|   |  GMC Yukon XL 1500

GMC Yukon XL 1500

Review

REVIEW

With summer only a few months away, our editorial staff pondered the same question as thousands of Americans do each year: What's the best SUV for a long road trip, which will carry a family of five in comfort, haul their gear, and tow a trailer or boat?
Photo 2/31
Obviously, the vehicle must be large in size, offer three rows of seating, boast a potent powertrain, and have a decent tow rating. Thus, we chose the largest interior-volume 'utes available for this test.
Who's Who
The behemoth of the group comes from the Ford camp. Introduced in 2000, the Excursion measures a whopping 226.7 in. from nose to tail, stands 80.2 in. tall, and weighs 7190 lb. Standard power for the two-wheel-drive is the tried-and-true 5.4L SOHC Triton V-8, with 225 hp and 315 lb-ft of twist. Optional on the 4x2 and standard fare for 4x4 versions is the 6.8L SOHC V-10, transmitting 310 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. Also optional on all models is the 7.3L PowerStroke turbo/intercooled diesel V-8. With 250 hp and a stump-pulling 505 lb-ft of torque, the diesel is the powerhouse of the lineup. All three engines push their power through a 4R100 four-speed automatic tranny.
Photo 3/31
New for '01, the GMC Yukon Denali XL measures 219.3 in. long, 75.7 in. tall, and 5839 lb of heft. Power is derived from the same 6.0L OHV V-8 (the only available engine for this rig, rated at 320 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque) found in the Sierra Denali pickup, as well as the 4L65-E four-speed auto box and full-time all-wheel drive.
Photo 4/31
Setting the pace for large SUVs, Toyota's Sequoia (introduced last year) is the smallest of the test, at 203. in. in length, 78 in. of girth, and a curb weight of 5295 lb. The Toyo's only motivation comes from the ultra-sophisticated 4.7L DOHC V-8, with 240 hp and 315 lb-ft in the torque department. A four-speed ECT automatic puts power to the ground.
Track Time
Getting a performance baseline on these three monsters was the first order of business, and it provided its own set of surprises. Loaded with the most cubic inches of the test (415, to be exact) and two more cylinders than the rest of the competition, our V-10-equipped Excursion pulled an agonizing 9.9 sec 0-60 mph. Loaded with 1000 lb of sandbags, an additional 1.3 sec was required. The quarter mile came in 17.3 sec at 79.3 mph unloaded and an additional 0.76 sec with a loss of 3.7 mph with load.
Photo 5/31
Emergency braking proved a bit more lively, with its 13.0-in. front- and 12.8-in. rear discs (with aft ABS only) scrubbing speed, 60-0-mph panic stops used a total of 152 ft of pavement. Add two more feet with a grand of weight in the back. Loaded or unloaded, the Excursion had a tendency to wander in crisis situations, though the ABS felt refined over its F-150 siblings.
Photo 6/31
With a mere 284 cu in. of displacement, the Sequoia may be the underling, but its DOHC V-8 powerplant was impressive, nonetheless. Weighing in at 1895 lb under the Excursion, 60 mph came in at a decent 8.9 sec. Loaded, 2.2 sec was required to get the same speed. The Toyota fared well in the quarter mile, with a 16.7 at 82.8-mph pass, gaining 1.4 sec and losing 5.3 mph when loaded.
The Sequoia surprised us in the braking department. Equipped with 12.5-in. front- and 12.2-in. rear discs (and four-wheel ABS), the Toyota stopped in a mere 131 ft with and without a full load. Emergency braking was progressive and linear, with only mild pedal pulse when the ABS was engaged.
Photo 7/31
Performance-oriented drivers will appreciate the power and torque available from the Yukon Denali's pushrod V-8, and our GMC tester deftly took all acceleration categories: Unladen, it posted a 7.9-sec run to 60 and 15.9 at 86.3 mph in the quarter mile. With sandbags loaded in the cargo area, an additional second was needed to reach 60 mph with 0.6-sec gain in the quarter with a loss of only 0.5 mph. To say we were impressed is an understatement.
