2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali

The 2001 Yukon XL Denali, a luxury equivalent of the Chevrolet Suburban, features a 320 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 engine, a four-speed automatic transmission with Tow/Haul mode, permanently-engaged four-wheel-drive, eight-passenger seating, leather upholstery, front and rear air conditioning and a host of other luxury features. The MSRP is $61,890.

Upscale Denali is like a minivan, pickup and luxury car all rolled into one

When General Motors redesigned the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban models in 2000, they re-named the GMC model the ‘Yukon XL’. Presumably, ‘XL’ stands for ‘extra large’ because the Yukon XL is about 518 mm (20 in.) longer than the standard Yukon model and is one of the biggest sport utility vehicles on the market (surpassed only by the mammoth Ford Excursion).

The Denali, a luxury version of the standard Yukon, was first seen in 1999. For 2001, there are now Denali versions of both the Yukon and the Yukon XL.

The Yukon XL Denali, this week’s Test-Drive vehicle, is based on the 1/2 ton Yukon XL platform, and is powered by a new 320 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 engine with a towing capacity of up to 3810 kg (8400 lb.). Yukon XL Denalis seat eight passengers in three rows of seats, and include such standard luxury features as leather upholstery, front and rear climate control, a premium Bose stereo, all-wheel-drive, and electronically-controlled suspension.

In a very real sense, the Denali combines the virtues and vices of three different kinds of vehicles: it has the interior roominess and the bulky exterior dimensions of a passenger van; the towing power and poor fuel economy of a pickup truck; and the luxury and high price of a luxury car – Yukon XL Denali’s go for $61,890 plus $990 freight – a fair hunk of change.

Distinctive styling

2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali
Compared to the regular Yukon XL, the Denali version has a distinctive chromed grilled (with over 300 round holes), a unique body-coloured front bumper with integrated fog lamps, powerful projector beam headlamps, side cladding and running boards, rear step bumper, roof rack, dark-tinted rear windows, 6-spoke alloy wheels, and big 265/70R-17 Michelin Cross Terrain all-season tires.

Inside, the Denali includes such niceties as leather upholstery, black cherry woodgrain trim, a 250 watt premium Bose stereo with additional rear seat audio controls, and automatic climate control with separate rear controls. Just so you know what you’re driving a Denali, there are ‘Yukon Denali’ logos embossed in the side panels of the passenger doors.

New 6.0 litre V8 and AWD

Vortec 6000 V8
Under the hood, is a new 320 horsepower 6.0 litre OHV V8 engine which develops a load-lugging 365 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. This engine features a flat torque curve with 90% of its maximum torque available from 1600 to 5200 rpm. The engine is mated to a standard heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission with GM’s exclusive ‘Tow-Haul’ mode and a column shifter.

As many Yukon XL and Suburban buyers use their vehicles for towing recreational trailers, the Denali is designed with a hefty trailer towing capacity of 3810 kg (8400 lb.). The four-speed automatic transmission includes GM’s exclusive ‘Tow/Haul’ mode which changes the shift patterns to account for a heavy trailering load – for example, the transmission will hold in 3rd gear longer when climbing grades and will gear down automatically on downhill grades to help slow the vehicle.

In addition, the Denali includes a standard weight distributing platform trailer hitch and seven-way sealed connector as well as such trailering-related features as four-wheel disc brakes, a 130 amp alternator, and a front stabilizer bar.

The Denali’s 6.0 litre V8 engine uses less-expensive regular unleaded gasoline, but fuel consumption is poor: Transport Canada fuel consumption ratings are 20.4 l/100 km (14 mpg) in the city and 14.0 l/100 km (20 mpg) on the highway. Assuming the price of gas is 70 cents a litre, you’ll need about $103 to fill up its 148 litre fuel tank!

A standard ‘Auto Ride Control’ suspension system constantly and automatically adjusts the shock absorbers damping to road conditions, thereby improving the ride and keeping the vehicle level.
Unlike other Yukon XL models which have the push-button Autotrack four-wheel-drive system, the Denali has a permanently-engaged all-wheel-drive system that does not have to be engaged or disengaged. The Denali’s all-wheel-drive system has a limited-slip centre differential which splits torque 38 percent front/62 percent rear. In the event traction is lost at any wheel, a viscous-type limited-slip differential redirects torque to those wheels with grip. In addition, a locking rear differential helps transfer torque laterally to either rear wheel.

Roomy interior has flexible seating

2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali
While standard Yukon XL models seat nine passengers, the Denali seats eight because of its standard front bucket seats. The front bucket seats feature inboard folding armrests, and both front and second row outboard seats have seat heaters with High and Low temperature settings.

The second row seat is split 70/30, allowing the right-side seatback to fold down and move forwards so that third row passengers can access the rear bench seat. In addition, the second row seat cushions will flip up against the front seats, and the seatbacks fold down to create a flat loading surface. Combined with the folded third row seatback, this creates a flat loading surface that is seven and a half feet long by four feet wide.

With the second row seats in place, and the ‘flip and fold’ third row seat, there is four feet of cargo length. With the third row bench upright, the loading floor is two and a half feet long. The third row seat can also be removed completely from the vehicle, but the second row seat cannot.

Well-equipped interior

CD changer
Centre Console

The Denali’s instrument panel includes a comprehensive set of gauges: speedometer, tachometer, transmission fluid temperature, fuel, battery, oil and coolant gauges. Handy compass and outside temperature gauges are located in the rearview mirror.

