You've heard the phrase, "Time is money." Well, it truly is cold cash and lots of time when you stand outside on a bitter New Hampshire morning pumping gasoline into the near-empty, 36.9-gallon tank of a 2003 GMC Yukon XL. That's many minutes of time and more than $50 -- and we're not even talking premium gasoline.

I know I have some readers confused about where I stand on big SUVs. He hates 'em. No, he loves 'em. In fact, I think they have their place when used properly. I think they are wasteful beasts when used as single and even two-person commuter cars. But after several days in the new Yukon -- a fine, luxurious version of massive SUV -- it dawned on me that maybe it is time for builders of the behemoth to scale back a bit. Do we really need to be this big?

There are SUVs that will seat seven and eight passengers in decent comfort, will handle most bad weather, and haul or tow decent loads, and their size is nowhere near as imposing, their gas mileage considerably better than the 13.1 I got with the Yukon, and their standard safety features far superior. The Volvo XC90 and Honda Pilot come to mind.

Of course there are those who will slam even these two SUVs, but I'm trying to be realistic. There is a market for all-wheel-drive cars that carry multiple people and offer high-riding safety. I just wonder if it can't be filled without being, as Edna Ferber said, "So Big."

That said, the task at hand is to review this big Yukon, and I have to say it's the sharpest handling of these big beasts.

That's because Quadrasteer is expanding from GMC's Sierra Denali pickup into big SUVS such as the Yukon XL.

Quadrasteer is a remarkable innovation that cuts turning radius dramatically, makes the vehicle more stable in over-road towing, and makes parallel parking or backing a trailer far easier.

It uses hydraulic steering up front and electronically monitored, electric-powered steering in the rear.

Here's how it works.

At speeds above 45 miles per hour, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels. This cuts yaw -- the vehicle attempting to rotate on its vertical axis because the front wheels are going where the rear wheels are not aimed. Free up those rear wheels and turn them in the same direction as the front wheels and you get smooth, yaw-free lane changes when passing, smooth carved turns on winding roads.

At lower speeds, for parking or backing up, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction from the front wheels, cutting the turning radius of this long vehicle from 46.2 feet to 37.4 feet. I executed round turns that were tighter than many sedans could make.

The 4-wheel-steering system can be switched off and on simply by pushing a button on the dash.

Another on-dash option for Quadrasteer is Tow Mode. This helps cut the tendency of the rear wheels to go opposite from where the front wheels are pointed. Execute a lane change while towing and the rear wheels fight to go first one way, then another, the problem exacerbated by the shifting weight of your trailer. This causes the heavy back and forth sensation that comes with towing. Tow Mode halts this for smooth, nonresistant towing.

Add this to StabilTrak, which compares the driver's intended path to the vehicle's actual path, and you have one stable vehicle, considering its bulk.

This system uses sensors to watch steering, antilock brakes, traction control, wheel speed, and brake pressure. It then uses braking and torque to correct problems.

The result is a smooth, effortless ride both straight ahead on the highway and on winding back roads. On frost heaves, there is some hop from the rear leaf springs, but those leaf springs are needed for when heavy loads get attached to the rear.

The suspension, in addition to the rear springs and a semifloating rear axle, includes torsion bars up front. Brakes are four-whe l discs with ABS and they stop this 3-ton vehicle in a reasonable distance, though some brake fade was detectable.

The Yukon comes in half-ton (1500) or three-quarter ton (2500, as tested) models. Each has a four-speed automatic transmission. The XL comes with a 6.0-liter V-8 engine that delivers 320 horsepower and 360 lb.-ft. of torque.

It was plenty of engine to move this big rig smoothly, even when fully loaded with passengers. The roar of that engine, when pushed, is an aural affirmation of brute strength.

For all that behemoth power, this can be one smooth, quiet, and fine luxury SUV -- if you're ready to spring for the money -- and that's beyond the extra $5,000 for Quadrasteer. The test vehicle had a $5,501 luxury group that included "ultrasoft" front leather seating, assist steps, power front bucket seats, a Bose 9-speaker sound system, rear seat audio controls, cargo net, luggage carrier cross rails, power adjustable brake and gas pedals, XM satellite radio (100 channels of digital sound coast to coast with subscription fees extra), OnStar communication system, driver and front passenger side air bags, and power folding mirrors.

Add a rear seat DVD movie system ($1,295) and second row captain's chairs ($490), and you are into a price league with the new Porsche Cayenne SUV.

But if you have the cash, you end up riding in great room, easy utility, and fine luxury. The dashboard controls are big and easy to use for all systems, the seats are soft and supportive at the same time, head- and legroom are plentiful, and the angle of the third row seat back makes it comfortable for even adults.

Maybe that third row for adults is why we need all this size. Yet how often do we need a third row that is spacious for adults -- as opposed to one more practically and frequently for our children and our friends' children?

Nice touch: I love the cane-handle, huge interior door latches that GM is using in its big trucks. So easy to grip, so easy to find.

Annoyance: I know I'm supposed to know these things, but I was caught by surprise when, after locking the keys in this car, OnStar was not able to remotely unlock the car. The reason? No cellphone service where I live. So what does that mean if you need OnStar in a real emergency in some remote stretch (and lack of phone service is not always a factor of remoteness) and there is no such service?