GMC has been making earnest noises about differentiating the Yukon and Yukon XL from their Chevy roommates, the Tahoe and Suburban. But so far, that effort has amounted to slight cosmetic differences. What we’re left with, finally, is two General Motors Corp. divisions selling the same lucrative and excellent vehicle.
My previous weeklong testing of the recently redesigned Suburban/Yukon XL ute had been limited to the 1500 series. The 1500, or half-ton, model is the one most people buy. It rides well and delivers a generous amount of power, payload and towing ability.
But this time, I tested the beastie boy: the Yukon XL 2500, or three-quarter-ton model.
The 2500 is for people with serious hauling or towing needs, people who want to pull a heavy boat, camper or horse trailer. The 2500 I tested had a towing capacity of 10,100 pounds. That’s more than 5 tons.
In order to do that kind of work, the 2500 comes with a substantially larger engine.
The base engine in the 1500 is a 275-horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8. The power plant in the 2500 I tested was a huge, 6-liter V-8 with enough torque to drag Mount Rushmore to a new home. (How big is this engine? Well, a smiling GM public relations man once told me that every time the company wants to build another one, it has to open a new iron mine.)
The new 2500 complements that hefty engine with an equally meaty base price of $38,948. But, when you consider the work this vehicle will do, its extensive standard equipment litany, and the prices they charge for sport utes in general, I think it is a very fair window sticker.
As a result of its capacity for work, the new 2500 doesn’t ride quite as well as the 1500. This is because the 1500 has a new coil-spring suspension for the back wheels, while the 2500 must continue to use the stiffer, semielliptical rear springs in order to carry and tow more.
While these leaf springs don’t pamper as well as the coils, the 2500 is still not a bad ride. Its superlong wheelbase (130 inches) and considerable structural strength translate into reasonable comfort. In the case of the test vehicle, the 2500’s ride was further enhanced by an optional new “Autoride” system that instantly adjusts the shock absorbers to meet changing road conditions. This remarkable road smoother isn’t cheap at $790, but it would be worth it to me, particularly if I planned to spend any time off road.
Going off road also means getting the 2500 with the new “Autotrac” four-wheel-drive system instead of the base, rear-drive layout. Autotrac allows you to lock into four-wheel-drive for serious off-road use, or employ a mode that conveniently deals with changing on-road traction conditions by automatically shifting back and forth from rear to four-wheel-drive.
Because of its size, the Yukon XL is not at home on narrow city streets. But it is in its element on the highway. When you couple the tester’s acceptable ride with its three rows of comfortable leather seats and generous cargo area, you find yourself with a pretty good vacationmobile.
I used it on a trip that included four adults and two children. There was plenty of room for the folks and their luggage. The nice thing about three rows of seats is that you can put the kiddies in different rows and minimize border skirmishes.