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Silver 2019 GMC Yukon XL in front of glass builing

Distinctively Yukon: Why the GMC Yukon (& XL) Stands Out

The SUV segment is a funny thing. Traditionally, I find myself overly critical of it, accusing automakers of being so busy attempting to be everything to everyone that the final products lack an inspired sense of self. Granted, I feel this is more evident in crossovers than full-sized offerings, so it is worth admitting that there are some exceptions. For example, I’d be lying if I said that the 2019 GMC Yukon XL didn’t manage to catch my eye (a powerful statement, considering the fact that I’ve never been that fond of the GMC lineup as a whole). That said, my own curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I find myself interested in digging a little bit deeper.

Distinctively Yukon

We are fast approaching the three-decade anniversary of GMC’s introduction of the Yukon. Initially envisioned as an undersized, two-door variant of its corporate cousin the Suburban, the Yukon would quickly evolve into a four-door full-sized form that now offers comfortable seating for up to 9. 

And while the Yukon is a faithful extension of the original SUV concept, a body-on-frame design with heavy-duty drivetrain, it felt quick to separate itself from the Chevy-badged Tahoe that served as its fraternal twin. It openly exchanged any sense of family-readiness or rugged utility for one of luxurious refinement, positioning itself as an upscale Chevrolet, and rendering itself somewhat of an outlier to the segment (albeit a confident and comfortable one). This distinction was furthered when GMC introduced the Denali nameplate in 1999, positioning the Yukon against such high-end offerings as its GM cousin, the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator. 

So, where does the Yukon stand as we move into 2019? With five model years under its best since the last full redesign, GMC has made it clear that 2020 will bring a new generation of Yukons our way. That said, let’s take a close look at the 2019 offerings and explore the features that we can look forward to enjoying until the next wave of change rolls through.

The Basics

When it comes to the Yukon, there is no shortage of options to choose from, whether you opt for the base Yukon or XL extended variant. In terms of trim levels, you have the SLE, SLT Standard and SLT as well as the upgraded Denali trims, all of which prove enticing in their own right. 

The Yukon is priced to start around $49,500 MSRP while the XL starts around $53,100 MSRP. The difference between the two comes down to size, with the Yukon measuring 203.9-inches in length and the XL coming in around 224.4-inches. Of course, the latter offers significantly more cargo volume behind the 3rd row (nearly 3x, in fact) and third-row leg room is increased by nearly 33%.

Needless to say, it comes down to how much space you truly need. However, for a relatively nominal difference in price, it seems that opting for the XL is a bit of a no-brainer. After all, if you’re in need of three-row seating for up to 9, it goes without saying that you’re probably in need of whatever cargo space you can muster.


Beginning with the SLE, the standard engine configuration for the Yukon is a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, capable of churning out 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The same applies to the Yukon XL. 

And for both the Yukon and XL, the Denali upgrades the engine to a 6.2-liter variant of the EcoTec3 V8, paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission and wrangling 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. 

Of course, no matter which you opt for, 4WD should be a no-brainer despite its optional status. Regardless, the Yukon stands as an overwhelmingly capable offering and its available variants speak to refinement, avoiding any blame of trying to be something to everyone. 

So What’s New?

There are a handful of notable changes being made to the Yukon for 2019. Noting that next-gen changes lurk inevitably around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see how many of them carry over come 2020. 

Focusing solely on the external, GMC has opted to unload two of their Metallic paint options (Mineral and Iridium, respectively) while adding three alternatives: Pepperdust, Smokey Quartz and Dark Sky). Distinctive and indicative of today’s bold color trends, each of the new colors remain reminiscent of the deep and refined color palettes that are so complimentary to high-end SUV designs.

2019 also heralds the introduction of two new enhancement packages, in the form of the Graphite and Graphite Performance Editions. Served up for both the Yukon and Yukon XL, these packages are available only for the SLT trim levels. Considering the enduring appeal of the compelling Yukon lineup, such accents make for tasteful enhancements to what is already an enticing offering.

Closeup of 2019 GMC Yukon XL Graphite Performance Edition Wheels

2019 Yukon Graphite Edition features:

  • 22″ bright machined wheels with Carbon Flash Metallic pockets
  • Black assist steps with Gloss Black accents
  • Black Chrome grille mesh inserts and fog lamp surround
  • Body-color grille surround
  • Gloss Black beltline moldings, DLO reveal, C-pillar vertical trim plate and roof rail inserts
  • Z85 Suspension Package

2019 Yukon Graphite Performance Edition features:

  • 6.2L V8 L86 engine (EcoTec3 family)
  • 10-speed automatic transmission MF6
  • 22″ 6-spoke Black wheels, LPO
  • 8″ diagonal Driver Information Center
  • Head-Up Display
  • 8″ diagonal Color Touch Screen Navigation with GMC Infotainment System
  • Trailer brake controller
  • 170-amp alternator
  • 2-speed active transfer case (4WD models only)
  • Z95 Magnetic Ride Control

Are You a Fan of the GMC Yukon?

While there’s little point in arguing the loyal nature of GMC’s fan-base, I’ll be the first to admit that they’ve rarely been among the first automakers I’d look to prior to making a new vehicle purchase. Now, that’s not a criticism. It’s simply a fact, driven by my preferences and my lack of desire to own an SUV as my daily driver. That said, setting aside my bias, it’s important to recognize that the Yukon represents a major victory for both GMC and General Motors as a whole. The Yukon XL possesses its own clear and distinct identity. Regardless of shared platforms, or delineation by badging, it is its own vehicle and exists with a clear sense of purpose. That said, it remains one of my ‘sleeper favorites’, even if I’d probably never buy one for myself. What do you think of the 2019 GMC Yukon XL? We want to know. 

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