SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide
Question: When is a Suburban not a Suburban?
Answer: When it's a new GMC Yukon XL. In order to differentiate its largest sport-utility vehicle from Chevrolet's, GMC has renamed it from Suburban, a name shared with Chevy, to Yukon XL. The slightly smaller Yukon remains the Yukon, and both versions are completely new for 2000.
This should surprise no one. GM's full-sized SUVs are built on the same platform as its full-sized pickups, which were new for the 1999 model year. And so, this year the SUVs get all of the benefits of the new truck chassis and engines. The new models of the Yukon and Yukon XL are more comfortable, quieter, stronger, have more safety features, and are more efficient. I had the opportunity to try nearly all versions of both at the press introduction in Santa Barbara, California, last fall, and have a new Yukon XL SLT in my driveway as I write this. Yukons of any variety are not small, but are capable and comfortable on all types of roads from dirt fire roads to freeways. And, even though they are full-sized SUVs with plenty of room, they still fit into normal parking areas. The Yukon XL combines comfort and strength, and now offers style as well.
APPEARANCE: The old Suburban was truly a two-box design, with emphasis on box. The Yukon XL is much more stylish, but not overdone. From the windshield forward, it's the same as GMC's Sierra pickup, with the sculpted, domed hood and blacked-out "center port" grille featuring the corporate logo. The Yukon's edges are more rounded, and subtle fender flares, emphasized by incised lines, and a modest curve over the rear wheels add a muscular look. It's not pretentiously attempting to look like anything but a large SUV, but it no longer looks like the box it came in.
COMFORT: In two-wheel drive trim, my test Yukon XL is reasonably easy to get into and out of. Optional running boards help a bit, and standard flood lights built into the side mirrors make nighttime access much easier. Inside, in SLT trim, the only question is: Does "XL" stand for "extra large" or "extra luxury"? Both, apparently. My test XL has leather upholstery on its very comfortable seats. The power-adjustable front and reclinable second-row captain's chairs are great, and even the third-row bench is roomy. That configuration gives plenty of space for seven people. There is good cargo space behind the third-row seat, with a net and shade. A new lightweight aluminum liftgate makes loading and unloading much easier than before. The expected interior versatility is found – the second-row seats flip and fold, as does the rear bench. It can also be removed for truly massive cargo ability. Plenty of vents keep fresh, controlled-temperature air directed to all passengers, with separate controls for front and rear. Second-row passengers also can have their own audio, courtesy of controls and headphone jacks on the rear of the front center console. The driver and front passenger have plenty of space and convenient storage.
SAFETY: All 2000 GMC Yukon models feature a strong frame and body structure with a safety cage around the passenger compartment. Dual front and outboard front seat side airbags are standard, as are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with dynamic proportioning to further prevent lockup and reduce stopping distance.
ROADABILITY: The Yukon XL is undeniably large, but, in two- or four-wheel drive form it's not as tall as some of its competitors. So body motion, which is very well-controlled anyway, is not overly magnified. Both the body and frame have been redesigned for greater rigidity. All Yukon and Yukon XL models have a new independent front suspension; half-ton ones like my test vehicle have a new rear suspension as well. It uses a rugged solid axle, but that axle has five locating links and coil springs instead of the more- common leaf springs, which are still used on heavier-duty three- quarter ton versions. The result is a smooth and very comfortable ride, also enhanced by the 130-inch wheelbase. On the road, it unsurprisingly feels massive, but not ponderous. Standard four- wheel disc brakes ensure that, as big and heavy as the Yukon XL is, it stops quickly and easily.
PERFORMANCE: The "Vortec" 5.3-liter V8's 327 cubic inch displacement may be a familiar figure in GM history, but this is not the celebrated old "small block" V8. It's a new cast-iron block/aluminum head cousin to the all-aluminum engine found in Corvettes. Despite its pushrod overhead valve design, it is a very modern engine, and quite capable for truck duty. Maximum horsepower is 285, at 5200 rpm. Maximum torque is 325 lb-ft at 4000 rpm, but it makes over 300 lb-ft between about 1800 and 4500 rpm. So, despite the 5000-lb mass, acceleration, even up steep hills, is no problem. And towing capacity can be up to 9000 lbs with proper equipment. The Suburban is famous for its towing ability, and it hasn't lost anything with the name change.
CONCLUSIONS: The new Yukon adds style to its strengths.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 GMC Yukon XL 1/2 Ton 2-Wheel Drive Base Price $ 34,468 Price As Tested $ 38,987 Engine Type 16-valve pushrod overhead valve V8 Engine Size 5.3 liters / 327 cu. in. Horsepower 285 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 130.0 in. / 219.3 in. Curb Weight 4914 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.2 Fuel Capacity 32.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P265/ 70 R16 Firestone Wilderness LE Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent double A-arm with torsion bars / solid axle with 5-link coil spring Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 14 / 18 / 15 0 to 60 mph est 10 sec Towing capacity 9,000 lbs maximum OPTIONS AND CHARGES Marketing Option Package 1SD – a requires minimum purchase of: luxury convenience package, SLT decor, rear-seat audio, homelink garage opener, automatic climate control, electrochromic driver's side mirror, OnStar communications system, liftgate with liftglass rear door system, 16x7 bright machined cast aluminum alloy wheels, AM/FM/cass/CD stereo, full-feature bucket seats, oak ultrasoft leather $ 2,657 Side-step running boards $ 325 Locking rear differential $ 252 Center bucket seats $ 290 Heavy-duty trailering equipment $ 164 Transmission cooling system $ 96 High capacity air cleaner $ 25 Destination charge $ 710