The Denali's 12.0-in. front- and 13.0-in. rear discs (all four wheels receiving ABS) proved superior, pulling the GMC from 60 mph to a stop in 128 ft. Adding weight to the rear, it equaled the Sequoia in loaded stops with a 131-ft run. Unlike the previous generation, the Denali tracked straight and true with no noticeable pedal vibration.
Inside Line
The living quarters of all three vehicles were impressive in their own right, but for different reasons. With its massive exterior and 146.4 cu ft of cargo space, the Excursion feels more like sitting in a convention center than an SUV, with communication between the front- and third-row passengers darn near requiring an intercom system.
Photo 8/31
The Ford reminded us that it's no luxury cruiser, with its staid dash, semi-supportive front buckets and park-bench second- and third-row seats. Up front, the driver has a full set of legible white-on-black gauges (including tach, speedo, temp, oil pressure, fuel, and volts) and secondary controls that are easy to operate while underway. Seating space is generous in all three rows, with driver and passenger receiving captain's chairs that provide decent lumbar and thigh support but lack lateral grip. Radio and climate controls feature large rotary dials and buttons for easy selection, and rear-seat passengers have secondary HVAC controls as well.
Second-row passengers reside on a 60/40-split bench that easily accommodates three large adults. Foot-, head-, and legroom are commodious, but we wish the bench had less forward rake and better lumbar support for long family trips. Rear stereo controls and a 12-volt powerpoint grace the aft section of the center console. Though three large adults will find the third-row seating cramped in the sitting mode, there's a surprising amount of head- and legroom for real people. Like the second-row bench, seating in the third row is comfortable for short hauls.
Photo 9/31
If carrying the family in the lap of luxury is a priority, the Denali XL should be at the top of your list. If you can do without the 14.8 extra cu ft of cargo-carrying capacity (compared to the Excursion), the GMC will easily get the family from Florida to California with nary a body cramp. Driver and passenger are treated to power-everything seats (replete with seat heaters and adjustable lumbar and lateral pads), which provide the right support in the right places. Gray plood (plastic wood) adds some class to the dash and console trim.
Photo 10/31
We're impressed with GMC's inclusion of a transmission-temperature gauge as standard (other gauges include speedo, tach, fuel, volts, water temp, and oil pressure), upgraded center console that houses the six-disc CD changer and multifunction trip computer. Secondary controls are easy to use, and we're especially fond of GM's climate and stereo controls that are large enough to be easily manipulated with work-gloved hands.
Standard fare for second-row passengers is a 60/40 split bench, but our tester was ordered with the optional ($490) second-row heated bucket seats. Without the front-seat's power functions, the rear seats were equally comfortable, supportive, and recline for those who need a little shut-eye. Kids will enjoy the dual rear powerpoints and stereo controls crafted into the aft section of the center console. Surprisingly, rear air-conditioning controls are driver-activated only. Third-row seating isn't as commodious as in the Excursion, though two large adults will find the accommodations comfortable with a supportive bench and adequate head-, foot-, and legroom.
Photo 11/31
While rather plain in appearance compared to the Ford and GMC, the Sequoia's interior is well laid out with the family in mind. Front passengers will have a hard time finding fault with its captain chairs, which have near perfect, electrically adjustable lumbar-support placement. Thigh and lateral support is also above the norm, especially when getting tossed about on the trail.
Photo 12/31
In typical Toyota fashion, driver's instruments are engineered for maximum visibility and ease of use. Large, clear gauges (including tach, speedo, oil pressure, engine temp, volts, and fuel) address the driver, and secondary controls are within a fingertip reach. The Sequoia's HVAC temperature and fan controls feature oversize rotary dials, but the driver or passenger must press the MODE button repeatedly to select venting. We also wish the radio switches were a bit larger for use when underway.