A premium stereo, which includes an AM/FM/cassette stereo with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, and eleven Bose speakers and 250 watt amplifier, is standard. Additional stereo controls are located near the steering wheel hub for volume, seek, mute and program selection. However, I found I couldn’t reach the steering wheel buttons with my thumbs when my hands were gripping the steering wheel – I had to release my grip with one hand and use my forefinger. Also, the CD player is located separately from the radio in the lower centre dash area.

The centre console also has a trip computer with a bright green LCD readout giving the day, date and time, and other trip functions such as elapsed time and fuel economy. The console also contains 12 volt power outlets, an ashtray, and two cupholders – all with covers to keep them out of sight when not used.

Between the front seats is a dual level storage container. The top portion has a flip-up notepad holder and a shallow bin. Underneath is a larger, lockable bin with another 12 volt power point and enough room for CD’s, cassette, phones and valuables. The lid for the lower storage bin flips up sideways and is more easily accessible by the driver than the front passenger.

I liked the Denali’s big, pull-type interior door handles – they can be used with gloves. The automatic climate control features separate rear heater and air conditioner controls located on the overhead console above the driver and passenger – I think these should be located at the rear so that rear passengers can use them. Rear passengers do have their own roof-mounted air vents.

Second row passengers have separate stereo controls, including radio/tape/CD controls and jacks for headphones. Second row passengers also have two 12 volt power outlets, two flip-down cupholders, and their own outboard seat heaters. The second row centre seat converts to an armrest with two additional cupholders and a storage tray.

2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali
Third row passengers have two outboard cupholders and outboard storage bins.

The Denali’s cargo area has a 12 volt power outlet, a cargo net, and a power door lock button at the rear. A pull-type cargo-area cover hides the cargo area from prying eyes.

At the rear is a lightweight, aluminum hatch door which has a big, easy-to-grip handle, easy lift motion, and a tall resting height. There’s also a separate rear liftglass panel for throwing lighter items into the trunk. The rear window has a wiper, washer and defogger.

For safety, the Denali includes front and side airbags, and outboard height-adjustable head restraints and three-point seatbelts at all outboard seating positions. The centre seating positions have lap belts.

Driving impressions

The Denali’s high ride height means using the running board to step into the cabin, which I always find awkward, especially getting out. The running board is too narrow to be of much use, and it usually scuffs up your pants on the way out.

2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali
Fire up the overhead valve V8 engine, and it’s almost vibration-free at idle – I was impressed. The 6.0 litre V8 burbles menacingly at slower speeds and lets out a racy but muted roar when accelerating. Despite its considerable bulk, the Denali leaps off the line when accelerating, and pulls strongly and effortlessly through the gears. The engine’s considerable torque at low revs is responsible for its excellent throttle response at city or highway speeds. Cruising at 100 km/h on the freeway, the engine does just 1,700 rpm at 100 km/h.

The four-speed automatic transmission changes effortlessly and smoothly – sometimes it’s only the sound of the engine revs dropping that tell you there’s been a gear change.

For such a big, tall boxy truck, there’s surprisingly little wind noise at highway speeds. The ride is very comfortable – I couldn’t tell if this is because of the Auto Ride control, or the Denali’s independent front torsion bar suspension and new rear five-link/coil spring suspension and meaty 265/70R-17 Michelin Cross Terrain all-season tires. It’s likely a combination of all these features.

Despite its size, the Denali is easy to drive – the variable-assist steering is easy to turn even at slow speeds, handling is stable and predictable, the disc brakes are powerful, and it has plenty of power. Its high ride height and many windoww provide excellent outward visibility.

In city driving however, you have to be careful to make wide turns at street corners and in parking lots because of the Denali’s length. With a long 3302 mm (130.0 in.) wheelbase, the Denali’s turning circle is 13.5 metres (44.5 ft.) – that compares to 12.2 metres (39.9 ft.) for the standard Yukon model.

The Yukon XL Denali’s length, 5052 mm (219.3 in.), also makes it difficult to find a street parking space long enough to fit into.

The full-time four-wheel-drive system operates transparently on dry or slippery pavement without damaging the 4WD hardware. My only reservation is the lack of a low gear for steep, off-road driving.

I didn’t get a chance to tow a trailer on this Test-Drive, but the engine’s bountiful low-end torque, Tow/Haul transmission, and standard trailering package are all purposely designed to handle trailers up to 3810 kg (8400 lb.). The Denali has a strong body-on-frame platform, the same as the 1/2 ton Silverado/Sierra pickup truck with hydroformed frame components and a three-section modular frame for strength.

Pricing and features

For its suggested retail price of $61,890, the Yukon XL Denali includes all of the features mentioned above. The only option is a sliding sunroof, a $1,140 option.

Competitors for the Yukon XL Denali may include the Ford Excursion, and perhaps smaller luxury SUV’s like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and Lexus LX470. However, the Yukon XL Denali has few direct competitors.

Yukon XL models are built on the same assembly line as Chevrolet Suburbans in Arlington, Texas.

Technical Data:

2001 GMC Yukon XL Denali
Base price $61,890
Freight $990
Type 4-door, 8 passenger sport-utility wagon
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 6.0 litre OHV V8
Horsepower 320 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 365 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic w/Tow-Haul mode
Tires P265/70R17 Michelin Cross-terrain Touring
Curb weight 2649 kg (5840 lb.)
Towing capacity 3810 kg (8400 lb.)
Wheelbase 3302 mm (130.0 in.)
Length 5570 mm (219.3 in.)
Width 2004 mm ( 78.9 in.)
Height 1923 mm ( 75.7 in.)
Cargo capacity behind rear seat: 1294 litres (45.7 cu. ft.)
  Behind front seats: 3729 litres (131.7 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 20.4 l/100 km (14 mpg)
  14.0 l/100 km (20 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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