Home Market & Buyer's Guides Suburban Vs Yukon XL – Are They Really Any Different?

Suburban Vs Yukon XL – Are They Really Any Different?

by Kelvin Yates

Contesting for the top spot among SUVs has never been as challenging before, I think. We’ve come to a point where practically any SUV on the market today is refined enough to deliver an optimal and sufficient amount of performance, driveability, practicality, comfort, and dependability. Seeing how good almost all SUVs are, is there really a point comparing General Motors’ Suburban vs Yukon XL.

Those two words there are quite a compromising hint – General Motors. Because you see, looking at Suburban vs Yukon XL is a matter of sibling rivalry, as they both share the same mother. Having been born from the same womb, they carry numerous similarities. The platform they ride on is similar to one another, as is the engine, and countless other shared bits and pieces adopted in either model.

So, why then should one bother with making comparisons of the Suburban vs Yukon XL… They’re just the same vehicle, are they not? Hmm, not entirely. Even twins have more than a few striking nuances in their personalities that keep them apart. It’s a familiar tale with Chevy’s Suburban and GMC’s Yukon XL. Look deep enough, and we’ll realize that the differences are starker than one would expect.

How Did The Chevy Suburban Become A GMC Yukon XL?

Little did you know, the Suburban nameplate has been around since 1934. This makes it the longest continuous use of an automobile marque in existence. We know the Suburban today to be a massive sports utility vehicle and part-time 4×4. Nevertheless, as the first-generation came out for the 1935 model year, Chevy’s Suburban was among the first all-metal bodied station wagons ever produced.

It gradually grew in body styles from a wagon to a panel van and small pickup truck. Eventually, the Suburban evolved into the first phase of its full-size SUV form in 1973. The seventh-generation was a hit for Chevrolet and maintained the Suburban’s status as a significant money-maker for the brand. It wasn’t until the eight-generation Suburban in 1991 where GMC started getting deeply involved.

At first, it was simply called the GMC Suburban. The ninth-generation Suburban that came in 2000 is the first occasion where the GMC Yukon branding first appeared. Built in conjunction, it was mainly a badge-engineered model between them. Chevrolet maintained the Suburban and Tahoe (the smaller variant of the Suburban) brand name. Meanwhile, GMC called theirs the Yukon and the Yukon XL.

Back then, both the Suburban and Yukon XL were practically identical in both design and trim. It took General Motors till the eleventh-generation Suburban in 2015 where they began drifting somewhat apart in styling. At the very least, can see more visual distinction between them in the current range. Moreover, today’s Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL had more differences elsewhere, too.

How About The 2021/2022 Model Year Of The Suburban Vs Yukon XL?

The twelfth-generation Suburban arrived for the 2021 model year as a full-size SUV. A month later, a new Yukon XL was subsequently introduced, built on the same GM-based platform. GM’s ‘GMT T1xx’ modular platform was first introduced in the Chevy Silverado. We can say that Chevrolet’s Suburban is related to not only the Yukon XL, but also the Tahoe and Silverado, and GMC’s Yukon and Sierra.

Cadillac’s posh and upscale Escalade ESV is also built on the same GM-based platform. Visually, you can definitely a similarity between these trucks and SUVs altogether. They’re big and brawny, with a sharp and aggressive bodywork. There are differences underneath, however. The Silverado’s rugged truck underpinnings – consisting of leaf springs and a live axle – was swapped out for the Suburban.

Instead, it took on independent multilink rear suspension with coil springs. This allowed it to have a much lower floor, hence increased interior space. Compared to the Silverado, the Suburban is longer (at 225.7 inches), with a wheelbase of 134.1 inches. This made it the lengthiest and biggest SUV in its extended-wheelbase class. For you, this means more cargo space and legroom for the third row.

The Yukon XL, on the other hand, had subtle variations, despite a similar aesthetic. It adopted similar engines, transmissions, and other running gear. Although, the Yukon could be optioned with bespoke air suspension and magnetic-ride shocks. While this new Yukon had a longer wheelbase than before, its overall length is slightly shorter than the Suburban. The interior of the Yukon XL is unique, too.