Second- and third-row passengers won't have anything to complain about, as Toyota has engineered a good amount of leg-, foot, and headroom into the aft compartment. We do suggest that the third row be saved for preteens, as large adults will find legroom a bit tight. Digital HVAC controls are mounted in back of the center console, for full selectivity to rear occupants.
Photo 13/31
On the Road
Hitting the highway, radio chatter immediately turned to ride quality of our testers. Based on the F-250's ladder frame with single monobeam and leaf spring in front and solid axle with single stage leafs out back, the Excursion's ride was easily upset on potholed roads and big-rig-worn highways. Logbook comments such as "ride quality certainly isn't in the same league as the Sequoia or Denali" only emphasized what our backs were feeling. Once on ribbon-smooth pavement, however, the ride evened out considerably, and on twisty roads the Ford performed admirably, taking a good set in the corners. Riding on LT265/ 75R16 Firestone Steeltex radials on steel wheels, the Excursion plowed through mud and muck like a Sherman tank when the weather turned sour.
The Sequoia held the other end of the spectrum. With its independent front and five-link rear suspension, it floated over road imperfections, serving up a Lexus-like ride to its occupants. Toyota's moderately stiff-spring/soft-shock combination gave the Sequoia a bit more lean in the corners than we'd like and made it more susceptible to wind gusts. "Super-smooth suspension easily swallows up ruts in the road" and "remarkably smooth on harsh roads" were but two of the comments noted on the Sequoia's logbook. Fitted with Bridgestone Dueler HTs (265/70R16) on cast-aluminum wheels, the Toyota was the least confidence- inspiring of the bunch for inclement weather. On one particular section of water-soaked dirt road, Editor-at-Large Whale noted, "While I was in full control of the vehicle, the Sequoia's hyperactive vehicle skid control sent me into a skid." Others also noticed the lack of grip in the wet: "On nearly every turn, the back end tends to slide out, causing the dash to light up like a discotheque [from the VSC warning lamp], cutting power."
"Well balanced for a large SUV," was the first comment in the Yukon Denali's logbook. With its independent front and load-leveling five-link rear suspension, the GMC served up a smooth and compliant ride on everything from fresh asphalt to weather-rutted washboard. "The Denali's suspension works better than just about any SUV's out there," noted Editor Williams. While most XL owners will use their rigs for hauling friends and family in comfort, the Denali also makes for a sprightly canyon carver, exhibiting sharp and precise turn in and good manners through tight switchbacks. Its better than average cornering ability is partially attributed to its all-wheel-drive system and the ultra-grippy Michelin Cross Terrain 265/70R17 tires mated to machined aluminum rims. In the wet, the GMC tracked straight and true, leaving us confident as we traversed streams and mud-soaked roads without hesitation.
In the Dirt
While 90 percent of those who buy this genre of SUV will opt to keep them on the tarmac, getting these three far from civilization--and anything that looked like pavement--was our next order of business.
We fully expected the AWD GMC to have a difficult time when the dirt road we traversed turned into a craggy trail, but the lack of 4-LOW didn't hold the Denali back, as it easily clambered over rocks and sloughed through hub-deep sand with ease. On difficult portions of the trail, the GMC strained against the torque converter, as we played the two-foot-pedal dance through the rough stuff. Even with the higher than normal revs needed, engine and transmission temperatures remained calm, cool, and collected.
With its traditional 4x4 solid-axle design, the Excursion made our off-road trail look like a molehill. Although the ride was rough and tumble, to say the least, the Excursion was virtually unstoppable when shifted into 4WD and the front hubs locked. While deep sand gave our Sequoia fits, the Ford pulled through the wash with nary a complaint. Tackling rock-strewn passes was also a no-brainer for Ford's ark, which artfully picked its way with excellent suspension articulation.
