If you’re looking for a more upscale Chevrolet Suburban, the usual choice is the GMC Yukon XL. Although both the Yukon and Yukon XL have 3 rows of seats, the XL is physically longer, making for more passenger and cargo room. However, despite its appeal, Consumer Reports found the 2020 GMC Yukon XL to be one of the worst large SUVs on the market. But does it deserve to be there?
What does the 2020 GMC Yukon XL offer?
In terms of its powertrain, the 2020 GMC Yukon XL is essentially identical to the Chevrolet Suburban. It has the same engines and transmission, Car and Driver reports, a 5.3-liter V8, and a 6.2-liter V8 linked to a 10-speed automatic. The 5.3-liter develops 355 hp and 383 lb-ft; the 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft, Motor Trend reports. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the SLE and SLT trims, while the range-topping Denali comes standard with four-wheel drive, Roadshow reports. It’s also the only trim that gets the 6.2-liter V8.
With 4WD and the Heavy-Duty Trailering Package, the GMC Yukon XL can tow up to 8000 pounds. With RWD, that increases to 8300 pounds.
Between the 2020 GMC Yukon XL’s 3 trims, Car and Driver recommends the SLT, which comes standard with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats as well as power-folding 2nd and 3rd-row seats. Also, unlike the base SLE, the SLT trim comes with several standard ADAS features, including forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist.
The GMC Yukon XL Denali, though, adds standard adaptive magnetic dampers and wireless charging to that. It also comes with active noise cancellation, wood interior trim, and an integrated trailer brake controller.
Regardless of trim, the 2020 GMC Yukon XL comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an 8” touchscreen, WiFi, and a Bose audio system. The Denali trim, though, has an extra speaker, a higher-end Bose system, a heads-up display, and a larger instrument display.
Why did Consumer Reports score the 2020 GMC Yukon XL so low?
Admittedly, the GMC Yukon XL isn’t the worst SUV that Consumer Reports tested for the 2020 model year. That would be the Jeep Wrangler, which received a score of 28. In contrast, the Yukon XL got a score of 59.
However, that still puts it at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ “large SUV” category. The regular GMC Yukon actually scored 9 points higher. And tied for the top 2 places are the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, each with a score of 73.
So why the low score? For one, even with the 6.2-liter V8, Consumer Reports found the GMC Yukon XL “sluggish.” And that would be fine if it offered decent fuel economy, but even for a V8, it’s not that good. Consumer Reports recorded 13 mpg during its review, and the EPA rates it at 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. And while the 5.3-liter V8 is more efficient, it’s less powerful, compounding the acceleration.
The bigger issue, though, is value. While the Denali rides comfortably, thanks to those magnetic dampers, Consumer Reports notes they’re available on less-expensive Silverado models. But even they can’t fully dampen the feeling of 22” wheels rolling over potholes. Plus, the GMC Yukon XL Denali lacks some of the luxury features offered on the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, such as massaging seats. And Car and Driver noted the interior has some cheap plastics which don’t gel well with the Denali’s roughly $75,000 base price.
Finally, while it is spacious, the GMC Yukon XL isn’t quite as roomy inside as it could be, Cars.com reports. That’s down to its solid rear axle, which intrudes on the cargo area, Autotrader reports. It also means the Yukon XL “hops and skips…over big bumps,” Motor Trend reports.
Does the 2021 model rectify these issues?
However, for the 2021 model year, the GMC Yukon XL has been redesigned along with its Chevy platform-mates. And that extends to the rear suspension, which is now independent. That means a smoother ride and more space.
The 2021 Denali model now has its own unique dashboard layout and design, MT reports. And while there’s still some evidence of Tahoe/Suburban parts-sharing, Motor1 reports, it genuinely feels upscale and worth the premium over the Suburban.
The 22” wheels still don’t help with ride quality, Cars.com reports. However, the new air springs impart a noticeable improvement. Its EPA fuel economy ratings, though, still trail behind the Ford Expedition’s ratings, Cars.com reports.
Still, the 2021 redesign may let the GMC Yukon XL move ahead in Consumer Reports’ rankings.
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