What Are The Differences Between The Suburban Vs Yukon XL?

TL;DR and in a nutshell, GM tried to differentiate the Suburban vs Yukon XL despite being essentially the same vehicle. At the end of the day, you get two gargantuan SUVs that carry the same engines, transmissions, and drivetrain. In other words, their drivability, performance, payload capacity, and so forth that are mechanically focused are identical. Both are even the same size and layout.

Fuel economy, interior space, towing loads, and so on are shared between the Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. With that being said, they do differ in their luxuriousness. The Yukon XL was made to be a slightly higher-end version of the Suburban. It thus brings with it more sumptuous materials in the cabin, as well as some changes here and there to make it ride more elegantly down the road.

The Yukon XL, to my eyes anyway, looks like a more expensive model, as well. With its chrome trim and added bling. Picking between them, in summary, is a choice of whether or not you’d care to have the extra flair. For a more detailed comparison to see the minute tweaks where you can distinguish a Suburban vs Yukon XL, we’ll focus more on the recent 2021 and newer models…

Powertrain; They Have The Same Engine(s) And Gearbox – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

Mechanically, core components such as the engine and transmission are the most expensive parts of any car. So, it’s not a surprise that GM would fit similar powerplants and gearboxes. Remember that General Motors owns both Chevrolet and GMC. In comparing the Suburban vs Yukon XL, they can be had with either one of three engines. All of which, share the same tune in both models:

  • 5.3-liter gasoline V8 – 355hp and 383lb-ft of torque (at 4,100RPM).
  • 6.2-liter gasoline V8 – 420hp and 460lb-ft of torque (at 4,100RPM).
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 – 277hp and 460lb-ft of torque (at 1,500RPM)

As standard, you get the 5.3-liter V8 in all tiers, except in the top trim. For the Suburban, the 6.2-liter V8 is the default choice in the High Country trim, or as an optional fitment on the RST, Z71, as well as Premier, trims. Similarly, you could only get the 6.2-liter V8 in a Yukon XL in either the Denali or AT4 trims, respectively. The 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel is also an optional extra across the range.

All three engine options are fitted to the same Hydra-Matic 10L80 10-speed automatic gearbox. This is a creamy smooth transmission, which is nonetheless made to support the high payload and towing capacities of either Suburban or Yukon XL. As for engines, our favorite among them is the 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6. It’s fuel-efficient (more on that later), and is quite a performant powerplant.

Despite losing two cylinders over the baseline V8s, the turbodiesel inline-6 has more torque than the 5.3-liter eight-banger. The top-of-the-line 6.2-liter V8 is equally a fantastically refined and powerful engine. Regardless, fuel economy is mediocre at best with either the 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V8. We think the sweet spot for performance and fuel economy is still dominated by that Duramax turbodiesel.

Drivetrain; 4WD Is An Optional Extra – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

Both the Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL can be had either with a 2WD or 4WD drivetrain. To be more specific, it’s more of a toned-down all-wheel-drive setup rather than being a hardy off-roader. That should be more than sufficient for day-to-day commuting. If you want a more rugged and off-road-oriented version, both the Suburban and Yukon XL have specific models just for that:

If we’re going to look at trim levels though, you’re getting the most value for the money at the lower end of the price bracket. For the Suburban, these would be the LS, LT, and RST trims. In the Yukon XL, these are the SLE and SLT trims. Based on what we’ve read so far, the Suburban RST and Yukon XL SLT packages respectively offer the most bang-for-buck considering its standard equipment and cost.

