2007 GMC Yukon XL 1500
2007 GMC Yukon XL 1500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new, smoother and more refined.
The GMC Yukon XL is all new for 2007, and you can't find an SUV that works better as a tow vehicle. It has all the right stuff. The ride is better than ever, handling is steady and light. These are benefits of a new boxed frame for rigidity, a redesigned suspension, a new ring-and-pinion steering system, and other changes.
The driver sits way up high and feels like he or she is master or mistress of his or her domain. The optional leather seats are wonderfully comfortable for long distances. The pedals adjust for long or short legs. The instruments and gauges are finally stylish. There are new halogen headlamps that are bigger for improved visibility at night. Storage space is intelligently designed and all over, including a huge center console.
Those in the second row will find a lot of leg room. Bucket seats with a center console between them are available for the second row, turning them into first-class accommodations; and there is an optional power folding option, making it easier for third-row passengers to climb in. There's even decent legroom and good headroom in the third row, something few SUVs can claim.
The Yukon XL seats six to nine people, depending on the seating configuration. Essentially GMC's version of the Chevy Suburban, the Yukon XL stretches the already long wheelbase of the Yukon another 20 inches. There are many vehicles that seat seven people without taking up so much space to do it, but not quite so comfortably, nor with so much room left over for cargo.
Towing is the other area where the Yukon XL excels. It's a great vehicle for drivers who want an SUV that can tow cars, boats, horses, and travel trailers. A Yukon XL 1500 is rated to tow up to 8200 pounds, while the heavy-duty 2500 version can tow up to 9700 pounds.
The standard 5.3-liter V8 represents a new generation of engines, and it offers excellent horsepower and torque. An optional 6.0-liter V8 for the Yukon delivers more towing power.
And at the top of the line is the Yukon XL Denali. The Denali is almost a separate breed. It has its own engine, a 6.2-liter V8 based on the Corvette's 7.0-liter, making 380 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. It also has its own transmission, a six-speed automatic with manual mode and its own all-wheel-drive system. The Denali comes standard with the AutoRide active electronic suspension, which is optional on the regular Yukon XL.
Deluxe options include a liftgate that raises and lowers under power, a DVD entertainment system, a Bose sound system, a navigation system, and a rearview monitor that improves safety and makes it easier to hook up trailers.
The 2007 GMC Yukon XL comes in basic SLE ($37,665) or SLT ($41,800) trim. It's available as a 1500 (half-ton), 2500 (three-quarter ton, with truck tires and a heavier suspension using leaf springs), and in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
A choice of V8 engines is available, two of which are versions of the Vortec 5.3-liter V8, and which can run on E85 ethanol. The new generation 5.3 with an aluminum block, the engine in our test SLT, makes 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The more powerful optional engine ($1095) is an all-aluminum 6.0-liter V8 with variable valve timing, making 366 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque.
The Yukon XL Denali ($49,970) comes with a 6.2-liter V8 making 380 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed automatic with manual mode, all-wheel drive system, and the AutoRide active electronic suspension.
All other Yukon XLs use a four-speed automatic transmission, available in three strengths, depending on whether the XL is 2WD, 4WD, or 2500. They all have a Tow/Haul mode, which reduces upshifting and downshifting, and also shifts quicker, so the transmission doesn't work so hard when pulling a big load. Transmission oil temperature is part of the instrumentation (along with a tire pressure monitor).
The SLE comes standard equipment with cloth interior, six-way power driver's seat, 60/40 second row bench seat, two-passenger third row seat, three-zone climate control, AM/FM/6CD/MP3, rear seat audio and climate controls, power windows and locks with remote entry, cruise control, heated sideview mirrors, 17-inch aluminum wheels, roof rack rails, deep tinted glass, foglamps, and last but definitely not least, a tow package including heavy hitch, seven-pin wiring harness, two-inch receiver and electric brake control harness. Also standard is GM's OnStar system, which, among other things, notifies headquarters if there has been a crash, and someone calls the vehicle and sends help if necessary.
The SLT package ($4135) includes leather interior, 12-way power heated bucket seats in front, power adjustable pedals, remote starter, Bose sound system, XM satellite radio, garage door opener, power folding sideview mirrors, rear parking assist beeper, and roof rack crossbars.