Photo 14/31
Off the beaten path, the Toyota was a combination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Unlike its born-to-be-off-road Land Cruiser cousin, the Sequoia's VSC and ABS made certain, choppy, off-road trails more challenging, continually cutting power to the drive wheels when it detected any sort of wheelspin. Our thoughtful, insightful, and balanced staff preferred the Ford and GMC systems that gave full control to the driver. And while experienced rock crawlers loathed the system, novice climbers praised the VSC for getting them (often slowly but surely) up loose terrain, keeping them out of trouble before they got in too deep.
Photo 15/31
Cargo Quotient
When it comes to family vacations, there's no such thing as too much cargo space. For carrying baggage or pulling a trailer, the Excursion is king. Its solid rear axle and leaf-spring suspension, help the Ford's Class III hitch (with seven-pin wiring harness) pull up to 11,000 lb of camper and equipment. Its glass hatch and double Dutch doors ease loading items into the cargo area is with the 31.5 in. load lift and 1800-lb carrying capacity.
Photo 16/31
Dropping in overall size, the GMC's capacity drops, too. The Denali's load-leveling suspension works well to keep it on an even keel, especially when pulling up to a 8100-lb boat on its Class III hitch (replete with seven-pin wiring plug). And while its glass hatch/drop gate cargo area is smaller than the Excursion's by 14.8 cu ft, it still carries 1616 lb in stuff.
Although possessing less overall power and payload capacity compared to its counterparts, the Sequoia is capable of pulling a midsize trailer or boat with its 6500-lb towing capacity. Unlike its competitors, the Toyota's Class III hitch has a flat-four trailer wiring harness, making for adapter-less connections, but eliminating the possibility of powering electric trailer brakes. We like the Sequoia's electric rear window that disappears into the fold-down gate, but with 128.1 cu ft and 1305 lb of cargo carrying capacity, it's the smallest hauler of the bunch.

Ford
Total interior volume 146.4
Behind second row 100.7
Behind third row 48.0
GMC
Total interior volume 131.6
Behind second row 90.0
Behind third row 45.7
Toyota
Total interior volume 128.1
Behind second row 73.6
Behind third row 36.2
Time To Decide
When it comes down to brass tacks, each of these oversize SUVs is a niche players in its own right: The Excursion is the tow master, while the Denali XL is the luxury leader, and the Sequoia represents the every-man daily driver and kid hauler.
Photo 17/31
But for a do-everything go-anywhere-at-anytime vehicle, we have to give our nod to the Denali XL. Sure, the Excursion carries more cargo and hauls heavier loads, but the ride, huge turning radius, and relatively thirsty V-10 make it a tough choice for daily transportation. The Sequoia is a capable cruiser and comfortable family hauler, but its horsepower deficit and soft suspension make trailering a bit of a chore, not to mention the VSC that left us unimpressed.
At $50K, the Denali is a big chunk of change to swallow, but it offers a potent powertrain, commodious interior, capable AWD, and great towing capacity. For the large family, the Yukon Denali XL is the ultimate vacation machine.
Photo 18/31

Report Card
 GMCFordToyota
Power 4 4+ 3
Refinement 4 3- 4+
Styling and design4 4 4
Long-distance comfort4+ 3 4+
Handling, on-road4+ 3 4
Handling, off-road4 4 3+
Interior amenities4+ 4 4
Instrumentation4+ 3+ 4
Visibility4- 4 4+
Build quality3 3+ 4
Value3 3 4
KEY: 1 = poor; 3 = average; 5 = superior
Other Investment Advice
By Mark Willaims
We have quite a cross-section of the biggest SUVs around, with the possible exception of the most obvious: the Chevy Suburban. Although identical in size to the GMC Yukon Denali XL, it just happens that we couldn't get a regular Suburban for the test, but here are some interesting points to note if you're shopping in this size arena: '02 two-wheel drive 1/2-ton Suburbans start around $36,000, with 4WD models pushing that up another $3K. The only engine available is the Vortec 5300 V-8, unless you bump up to the 3/4-ton, where the Vortec 6000 is standard and the muscular 496 cu-in. big-block stump-puller is a $700 option. 2500 Suburbans start at $37,500 and can move deep into the mid-$40,000 range fast, but still offer a significant amount of return on investment.