MPG Fuel Consumption; Thirstier With 4WD And V8s – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

As we mentioned earlier, fuel economy is decidedly average across the board with the Suburban and Yukon XL. Given that they share the same running gear, fuel consumption is identical between both of them. Once again, the Duramax 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 is still the yardstick to beat for MPG. The Yukon XL does have a larger 38-gallon fuel tank compared to the Suburban’s 28-gallons:

  • 5.3-liter gasoline V8 – 15mpg City and 20mpg Highway (2WD), or 14mpg City and 19mpg Highway (4WD).
  • 6.2-liter gasoline V8 – 14mpg City and 20mpg Highway (2WD), or 14mpg City and 19mpg Highway (4WD).
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 – 21mpg City and 27mpg Highway (2WD), or 20mpg City and 26mph Highway (4WD).

Suburban Vs Yukon XL Fuel Economy Consumption Gasoline Diesel MPG

As you can see, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel leaps far ahead of the V8s when it comes to consuming as little fuel as possible. With that being said, MPG ratings aren’t exactly in sync with the Yukon XL. It could be a typo on their site. Or, maybe the small variations in sizing and layout resulted in the MPG figures being slightly off-key compared to the Suburban. In particular, here’s where it differs:

  • 5.3-liter V8 – 15mpg City and 19mpg Highway (4WD)
  • 6.2-liter V8 – 13mpg City and 19mpg Highway (4WD)

Notably, these engines – when fitted to the Yukon XL – yielded a 1mpg gain and loss, correspondingly in the 4WD models. It’s likely that in the real world, you probably won’t notice this extra mpg. In any case, you should be able to expect around 20mpg Combined in the V8 Suburban and Yukon XL. This isn’t the best, but for a large displacement engine, it’s just about okay.

Suspension; Air Suspension Is An Extra – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

Another likeness between the Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL concerns the suspension. They’re also the same kit between either model. Both models are incredibly well set up and provide a deft sense of agility and athleticism. Relatively speaking, of course, given the Suburban’s and Yukon XL’s enormous footprint on the road. Front and rear, they’re both fitted with:

  • Front Suspension – Independent coil-over shocks and stabilizer bar.
  • Rear Suspension – Independent multi-link with coil-over shocks and stabilizer bar.

These are the standard fitment, mind you. Pay a little extra, and you could opt for a set of adaptive dampers and adjustable ‘Magnetic Ride Control’ air suspension. For GMC, these could only be had on the top-tier AT4 and Denali trims. While we’re discussing suspensions, we may also go into detail on the tires that the Suburban and Denali use. By default, you’ll get a set of Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02.

Suburban Vs Yukon XL Bridgestone Tires Off-Road All-Terrain All-Season

The tire sizes, meanwhile, are slightly different. The Suburban, likely owing to its increased length – albeit only by a tiny amount – needs bigger tires. Here are the tire sizes for both the Suburban and Yukon XL, respectively:

Chevrolet Suburban:

  • P265/65R18 All-Season
  • P275/60R20 All-Season Or All-Terrain
  • P285/50R22 All-Season

GMC Yukon XL:

  • P265/65R18 All-Season
  • P275/55R20 All-Season Or All-Terrain
  • P285/45R22 All-Season

Dimensions; The Suburban Is Slightly Larger – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

So, just how much larger is the Suburban over the Yukon XL? Not by much, actually. The Yukon XL is 0.5-inches shorter in overall length. On the flip side, it is nearly an inch taller than the Suburban. That said, they’re both incredibly large, full-size SUVs that could easily accommodate 9 people, including in that third row. As a family runabout, you’ll have no trouble with interior space here:

Chevrolet Suburban:

  • Length – 225.7 inches
  • Wheelbase – 134.1 inches
  • Width – 81.1 inches (not counting the side mirrors)
  • Height – 75.7 inches
  • Track – 68.5 inches (front) and 68.3 inches (rear)

GMC Yukon XL:

  • Length – 225.2 inches
  • Wheelbase – 134.1 inches
  • Width – 81 inches (not counting the side mirrors)
  • Height – 76.5 inches
  • Track – 68.5 inches (front) and 68.3 inches (rear)

