The 2012 GMC Yukon XL (Base MSRP: $57,450) is essentially the same vehicle as the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban ((Base MSRP: $41,995 to $57,890)). Both cars share much of their mechanical and platform components, and that's not a bad thing as reviewers consider the Suburban and the Yukon XL to be good large utility vehicles. When it comes to towing and cargo capacity, the Yukon XL, well, excels. Many reviewers point out, however, that if you aren't towing heavy loads or hauling lots of cargo on a regular basis, a midsize crossover or smaller SUV will make more sense. There are very few dedicated reviews for the 2012 GMC Yukon XL, but you can find useful sources in our full report of the nearly identical 2012 Chevrolet Suburban ((Base MSRP: $41,995 to $57,890)).
One of the key areas in which the Yukon XL differentiates itself from its fraternal twin, the Chevrolet Suburban, is engine options. Both SUVs have GM's 5.3-liter, 320-horsepower V8 as the standard engine, but the Yukon XL has a larger engine option. When outfitted in the glitzy Denali trim level, it comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 that's shared with the Cadillac Escalade and provides 403-horsepower and 417 pound feet of torque.
Edmunds.com calls the Yukon XL "fairly quick," and emphasizes that it is particularly true of the 6.2-liter engine. The tow-rating of 8,300 pounds with two-wheel drive or 8,100 pounds with four-wheel drive is the same as the Chevrolet Suburban. The more powerful 6.2-liter V8 will make that task less arduous. Reviews of the Chevrolet Suburban note that under full cargo and towing load, it can feel a bit sluggish with the base 5.3-liter V8. The Yukon XL's optional engine comes at a significant cost though; the Denali trim starts at $57,450.
Unsurprisingly, neither of those engines gets very good fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the two-wheel drive Yukon XL with the 5.3-liter V8 will get 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined and 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway/16 mpg combined with the more powerful 6.2-liter V8. Four-wheel drive versions get the same EPA ratings. All engine and drivetrain combinations use a six-speed automatic. The Yukon XL four-wheel drive is a two-speed unit with high and low speeds, while the Denali model comes only with all-wheel drive. There is a heavy-duty version of the Yukon XL, the 2500 model, which has a different engine; this model is not covered in this report.
Editors at Edmunds.com say that "the Yukon XL's suspension provides a comfortable ride quality that, combined with the relatively quiet interior, makes the Yukon XL a fine road trip machine." Other reviews of the nearly identical 2012 Chevrolet Suburban and 2012 Cadillac Escalade (Base MSRP: $63,170 to $82,495) point out that less than perfect road surfaces can upset the ride a bit, making it feel choppy. The Edmunds.com review reminds readers that "this SUV is far from nimble, and handling suffers due to its massive curb weight."
That comfortable ride is complemented by a pleasing interior. ConsumerGuide.com tested the Yukon XL and found that the interior materials are "generally solid to the touch and assembled with care to create a high-quality ambience, even on SLE versions." The loaded-up Denali's almost $60,000 base price crosses into large luxury SUV territory, and its interior material quality trails some other SUVs in that price range, such as the best-reviewed 2012 Infiniti QX56 (Base MSRP: $59,200 to $62,300). The Yukon XL has all the features expected of a large SUV as well as optional equipment like first- and second-row heated seats, a DVD entertainment system, GPS navigation, a power rear liftgate, leather seating and three-zone climate control. One feature that the Yukon XL lacks is a telescoping steering wheel, which reviewers say is an odd omission.
Like entire range of GMT900-platform SUVs from GM (encompassing all varieties of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade), the GMC Yukon XL suffers from a universal design shortcoming that every reviewer complains about: third-row seats that don't fold flat. In order to achieve the maximum 137 cubic feet of cargo capacity, you must physically remove the third row of seats from the vehicle. Other large SUVs have better designs that allow you to fold the third row into the floor, some of which do so via an easy-to-use motorized function. Experts also say the Yukon XL's third-row seats are not particularly comfortable because the cushion is mounted very close to the floor. The Yukon XL can fit a maximum of nine passengers when optioned correctly, though the rear-most seats are best suited for small children.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not fully tested the 2012 GMC Yukon XL. NHTSA does give the Yukon XL a rating of 3 stars out of 5 for rollover resistance, but it doesn't test other measures. The nearly identical Chevrolet Suburban receives an overall 4-star safety rating, including 5 stars for front and side impact protection; the Yukon XL would likely produce similar results. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the Yukon XL, or any other large SUVs. Standard safety equipment includes front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags for all three rows, antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control. Rear parking assist and a blind-spot warning system are also available. GM's OnStar telematics system comes standard.
The GMC Yukon XL comes with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, the same as the Chevrolet Suburban but shorter than that of the more expensive 2012 Cadillac Escalade.
Reviewers agree that if heavy-duty towing and carrying big cargo loads isn't a regular occurrence, shoppers will likely be better served by a midsize crossover or SUV. The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban's lower base price makes it the go-to option over the GMC, as the upgrades in the Yukon XL don't provide any added utility in terms of towing or passenger capacity.
Edmunds.com likes the same things about the Yukon XL as they do the Chevrolet Suburban: the huge cargo capacity and towing muscle. A key difference is that the Yukon offers two more powerful engine options, which the editors like.
Review: 2012 GMC Yukon XL SUV, Editors of Edmunds.com, Oct. 28, 2011
Editors of ConsumerReports.org have road tested the Chevrolet Suburban, which they consider similar enough to include as a review for the 2012 Yukon XL. Obviously, their review samples the base V8 in the Yukon; just remember that the Yukon does have two more-powerful engine options available. Reliability data is provided as well.
Review: GMC Yukon, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
ConsumerGuide.com is one of the few outlets that claims to have specifically evaluated the Yukon XL (rather than the Chevrolet Suburban and regular GMC Yukon), though the results are the same as those models. The brief rundown of various criteria is succinct, if not overly detailed. The editors give the Yukon XL their highest Best Buy recommendation.
Review: 2012 Cadillac Escalade: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
The 2012 GMC Yukon gets the same fuel economy as the nearly identical 2012 Chevrolet Suburban when it comes to the base 5.3-liter V8 they share. It gets 15 city mpg/21 highway mpg/17 combined mpg with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The 6.2-liter V8 gets a lower 16 mpg combined, but it is more powerful.
Review: 2012 Sport Utility Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not tested the 2012 GMC Yukon XL, but it does provide a 3-star rating for rollover resistance. The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban, a nearly identical car, has been tested and gets an overall 4-star out of 5 safety rating.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The 2012 GMC Yukon XL is identical to the Chevrolet Suburban in every significant way, save for the optional engine. As such, there is a lack of dedicated reviews for the 2012 GMC Yukon XL. See our complete report on the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban for more reviews pertaining to the 2012 Yukon XL. Note that the base engine is the same in both models.
Review: 2012 Chevrolet Suburban, Editors of ConsumerSearch.com, April 2012