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by Dan Carney
The gleaming green
“Pacific” steam locomotive operated by the Southern Railway rests today as an
icon of the steam age in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of
American History in
But owners, ever conscious of operating expenses, phased out the lifelike, bellowing beauties, in favor of the more efficient and environmentally friendly hybrids. In the case of locomotives, the hybrids in question are diesel-electric, rather than the gas-electric hybrid passenger vehicles we see today.
Being the very best example of an old technology is apparently not enough to withstand the passage of time.
So it may be with full-size, body-on-frame SUVs like the . This truck is a member of the latest generation of General Motors big SUVs, the GMT-900s. It almost sounds like a name for a locomotive, doesn’t it?
GM has poured all of its know-how and technology into these vehicles, making them some of the best on the road in this category. The question is how much time remains for the category. There was a time when only those who really needed to tow big trailers or haul big families off-road bought such machines. We may be returning to such a time, as casual SUV buyers turn in droves to more efficient car-based transportation solutions, such as cars, SUV-styled crossovers, and vans.
The Yukon Denali’s 7900-lb towing capacity falls short of that of the Pacific locomotive, but it likely exceeds the requirements of most families by a wide margin. The 380-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine uses variable valve timing and six-speed automatic transmission to maximize efficiency, but with a nearly three-ton curb weight and full time all-wheel-drive, fuel economy is inevitably low.
predicts 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, but in our testing the
hard to imagine a more complete array of comfort, convenience, and safety
If a crash can’t be avoided, drivers have the added peace of mind provided by the OnStar telematics service, which relays crash information automatically to emergency responders.
entertainment is provided by XM Satellite Radio, AM/FM radio, an MP3 six-disc CD
changer, and, of course, a remote-controlled DVD rear seat video entertainment
system. Which doesn’t mean the front seats can’t watch movies too. The back
seat’s feature film also displays on the navigation screen on the dash when the
climate control system has three zones, with separate temperatures for the pilot
and co-pilot, with all the passengers relegated to a single thermostat for the
back two rows. This would seem a small penalty, except that when loaded with
kids for a summertime run to the beach, the
winter climates, the
interior in general and the dashboard in specific have been nicely upgraded from
those in the previous generation truck, which were a plastic embarrassment. Now
there are matte finishes and chrome trim galore, lending an exclusive air to the
this pleasure dome also moves. Underway, the driver is fully aware of the
is responsive and the brakes feel effective, though again, it is impossible to
The power tailgate offers the best of both functions, because in addition to operating by remote control, it can also be closed manually, without fighting with an insistent power closing system. That means that when the hold is overstuffed with coolers, groceries and boogie boards, you can still smash the bread with a good slam of the hatch, rather than having the automatic closer refuse your command and reopen like a garage door with a kid’s bike in the way, letting all your precarious packing topple out into the driveway.
The flip-open glass means that you can still reach in the back to grab the bag of Disney DVDs that you didn’t mean to pack in the back, without jeopardizing the whole arrangement.
One on One: Louis Schweitzer
of the details GM got right, there are still a few that are unbecoming of a
vehicle of this stature. The power windows should have one-touch express open
and close functions for all four windows on any vehicle with an MSRP of $55,000.
It has just gotta have ’em, and the
the new Dodge Caliber entry-segment car has a key with remote door-lock
functions built into it. The
The adjustable tilt on the steering column is manual, and it adjusts in large increments, never seeming to quite hit the spot a driver would prefer. It is hardly a deal-breaker, but it does seem so, well, truck-like.
those are really the only nits to pick with this fine and opulent family hauler.
If you aren’t put off by the price or the fuel economy and need something in a
full-size SUV with all the comforts of Bill Gates’ home, the
Engine: 6.2-liter OHV V-8, 380 hp/417 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, full time all-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 202.0 x 79.0 x 75.9 in
Wheelbase: 116.0 in
Curb weight: 5835 lb
Fuel economy: 13/19 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front and side three-row airbags; stability control and anti-lock brakes; rear parking sensors and rearview camera
Major standard equipment: All-wheel drive; self-leveling rear shocks; locking rear differential; heated first and second-row seats; XM satellite radio; remote vehicle start; remote keyless entry; power liftgate
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper