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2015 GMC Yukon

Base Price: $46,990
Price as Tested: $71,220

By Russ Heaps

For people requiring gobs of towing capability, loads of passenger space and serious cargo capacity, the GMC Yukon is an upscale solution.

Completely redesigned for 2015, along with the Sierra pickup truck, Yukon is improved across the board. Its V8 produces more grunt while achieving better fuel economy than last year’s SUV. It’s quieter, better equipped, more comfortable and better looking, too.

In terms of price and features, it slots into the marketplace between its GM cousins the Chevrolet Tahoecq5dam.web.1280.1280(1) and Cadillac Escalade. The price-as-tested $71,220, is for the top-of-the-line Denali 2WD before adding on the $1,195 destination fee. Opting for 4WD would have boosted the bottom line by another $3000. This is luxury territory to be sure, but that’s exactly where GMC wants the Yukon Denali to play.

With its body-on-boxed-frame construction, Yukon hangs on to its truck heritage. This translates into less flexing over uneven surfaces and beefier towing: up to 8,500 pounds. It also means the ride is a bit stiffer than less capable crossovers.

Because of its colossal dimensions, parking the Yukon requires a little strategy – particularly in parking garages. But, like anything else, some practice makes things considerably easier. You may find using drive-up ATMs somewhat challenging, too.

With those caveats out of the way, the balance of the news is all good.

GMC offers Yukon in two additional, more affordable trim levels: SLE and SLT. The lower trims draw their thrust from a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8. A 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 comes with the Denali. Both V8s are tied to a six-speed automatic transmission. These are rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Fuel economy with the 5.3L is an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city, 23 highway and 18 in combined city/highway driving. The larger V8 is EPA rated at 15/21/17. Opting for 4WD scrubs an mpg off some of the numbers.

Keeping in mind that Yukon is a truck, it is more nimble and easier to drive than you might expect, and certainly improved over last year’s model.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280(2)The big news inside Yukon is that the third-row seat now folds flat into the cargo floor. Earlier models required removing the third-row seat to maximize cargo capacity. This enhancement translates into a somewhat higher cargo floor, but it’s a small price to pay. Yukons seat from seven to nine people, depending which seating options you choose. The standard seating arrangement is for eight; however choosing the captains chairs in row two drops the maximum passenger count to seven; while replacing the front bucket seats with the 40/20/40 split-bench seat expands the seating to nine. Cargo space behind the third-row seat is rather meager for a beast its size; about what you find in the trunk of the Hyundai Elantra sedan.

GMC really stepped up where the Yukon cabin is concerned. Not only is it more comfortable and user friendly than the last version, the materials used in its construction are better quality. Every Yukon has some basic amenities, such as six airbags, power windows, door locks and outboard mirrors, tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, an 8-inch touchscreen, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with scads of USB ports and iPod integration.

With my test Denali priced about $24,000 more than the base price of the SLE, you know there must be all manner of extracq5dam.web.1280.1280(3) goodies, and there are. The extras include more convenience like a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, power folding outboard mirrors, a 10-speaker Bose audio system and keyless ignition. Technology also contributes to the bigger bottom line with a Blu-ray rear entertainment and navigation systems. There is also some extra safety technology: forward collision warning, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert via a vibrating driver’s seat. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If your idea is to roll competence, comfort and luxury into one honking-big SUV, the GMC Yukon is right up your alley.