This minor variance in external dimensions hasn’t impacted interior space, at least. Even in the slightly more compact Yukon XL, you can expect the same generous head- and leg-room. Cargo capacity, on the other hand, is also abundant – and the exact same by cu-ft – in both the Suburban and Yukon XL. It’s safe to say you’ll possibly never have to worry about having too little room:

  • 144.7 cu-ft – behind the first row
  • 93.8 cu-ft – behind the second row
  • 41.5 cu-ft – behind the third row

As for its curb weight, the Yukon XL weighs a tad more than the Suburban. It can be porkier than the Chevy by around 20lbs or thereabouts, but it’s mostly insignificant:

Chevrolet Suburban:

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 5,616lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 5,824lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 5,797lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 6,016lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 5,864lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 6,072lbs

GMC Yukon XL:

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 5,633lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 5,841lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 5,780lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 5,998lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 5,881lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 6,088lbs

Payload And Towing Capacity; The Chevy Gets Ahead – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

If you’re in the market for full-size SUVs like these, you might also be curious about their ability to haul trailers and heavy loads. The good news here is that both the Suburban and Yukon are quite capable in this aspect, with a maximum towing capacity of 8,300lbs. This makes them some of the best options out there for haulage, beaten only by the Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada.

Here too, you’ll see some differences between the Suburban vs Yukon XL. While their range-topping models may be able to haul 8,300lbs at the most, note that the towing capacity varies by model. If you look at it this way, the Suburban pulls slightly ahead of some Yukon XL trims by just around 100lbs. Here’s how they stack up:

Chevrolet Suburban:

Maximum Payload

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 1,750lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 1,759lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 1,612lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 1,612lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 1,625lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 1,539lbs

Trailers (Nominal/Standard Load)

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 7,800lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,600lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 7,700lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,400lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 8,100lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 7,800lbs

Trailers (Maximum Load) 

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 8,300lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 8,100lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 8,200lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,900lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 8,100lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 7,800lbs

GMC Yukon XL:

Maximum Payload

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 1,687lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 1,698lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 1,612lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 1,612lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 1,563lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 1,475lbs

Trailers (Nominal/Standard Load)

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 7,800lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,500lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 7,600lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,400lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 7,900lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 7,700lbs

Trailers (Maximum Load)

  • 5.3-liter V8 (2WD) – 8,300lbs
  • 5.3-liter V8 (4WD) – 8,000lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (2WD) – 8,100lbs
  • 6.2-liter V8 (4WD) – 7,900lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (2WD) – 7,900lbs
  • 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 (4WD) – 7,700lbs

Interestingly, the base-level 5.3-liter V8 in either model appears to have the strongest pulling power for trailering. Still, the 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel could also muster a respectable amount of torque for towage. Therefore, you’re looking at strong contenders irrespective of which engine you choose. The Suburban and Yukon XL also feature numerous driver aids and assists for towing, as well.

Safety; Driver Aids And Assists Aplenty – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

The NTHSA awarded both the Suburban and Yukon XL with a 4 out of 5 stars for overall safety. Alas, while Chevrolet and GMC do offer an expansive suite of advanced driver assists and safety systems that have been praised for their efficacy. These are mostly optional extras. As standard, you get only the most basic technologies to keep you, and your occupants safe. Here are the highlights:

Chevrolet Suburban:

  1. Chevy Safety Assist comes as standard on all models. This program includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision alerts, lane-keeping assist (with a lane-departure warning), front automated pedestrian detection and braking, following distance monitor, and automatic high-beams.
  2. Front and rear parking assists are standard fit for every model.
  3. HD rear vision cameras are standard on the LS, LT, RST, Z71, and Premier trims.
  4. HD surround-view cameras are standard on the High Country trim. It can be optioned for the LT, RST, Z71, and Premier trim.
  5. Rear pedestrian alert is standard on the High Country trim. However, you can add this onto the LT, RST, Z71, and Premier trim.
  6. Heads-up display is standard on the High Country trim but is an option for the Premier trim.
  7. Rear-view camera is standard on the High Country trim, but you’ll have to get it as an option for the Premier trim.
  8. Adaptive cruise control is optional on both the Premier and High Country trims.
  9. Automated reverse braking is, once again, optional on both the upper Premier and High Country models.
  10. Safety alerts for the rear seating (helpful if you have children) are standard equipment fitted on the Premier and High Country trims.