Safety equipment on all models includes dual frontal airbags, four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes with electronic proportioning, and StabiliTrak, GM's electronic stability program with anti-rollover mitigation and traction control. Full length airbag curtains are optional (standard with SLT), but front side airbags are not available, which is surprising, given the competition and price. The XL earned the maximum five stars in the government's head-on crash tests.
Options include a navigation system ($2145), rear-seat entertainment system ($1295), power sunroof ($995), second-row bucket seats ($490), power release for those seats ($425), power liftgate ($350), rearview camera monitor ($195), three-passenger third-row seat ($100), heated washer fluid system ($85), and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1795).
The 2007 GMC Yukon XL should not be confused with the Yukon. The XL stands for Extra Long. Though the same width, the Yukon XL is about 20 inches longer than the Yukon; it's the same length as its near twin, the Chevy Suburban, measuring 18 1/2 feet.
The Suburban and Yukon XL are among the most familiar vehicles on the road. They share styling although not the details. For example, the Yukon has a cleaner air intake below the bumper than the Suburban, a different shape to the headlights, and the grille is not split.
The 2007 redesign makes subtle but effective changes to the exterior, and GM has done an excellent job with the Yukon XL, making this huge vehicle look smooth, if not sleek. The contours are gently shaped. There's nothing in-your-face or edgy about it. Body-colored side moldings and door handles help a lot. Finally, they got rid of the chrome!
The running board is integrated and unobtrusive, extending no farther than necessary, with a black grippy coating. The tinted glass behind the C-pillar is expansive, and looks nice. The front end has been cleaned up, with beefy block-like headlamps over a front bumper fascia that has vastly tighter tolerances with the body. In fact, all the panels are a tighter fit. It's nice to see that GM can produce this kind of quality.
The windshield is more sloped than before, although the tailgate remains vertical. The rear window opens separately, which is convenient. Our SLT had the optional power liftgate, and we're not sure what we would have done without it. At least the liftgate is aluminum, which would reduce the grunting, if not the stretching way up to reach it. The split barn-style doors, handy when trailers are attached, are ancient history, no longer available.
The Yukon XL is comfortable for long tows or major outings. It's a wonderful feeling to drive down the highway in one of these, sitting up high with all the comforts, including the optional Bose sound system.
Completely redesigned for the 2007 model year, the dashboard has been lowered by six inches, and the seats redesigned and raised, with a more convenient and secure seatbelt mounting on the B pillar. They are very comfortable, in leather.
We especially like the touch-screen radio/navigation system, much easier to operate than in so many cars, Mercedes, for example. We set the programs we liked, and could switch from favorite XM to AM to FM stations with one finger push; many vehicles require switching bands, then switching stations.
The switchgear is simple, and the instrumentation is clean. The console is huge (20.1 liters says GM, although we couldn't see 5.3 gallons being poured in there), with a deep storage box and a tray on top. The glovebox is 25 percent larger than the one in pre-2007 models. 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 wives and tall husbands or vice versa.
The rearview camera and monitor is quite useful, although it might take some new skills to fully use. One night we had to back up a narrow winding driveway squeezed by trees, and it could only be done by using the monitor. It was tricky. The backup lights did a great job of lighting the road for the camera; looking over our shoulder, our naked eye couldn't see the road nearly as well. Without this device, we would have been backing-up blind. It's also quite useful for spotting a child playing behind the truck after shifting into reverse or maybe a short, unseen pole. With a little practice, the camera makes parallel parking easier and quicker. It can also be used to help position the tow ball under a trailer hitch, reducing the number of times the driver has to jump out to check distance and alignment.
The Yukon XL can seat six, 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 configuration.
The second row offers good legroom, at least with the two bucket seats: 39.4 inches, nearly as much as in the front. Second-row passengers have their own console, with an elbow tray and two cupholders each. They have their own audio controls too, and a front-row seat for the DVD screen that drops down from the headliner, and uses wireless headphones. The second-row bucket seats come with a console between them.
An optional power feature allows folding the second-row seats with the touch of a button on the instrument panel or C-pillar. It's slick: the seatbacks fold flat against the sitting part, and then the seats flip up against the back of the front seats.
The third row seats two or three, depending on the package. Split 60/40, the third-row seats fold and tumble, but don't fold flat into the floor like some competitors. The third-row seats flip up against the back of the second row. This fold-and-tumble feature sacrifices some quick cargo space because the seats don't fold flat, although there's still a lot compared to other SUVs. The third-row seats are also removable.
