.

Truck Is Bad At

The Yukon Denali XL is hell in tight spaces such as parking garages, small parking spaces, carports and smaller-than-large home garages. The effect is felt less so on tight roads because the size of the Yukon commands the road in a way that makes everyone else get out of the way. Except tractor trailers.

Rate 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent)

  • Performance: 4.5
  • Comfort: 4.25
  • Hauling People: 4.5
  • Hauling Stuff: 5
  • Curb Appeal: 4
  • "Wow" Factor: 3.5
  • Overall: 4.3

Would You Buy It?

This is a truck about needs. If I needed seating for eight, or had a boat to tow or otherwise had the need for all that capacity and capability, I would certainly consider the GMC Yukon Denali XL. At north of $65,000, I am going to choose wisely, and if I needed what the Denali Yukon XL offered, I would snatch it up, for sure.

Other Thoughts

Just a few extra notes. As tested, the Denali Yukon Xl is fun to drive, and easy to keep control of. It's got a ton of safety and drive assist features, adaptive cruise control, a pretty quiet interior, 4G Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and pretty decent MPG (16/23) for a truck of this size.