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BEYOND BIG: GMC’s full-size, workhorse 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4×4 accentuates the utility in SUV

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If the regular-length GMC Yukon, as large as it is, isn’t burly enough for dragging your family and its toys for off-the-beaten-path recreation, GMC is here to help.

GMC offers an extra-large stretched version, cleverly tagged the XL. Even with the third-row seat occupied, there’s a gargantuan 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space for luggage and other ancillary stuff.

Or drop down that rearmost seat and there’s a whopping 121.7 cubic feet available for a weekend Home Depot project.

GMC’s Yukon holds down the Goldilocks position between the Chevrolet Tahoe/ Suburban and ultra-luxe Cadillac Escalade in General Motors’ triumvirate of mechanically similar, truck-based SUVs. It’s a step above the Chevy with classier exterior and cabin equipment and furnishings, yet not as flashy (and costly) as the Caddy.

The Yukon XL Denali features a robust V-8 related to the 6.2-liter engine that powers Chevrolet’s Corvette sports car. New for 2018 is a slick 10-speed automatic transmission that capably handles the engine’s prodigious 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Our four-wheel-drive tester proved surprisingly brisk for a nearly 6,000-pound behemoth, while capable of towing 7,900 pounds.

Of course, you’ll pay at the pump for all that accelerative potential and hauling capacity. Even with that new 10-speed autobox, the XL only rates a measly 14 mpg in town and 21 mpg on the open road.

As befits a jumbo-size American rig, where else would it be appropriate for GM to assemble the Yukon other than at its Arlington, Texas, truck plant utilizing engines and transmissions built in the U.S. (Of the foreign parts used in the vehicle, 44 percent are sourced from across the border in Mexico.)

Choosing the top-of-the-line Denali trim level for your Yukon XL brings the big V-8 engine/10-speed automatic transmission drivetrain; bigger 22-inch wheels and tires; xenon headlights; adaptive suspension shocks; a trailer brake controller; a head’s-up data display; active noise cancellation; second-row captain’s seats; a navigation system; a unique grille; and a 10-speaker surround-sound system.

Not enough stuff for you? Opt for the the Ultimate Package ($8,030), which augments all the options already included in the Denali trim with a power sunroof; an enhanced security package; a rear-seat entertainment package to keep the rear passengers occupied; illuminated power-retractable running boards to assist entry and exit; additional driver-assist and safety items including adaptive cruise control and advanced and forward automatic braking; and those unique 22-inch bright aluminum wheels.

The cabin is blessedly quiet under way, and the leather-wrapped front- and second-row bucket seats are extremely comfortable. The third-row bench suffers from tight head- and legroom, relegating it to kids only.

There is an excess of hard plastics and subpar materials that seems somewhat out of line given the Denali’s substantial price, but at least it does provide a long list of comfort and convenience features that compensates somewhat.

The XL Denali rolls smoothly down the highway much like a full-size luxury sedan. It’s also a surprisingly agile handler for so immense a vehicle, at least on the open road. It’s not as much at home In urban settings, where parking spaces seem to shrink to insignificance and K-turns become mandatory maneuvers.

If you need generous interior room for passengers and their cargo, along with plenty of towing capacity, the handsome GMC Yukon XL Denali might just fill the bill, especially since there aren’t a lot of alternatives in this utility-focused segment.

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