The third-row seats offer good head room and okay leg room (34.9 inches), and a great view through the wraparound glass, so it's not cramped or claustrophobic as it is in the GMC Envoy XL. But with the optional center seat, all you'll ever fit in the third row are three small kids. The kids on the end have their own cupholders. Their climate control vents are inconveniently located in the headliner over the necks of the second-row passengers, but they can be aimed rearward toward the third-.
Another reason we wished we owned a race car (and others might wish for a travel trailer, a boat, or horses): The Yukon XL is the perfect tow vehicle for buyers who want the security and people capacity of a full-size SUV rather than a pickup.
GM's trusty 5.3-liter Vortec V8, making 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque, is one of the best V8s around, and when you floor it, it actually feels like it has more horsepower than that, considering the weight of our test vehicle was 5757 pounds. There's a smooth four-speed automatic transmission to go with it, and with all that torque, a fifth speed in the transmission might not be needed, although the big Japanese V8 SUVs all have five-speed automatic transmissions.
If you need more power for towing, you can upgrade to the 2500 (three-quarter ton) chassis and/or the 6.0-liter engine, to get 380 pound-feet of torque. Or the Denali XL, with that Corvette-based 6.2-liter engine making 380 hp and 417 pound-feet.
There's a badge on the rear of the vehicle that says 'FlexFuel,' meaning the engine can run on either unleaded regular fuel, or E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), which burns cleaner and reduces oil consumption.
Active Fuel Management shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed to save fuel. But there's one big catch: all the cylinders are needed virtually all time, unless you're totally off the throttle, in which case they all basically shut down anyhow. So the amount of fuel saved is questionable and debatable.
Fuel economy is an EPA City/Highway-rated 15/21 miles per gallon. We drove nearly 300 miles in a 2WD Yukon XL in an even split between around town and running 75 mph on the freeway, and averaged 15.8 mpg.
Ride quality is excellent, overall. The suspension seems much improved over undulating roads; wallowing under duress has been a weakness of Yukons and Suburbans in the past. The new fully boxed frame is 49 percent stiffer and 35 percent more resistant to twisting. The front track has been widened by three inches, and the rear by one inch. A new coil-over-shock front suspension, and revised and strengthened five-link rear suspension around a solid rear axle (better for towing) work well with new rack-and-pinion steering.
AutoRide, the optional self-leveling suspension, is a high-tech, active suspension, meaning it electronically adjusts to the road, as read by sensors. It reduces body lean in corners and nose dive under hard braking.
Driving in an estimated 25-mph crosswind on the freeway at 75 miles per hour, our Yukon XL swayed all over the road, because of the billboard-like surface area of the side of the vehicle.
The brakes have gotten a much-needed upgrade. The vented rotors are bigger (13 inches in front and 13.5 inches rear) and the dual piston calipers are stiffer. This adds up to security and safety when you're trying to get stopped with a boat or trailer pushing you from behind. Brakes on these new GM trucks are far better than they were a decade or so ago.
The Yukon XL/Suburban has long been the tow vehicle of choice, and this redesign enables it to maintain its position on top. The latest version 5.3-liter Vortec V8 makes plenty of horsepower and torque for towing, and two more powerful engines are available. The suspension and brakes are considerably improved, the instrumentation is finally worthy, and it's hard to fault the SLT's leather interior, especially the comfort of the seating in all three rows. We do wonder why there are no available side-impact airbags in front, however.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River Valley.
GMC Yukon XL SLE 2WD ($37,270), 4WD ($40,070); SLT 2WD ($38,055), 4WD ($40,845); Denali ($49,970); 2500 SLE ($38,470), 2500 SLE 4WD ($41,270); 2500 SLT ($39,215), 2500 SLT 4WD ($42,015).
Janesville, Wisconsin; Silao, Mexico.
Options As Tested
SLT-2 package ($4135) including leather interior, front power heated seats, adjustable pedals, full length curtain airbags, remote starting, 6-disc CD changer; XM satellite radio; Bose premium sound system; universal home remote; rear parking assist; roof rack crossbars; navigation radio with CD/DVD/MP3 ($2145); 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1795); DVD entertainment system ($1295); power sliding sunroof ($995); second-row bucket seats ($490); power control to fold second-row seats ($4250); power liftgate with lift glass ($350); rearview camera system ($195); third-row center seat ($100); heated washer fluid ($85); package discount (-$400).
GMC Yukon XL 1500 2WD ($37,665).
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