Photo 19/31
Second Opinions
I'd be hard-pressed to use any of these as a daily driver without feeling guilty about wasting space and fuel. Once I bypass the VSC (in 4WD), the Sequoia is the obvious choice for that. The Denali's performance impressed me more than I'd like to admit and has me believing there are indeed serious drivers at GMC. However, I don't have six friends who deserve such luxury. When I'm loading up with people, gear, and a trailer, I want room and a truck underneath: Ford Excursion. The block-shape Ford has the most room for the road space it takes up. It gives the driver the most control choices, a solid front axle (for 4x4)--and a full-floating rear axles are best for loads. Brats and delinquents don't need heated leather, so I'd get a diesel Excursion, as it would handily out-carry, out-pull, out-mileage, and cost less than the other two. --Greg Whale
Photo 20/31
There's plenty to love about the Excursion with its hard-core truck underpinnings, huge interior volume, and king-of-the-road stature--and it's just about the least-expensive choice in this class. At the other end of the spectrum, the Yukon Denali XL surprised me the most with its high-tech computer software programs (suspension, all-wheel drive, V-8 power) that seem bent on taking all the truckness out of the giant-size SUV. It's also the most expensive. My choice falls more to the middle with the Toyota Sequoia, where size is manageable, interior flexibility is the best of the bunch, and solid build quality has long been a key feature. Plain styling and lack of power aside (nothing that a new set of wheels and tires and a supercharger can't solve), the Sequoia offers the best all-around package for getting to mountaintop campsites or subterranean garages with confidence. --Mark Williams
Photo 21/31
Spending a little over a week in these three mammoth SUVs, I found a new appreciation for the Yukon Denali. After being bounded to death in the Excursion over pavement and dirt roads, I appreciated the size and hauling capability of Ford's bigger-is-better SUV, but I couldn't fathom driving it on a daily basis. The Sequoia was comfortable and the best screwed together of the bunch, but I can't drive a vehicle over which I don't have complete control over. Yes, Virginia, the VSC takes the fun out of driving--especially off-road. Plus there's the wind factor: Find a gusty cross wind and you'll change lanes without much steering input. Then there's the Denali XL: The buckets best supported my less-than-svelte-frame, the powertrain is a performance boon, and it'll haul a 25-ft boat with ease. Sure, the pricetag is hefty, but for what you get, it's a bargain. - Scott Mead
Photo 22/31

  2001 Ford Excursion XLT 2002 GMC Yukon Denali XL 1500 2001 Toyota Sequoia Limited
GENERAL
Location of final assembly Louisville, Ky. Janesville, Wis. Princeton, Ind.
