2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali First Look: Big, Bold, and Beautiful

yukon denali extHard to believe we already are talking about 2015 models, but if you’ve got to start somewhere, start with a vehicle that makes a bold statement. Which is exactly what GMC did by inviting the press to take a first look at its new Yukon full-size SUV family. For 2015, the GMC Yukon (sister vehicle to the Chevrolet Tahoe), Yukon XL (Suburban sibling), and Denali (Escalade ESV) models are coming out proud, showing off a fresh exterior, new interior convenience features, and improved power with projected best-in-class fuel economy.

Yukon denali rear

Outside, the design favors GMC’s “professional grade” styling elements, with new projector-beam headlamps and C-shaped LED lighting. The grille also features chrome accents, in keeping with the GMC aesthetic. Move up to the Denali trim and you’ll add upscale features like HID headlamps and a power-retractable assist step and standard 20-inch wheels.

Yukon XL interior looks clean with good ergonomics.

Yukon XL interior looks clean with good ergonomics.

Inside are also plenty of upgrades. Items like soft-touch consoles, ambient lighting, and a standard Bose audio system enhance the ride-and-drive experience. The Yukon SUVs now features fold-flat second- and third-row seats with a power-fold optional feature that can be controlled through buttons in the rear cargo area.

power fold seat buttons

Available power fold second- and third-row seats

As big and as roomy as the Yukon was before, there is about two inches more leg room for second-row passengers, along with easier ingress and egress. For those who need storage room, the new Yukon offers a compartmentalized center console for laptop storage, and it can even accommodate hanging file folders.

 

XL cargo

When it comes to performance, GMC made bold progress here as well. A wider rear track provides great stability, a new electric-assist power steering system will take some work out of the driving and help provide improved fuel economy, and a new 9.5-inch rearend and standard locking rear diff add to this big SUV’s go-anywhere capability.

 

yukon XL front

But the really big news is the addition of the EcoTec3 engine family, first used in the 2014 GMC Sierra full-size pickup. Yukon and Yukon XL get a standard 5.3-liter V8 that produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, or step up to the Denali’s standard 6.2-liter V8, with class-leading 420 horsepower and an impressive 460 lb-ft of torque. With direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and a host of other technologies, the 6.2L V8 is expected to achieve excellent fuel-economy figures. While the EPA estimates will be released closer to the vehicle’s on-sale date early next year, it should be close to the 16 city/23 highway figures from the 2014 Sierra half-ton pickup. Both engines are matched to a Hydra-matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission.

yukon XL rear

To keep American buyers happy, the Yukon lineup will be built at GM’s Arlington, Texas, facility. If it looks this good on paper and in person, we can’t wait to get behind the wheel for a real-world workout.

All photography © Scott Killeen/Team Killeen