How do you review a vehicle with a 6.2-liter V8 engine with 420 horsepower, 20-inch wheels, an onyx-colored exterior, an equally dark interior and dark-tinted side windows? Easy. It’s a hearse on steroids—the 2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali.
This beast not only looks menacing, it’s intimidating to drive—at least at first. Its length (18 feet, 8 inches), width (6 feet, 8 1/2 inches) and height (6 feet, 2 1/2 inches) require adjustments while parking, making U-turns or negotiating lane changes. And it’s overall weight (7,500 pounds) requires earlier consideration when braking.
This is a monster family hauler, spacious and safe—and a gas guzzler. It has a 31-gallon fuel tank capacity, which it needs. When it powers down the road, other drivers tend to do two things—stay out of the way or challenge you for some sort of weird drivers’ supremacy among big vehicles.
Parking is tough. Shopping mall spots and angled public lot options required astute maneuvering. Street parking? Many spots I encountered were too narrow or not long enough. Then again, what’s a little inconvenience with you’re driving down the road in an apartment-sized machine? Who cares about gas mileage and a massive turning radius when you’re blasting along like one of the gang from a Mad Max movie?
The Yukon Denali represents a lot of what’s wrong with the auto industry and yet it does so while its occupants reap many benefits: a massively powerful sound system and navigation system, easy-on-the-eyes wooden accents and a lot of room to stretch out. As a people mover, the Yukon Denali has room for nine in the base model, all of whom ride in extraordinary comfort. It’s a room with a view for all and from high perches.
Suffice it to say, the 2016 GMC Yukon Denali is big and powerful and illogical for anything but massive towing or a large family or for when the price and consumption of gas isn’t a concern.
It’s quiet and comfortable and ready for rough duty. But there’s a huge learning curve for anyone accustomed to any other kind of vehicle. Unless, of course, you’re an experienced tank driver.
James Raia, a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California, specializes in sports and lifestyle topics. He publishes the website theweeklydriver.com.