Body style 4-door, 8-pass 4-door, 7-pass 4-door, 8-pass
EPA size class Multipurpose Multipurpose Multipurpose
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD Front engine, AWD Front engine, 4WD
Airbags Dual Dual front & side Dual front & side
POWERTRAIN
Engine type V-10, iron block, aluminum heads V-8, iron block, aluminum heads V-8, iron block, aluminum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.55x4.16 4.00x3.62 3.70x3.31
Displacement, ci/l 415/6.8 364/6.0 284/4.7
Compression ratio 9.0:1 9.4:1 9.6:1
Valve gear 2 valves/cyl, SOHC 2 valves/cyl, OHV 4 valves/cyl, DOHC
Fuel induction Sequential multiport Sequential multiport Sequential multiport
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 310 @ 4250 320 @ 5000 240 @ 4800
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 425 @ 3250 365 @ 4000 315 @ 3400
Transmission 4R100 4L65-E A340F
1st 2.71:1 3.06:1 2.80:1
2nd 1.54:1 1.63:1 1.53:1
3rd 1.00:1 1.00:1 1.00:1
4th 0.71:1 0.70:1 0.70:1
Reverse 2.18:1 2.29:1 2.39:1
Axle ratio 4.30:1 3.73:1 4.10:1
Final drive ratio 3.05:1 2.61:1 2.87:1
Rpm @ 60 mph 2100 1700 1900
Transfer-case model BW 44-06 NVG 135 V73AM
Low-range ratio 2.72:1 N/A 2.57:1
Crawl ratio 31.69:1 N/A 29.50:1
Recommended fuel Unleaded regular Unleaded regular Unleaded regular
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase, in 137.1 130.0 118.1
Length, in 226.7 219.3 203.9
Width, in 79.9 78.8 78.0
Height, in 80.2 75.7 74.0
Track, f/r, in 68.4/68.1 65.0/66.0 65.9/66.1
Headroom, f/m/r, in 41.0/41.1/38.6 40.7/39.0/38.6 41.1/40.6/36.8
Legroom, f/m/r, in 42.3/40.5/39.0 41.3/39.1/36.1 41.6/38.4/29.8
Shoulder room, f/m/r, in 68.3/67.0/64.9 65.2/65.1/64.8 62.1/62.2/60.9
Hiproom, f/m/r, in 67.5/66.9/52.5 61.4/61.6/49.2 59.7/58.3/50.3
Behind first-row seat, cu ft 146.4 131.6 128.1
Behind second-row seat, cu ft 100.7 90.0 73.6
Behind third-row seat, cu ft 48.0 45.7 36.2
Ground clearance, in 8.1 8.4 10.6
Approach/departure angle, deg 25.0/15.1 23/20 28/20
Load lift height, in 31.5 33.0 30.0
Ride height, in 35.5 33.5 31.2
Base curb weight, lb 7190 5839 5270
Payload capacity, lb 1810 1480 1330
GVWR, lb 9100 7200 6600
GCWR, lb 20,000 15,400 12,300
Towing capacity, lb 11,000 8200 6500
Fuel capacity, gal 44.0 32.5 26.0
CHASSIS
Suspension, f/r Live axle, leaf springs/live axle, leaf springs IFS, torsion bars/live axle, coil linkIFS, double A-arm/live axle, coil link
Steering type Power-assist, recirculating ballElectronic power-assist, recirculating ballPower-assist, rack and pinion
Ratio 17.0:1 12.7:1 18.6:1
Turns, lock to lock 3.5 3.3 3.4
Turning circle, ft 50.442.342.3
Brakes, f/r 13.0-in vented disc/12.8-in disc 4WABS 12.0-in vented disc/ 13.0-in disc 4WABS12.5-in vented disc/ 12.2-in vented disc 4WABS
Wheels, in 16x7.0 steel 17x7.0 alloy 16x7.0 alloy
Tires Firestone SteelTex R4S 265/75R16 Michelin Cross Terrain 265/70R17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T 265/70R16
Load rating 119 R 113 S 111 S
PERFORMANCE - Acceleration, unloaded/loaded, sec (1000 lb)
0-30 empty/loaded 3.1/3.6 2.6/3.1 3.0/3.7
0-40 empty/loaded 5.2/5.6 4.0/4.5 4.5/5.6
0-50 empty/loaded 7.2/8.2 5.9/6.3 6.6/8.2
0-60 empty/loaded 9.9/11.1 7.9/8.9 8.9/11.1
0-70 empty/loaded 13.6/15.3 10.3/11.6 11.8/14.6
0-80 empty/loaded 17.9/NA 13.1/14.6 15.8/NA
Standing quarter-mile, empty/loaded, sec/mph 17.3@79.3/18.9@75.6 15.9@86.3/16.5@85.9 16.7@82.8/18.1@77.5
Braking, empty/loaded, 60-0, ft 152/154 128/131 131/131
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy 10/13 13/16 14/17
PRICE
Base price $35,960 $48,890 $32,169
Price as tested $41,495 $50,305 $44,875
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