Driving Notes

2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali with 10-Speed

March 26, 2018

by Paul Clinton - Also by this author

Photo of 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali by Vince Taroc.
Photo of 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali by Vince Taroc.

General Motors has begun rolling out its 10-speed automatic transmission with the 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali, which results in a silkier drive for this large SUV.

GMC has implemented the gearbox as the Hydra-Matic 10R80, pairing it with its carryover 6.2-liter V-8 Ecotec3 engine. While the transmission has been designed for rear-wheel drive vehicles, it also fits nicely with the 4WD model.

The transmission was developed in a partnership with Ford, which rolled it out on its 2017 F-150 and paired it with the revamped 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6.

Part of the rationale for adding a higher-gear transmission is to improve fuel economy, and this large SUV adds 1 mpg in highway driving. With the 2018 Yukon Denali, the benefits come more in the driving experience with greater refinement, smoother shifting, better responsiveness, and less engine noise.

Taller gears do give the vehicle more punch off the line, but it quickly moves up the ladder to higher gears. That may be because fewer drivers will be using the truck for towing, and are looking for a higher quality drive. They get it.

Photo of Yukon Denali's interior by Vince Taroc.
Photo of Yukon Denali's interior by Vince Taroc.

The 10-speed is available on Denali versions of the Yukon and Yukon XL. The SLE and SLT trims offer the base 5.3-liter V-8 paired with a six-speed transmission.

The Yukon Denali adds a few other upgrades for 2018, including a new, more sculpted grille; a tire pressure monitor with a tire fill alert; and an Open Road package with nine more months of SiriusXM Radio and the NavTraffic service. The SUV also enables wireless charging of smartphones with a Qi charging pad built into the center storage lid.

The Yukon XL would retail for at least $71,865 plus a $1,295 delivery fee. Our tested model would retail for $80,585.

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