GMC Yukon XL:

  1. Driver assistance systems are standard on every model. These include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alerts, front and rear parking assists, following distance monitor, front pedestrian braking, as well as automated high beams.
  2. Advanced driver aids include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist (with departure warning), and rear cross-traffic alerts, and come as standard on the SLT, AT4, and Denali trims. Although, it’s an option for the base-level SLE trim.
  3. HD rear-vision camera is standard on all models.
  4. HD surround-view vision system is standard on the top-end Denali but is optional for the SLT and AT4.
  5. Safety alerts for the rear seats are standard fitment for the SLT, AT4, and Denali.
  6. Heads-up display is standard on the Denali but is an add-on for the AT4.
  7. Rear pedestrian alerts are standard on the Denali but can be had as an option for the SLT and AT4.
  8. Adaptive cruise control is only available as an option for the top-tier Denali trim.

Pricing And Final Thoughts – Suburban Vs Yukon XL

Finally, we get to the pricing. As we hinted at earlier, the Yukon XL does have a modest premium in cost over the Suburban. In the end, it does justify the higher price, as the Yukon XL’s is just that tiny bit nicer to sit in. This is most noticeable when you compare the flagships of both the Suburban and the Yukon XL. The Denali is a step above in luxury over the comparable High Country.

GMC’s take on prestige includes hand-stitched leather upholstery, as well as wood paneling on the dashboard. It could also be fitted with a power-sliding center console. On top of all that, the Denali can be optioned with a larger infotainment screen, exclusive to this model only. It’s not a surprise then, that it costs quite a lot more once you count in all the options:

Chevrolet Suburban, starting prices:

  • LS – $54,095
  • LT – $59,495
  • RST – $64,695
  • Z71 – $65,695
  • Premier – $70,495
  • High Country – $77,395

GMC Yukon XL, starting prices:

  • SLE – $55,995
  • SLT – $65,795
  • AT4 – $70,495
  • Denali – $76,895

In summary, there’s very little to set Suburban vs Yukon XL aside, and for the most part, they’re very similar. The key differentiators can only be found once you dig deeper into each trim and look at its options lists. In general, a Yukon XL does cost more than a comparable Suburban, and it does carry a luxurious interior. If you can make do without, the Suburban is just as good, but for a bit less money.

Full-Size SUV Showdown: Suburban vs. Yukon XL – 10 Need-to-Know Facts

  1. The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon share their underpinnings, powertrains, features, and most options.
  2. Both vehicles provide plenty of space, power, equipment, and options and come with a high price tag of almost $100,000.
  3. The general difference between the two SUVs comes down to how much you want to spend and how strong you like your vehicle’s snout.
  4. The Chevrolet Suburban starts at around $57,000, while the base Yukons cost $60,495 and require OnStar.
  5. The most recommended trims are the Suburban LT and the Yukon SLT.
  6. The Suburban LS has a sticker price of $57,295, while the Suburban High Country costs around $90,000.
  7. The Yukon XL with a trailer-tow package can pull up to 8,400 lb, while the Suburban checks in at 8,300 lb when configured with rear-wheel drive and the 5.3-liter V-8.
  8. Both the Yukon XL and Suburban can be configured to seat up to nine passengers, while still carrying a massive amount of gear in their cargo spaces.
  9. Both vehicles have large touchscreens with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Yukon XL comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen, while the Suburban has an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
  10. The Suburban and Yukon both carry standard automatic emergency braking, but both share a four-star overall rating from the NHTSA that’s below par. However, the Super Cruise option on the Suburban is a standout feature.

Overall, the GMC Yukon XL edges out the Chevy Suburban due to its styling and luxurious touches, although the Suburban can be a more affordable option.

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