11.15.2016

Cash On The (Very Big) Hood: The Built-In Discounts of the 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali

Front 3/4 view of 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali
The 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali.
Things change over 23 years.  And things don't.

What I mean by that is that 23 years ago, I bought the equivalent of the car you see above.  It was known as the GMC Suburban back then.  My first wife was pregnant with our second child.  She didn't like to fly, so this family of four was going to take vacations on the road, and a week or two of that with a toddler and an infant meant a lot of supplies, including a dual stroller, a Pak-n-Play and the like.

She wanted it in red.

I bought the SLE  four-wheel drive model.  It had every option you could get, which pretty much meant cloth seats instead of vinyl, an AM/FM/cassette stereo with six speakers and rear air conditioning.  It had the most powerful gasoline engine available, a 190-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 (though everyone still called it the Chevy 350 then), It got 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 on the highway no matter how you drove it.

The sticker price was $31,000 and change and I got it for $26,900.



Rear/side view of 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali
2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali.
Flash forward from 1993 to 2016.  I got the 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali for similar, but entirely different reasons.  The new Mrs. TireKicker loves to fly, and is in fact a rather accomplished world traveler.  But we were going somewhere nearby (by my standards, if it's under 500 miles, it's "nearby") with four other people---a birthday treat for my eldest stepdaughter.  She, her boyfriend, her younger sister and her boyfriend, my wife and I booked a tour of Alcatraz weeks in advance. So I needed a vehicle that could accommodate six adults.  And the folks at GMC and Page One Automotive booked me for a week in the Denali.

240 miles round-trip in pouring rain (the Alcatraz tour is rain or shine and doesn't offer refunds), to say nothing of the challenges of piloting something the size of the 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali through the narrow streets of San Francisco (turns out the eldest's boyfriend, a recent arrival from the East Coast, had never been, so we did some speed sightseeing before and after the Alcatraz tour) could be stress-inducing.  But it wasn't.  In 24 years, the Yukon XL has morphed from a comfortable, enclosed truck to a luxury car with acres of usable space and phenomenal visibility.

Apart from making sure the outer edges of the Denali weren't coming into contact with people, cars and other surfaces (and the electronic crash-avoidance systems let us know when it was getting dicey),  it was very much like driving any other luxury vehicle.  In fact, the steering was responsive enough and the handling precise enough, that, just to elicit a few "Mike, what are you doing?"s from the rear seats, I drove it down this in the dark and in the rain:

Lombard Street, San Francisco
Lombard Street, San Francisco. 
That is the world-famous Lombard Street, or more precisely one block of Lombard Street, which otherwise is straight and mostly flat.  But this one block is 600 feet of red brick with eight tight turns that you negotiate while going down a 16% grade at five miles per hour.  People in much smaller machines (most likely rentals) have left prodigious amounts of paint from their fenders on the walls that are there to keep you out of the lawns and living rooms of the houses you pass on the way down.  But that's because they aren't paying attention.  Firetrucks come down this street.  Tour buses did until they were banned in 1980.  Doing it in the Denali was a breeze.

Interior view of 2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali
2017 GMC Yukon XL Denali interior.
Check the order box for a Denali instead of just a Yukon XL and you get most imaginable luxury items standard for a base price of  $72,220 for the four-wheel drive model.  That includes the 6.2-liter, 420-horsepower EcoTec3 V8 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That combination is responsible for the gas mileage being as good as it is (an EPA-estimated 15 city/22 highway).  Given the increase in weight and power over my '93, those actually are good numbers (remember, I was dealing with 12 and 16).  You also get an XL gas tank...31 gallons instead of the standard Yukon XL's 26.

Despite $3,500 in options added to this $72,220 vehicle, the bottom line came to under $70,000. And that's the cash on the very big hood alluded to in our headline.  Our tester had the Open Road package, which adds rear-seat entertainment with Blu-Ray, a third-row DVD screen and a power sunroof for $2,148.  It also had the head-up display (which I found enormously helpful in monitoring speed and other functions without ever having to glance down from the road to the instrument cluster) for $425.

Adaptive cruise control with front auto braking is, in my book, a must.  Add $995.  Throw in (you have no choice) $1,195 destination and freight charges and the total rings in at $76,500.

But here's where the instant discounts come in.  Take $500 off for a "Package Discount".  There's a "Total Cash Allowance" of $1,250.  And then a "Factory Reduction" of $5,112.  All of which makes the real bottom line:

$69,638.   And that's a screaming deal, because the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ we tested in August of that year, which is the same basic vehicle, but with a smaller, less powerful engine, actually rang in at $70,845.  Which is why the Denali is replacing the Suburban on the TireKicker's Best Cars list on the right side of this page.  They're both excellent vehicles if you want or need an extra-large SUV.  But the level of equipment and the factory bonuses give the GMC Yukon XL Denali the win.

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