Mountain Wheels: Ginormous Yukon XL Denali offers pure domination
In days when “presidential” now connotes images of gold faucets on private jets and porcelain fountains in the Lincoln Bedroom, the grand, imposing and heavily chrome-plated GMC Yukon Denali really does seem like a car for the times.
And considering that it looks like a slightly pimped-out rendition of the standard Secret Service protection and support unit Suburban you see in every motorcade — and is somehow not quite as audacious as a Cadillac Escalade — the upscale Denali rendition of the Yukon seems ideal for a certain White House part-time resident. Though he’d probably be rolling around in his Maybach limo if they’d allow him to. Not any more.
To take the largesse and menacing magnitude of the Yukon and kick it up a few notches, consider the XL version, which adds 14 extra inches of wheelbase and 20 overall inches of length (an imposing 224.3 inches).
Though it weighs in at just under 6,000 pounds, my guess is the platform would probably support the ballistic glass and armor plating. You might as well get fitted to have your own high-visibility urban assault machine; a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 offers enough pull and tremendously rambunctious exhaust noises to make it an ideal getaway vehicle.
Is Yukon Denali, XL or not, really an Escalade alternative? They’re now appointed in levels of gloss that come very close to matching each other in terms of bling. And if you start digging into the options list (mine, priced at $80,880, added 22-inch painted aluminum wheels, power retractable running boards, a power sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system), the cost is not significantly different from the very similar Escalade ESV.
I guess it’s the image you’re trying to project, though I would not say that the Denali XL connotes “budget-minded” in any way. Rather, it’s an almost impossibly chrome-laden, executive class machine that practically cries out to work as the ultimate limo service machine. Order it in onyx black and it’s even more imposing, with more presence than the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
It’s also one of the few three-row machines in the world to offer real genuine third-row legroom. All the other brands talk about it, but third-row space to them usually means scrunching the second-row seats up against the first-row seatbacks. Not so here: You get tall, dedicated seating that’s got so much legroom it seems like an entire other vehicle has been bolted on in the back.
As discussed last week with the Toyota Land Cruiser, another devil-may-care, full-size SUV with a brawny V8, fuel consumption is not exactly top of mind with this category’s owners, but the Yukon actually eked out something close to 23 MPG when I was driving it in an unusually civil fashion, allowing the cylinder-displacement feature to kick in. A 14 MPG city figure is probably more realistic, sadly.
Like the other full-size General Motors SUVs of this ilk, the cargo area in the far back seems a little underwhelming, as it’s situated high above an adult male’s waist and sits atop a four-inch-deep hidden cargo space. The deal with Yukon XL Denali is hauling passengers; maybe you have someone follow you in another Yukon to carry the luggage.
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