2009 Jaguar XF and GMC Yukon Denali Road Test

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Category:$50,000 to $60,000 Rear-wheel Drive Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car:A person who needs a big passenger vehicle that has luxury and can haul people or stuff while towing heavy trailers
Comparable models in this class:Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Infiniti QX56

2009 Jaguar XF Preview

WARNING! The Jaguar XF that is the subject of this article is emitting a high concentration of pheromones. Your computer display may not be enough to protect you from its lure.

Jaguar has announced that this stunning 4-door feline will be the replacement for the current Jaguar S-Type that has been around since the 2000 model year. The XF will not be a complete replacement for the S-Type, however. The lower price V6 model will not be available for the US market. Only the V8 models will make it over the pond and will compete with the likes of the Mercedes E550, BMW 550, Lexus GS 460 and the like. We expect pricing to be competitive with this competition which will place the new Jag in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

Jaguar styling has often captured the hearts and minds of car lovers with voluptuously styles, sleek sports cars and curveatious sedans over the years. When Jaguar unleashed the E-Type Jag to these shores in the early ’60s, it created a firestorm of people flocking to the showrooms to see this sexy sports car up close.

This new 4-door is a totally new look for the company. Styling for the XF is totally new with no hint of previous styling cues or retro bits. Yet, the styling is beautifully executed and in keeping with the Jaguar mystique through and through.

The new design was penned by Jaguar design chief Ian Callum.

Aromatic leathers and exotic wood has always been a hallmark of the Jaguar brand and the FX will follow along those lines, but probably with one exception; With the EPA testing emissions right down to putting the whole car in a tent to see if there are any emissions while the car is sitting, those glorious smells of English Leather when you open the door of a Jag sitting in the sun will most likely be a thing of the past. Oh, well, there is always those spray scents that mimic the old days.

GMC Yukon Denali and the XL Denali are two burly, luxurious and expensive sport-utility vehicles.

They boast a host of fancy features; have handsome, leather-swathed interiors; powerful (and thirsty) V-8 engines and they have that tough go-anywhere, tow-anything demeanor that has attracted buyers for the past 15 years.

In short, they are equally at home at the country club or the hunting cabin, on the superhighway or on the rutted and rocky off-road trails.

Actually, the new Yukons and their Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe stable mates are more of a refinement than a total redesign, but the extensive work has smoothed most of the rough edges that were obvious in their predecessors.

I spent all my time in the shorter-wheelbase Denali, but except for size the two vehicles are essentially identical. Size, however, does matter. The XL, at 222 inches, is 20 inches longer than the Denali and its 130-inch wheelbase stretches 14 inches farther than that of the Denali.

The XL boasts 45.8 cubic feet of cargo behind the third-row seating, 30 more than the Denali. And, that 30-cubic-foot advantage continues with the third-row seats removed and the second-row seats folded forward. Bottom line: The XL has a total of 137.4 cubic feet of room; the Denali has 108.9.

One more thing: Adult passengers in the Denali third row will sit with their knees nearly scraping their chins. Passengers in the XL back row can stretch out.

From the pilots chair, improvements are most apparent in the driving dynamics. The all-wheel-drive Yukon Denali – a two-wheel-drive version will be added later in the 2008 model year – was not only quiet and comfortable to ride in, it was reasonably pleasant to drive. It did not feel top heavy or lean precipitously in sharp turns.

With families beginning to turn from pickup-truck based SUVs to more user-friendly car-based crossover vehicles, these redesigned SUVs should come as a welcome alternative to those who need serious towing capacity or outback agility.

In addition to the level of luxury, the things that separate the Denalis and the even more upscale Escalades from the rest of the pack are the engine and transmission.

The Denalis are powered by an aluminum 6.2-liter powerplant that features variable valve timing and produces 380 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. It gives the hefty trucks a towing capacity of 7,900 pounds and returns an EPA-rated 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the open road. However, my calculations put fuel economy at 10 to 15 miles per gallon in a week of mostly suburban and highway driving. And, I suspect the Denali XL, which weighs 300 pounds more, is slightly thirstier.

While regular Yukons get a four-speed automatic transmission, the Denalis are outfitted with a smooth, six-speed shifter that can be operated manually by the flick of a gearshift- mounted switch. However, left to its own devices, the Denalis will downshift even on gentle grades because fifth and sixth are both overdrive gears.

The keys to the new Denalis driving dynamics are a stiffened, fully boxed frame, a coil-over-shock front suspension, a five-link rear suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering and an electronic shock-absorber system which automatically adjusts itself according to road conditions.

The Denalis have all-wheel drive systems which automatically transfers power to the wheels with the most grip when the going gets slippery. A locking rear differential provides maximum traction when needed.

On the outside, the Denalis mild redesign gives them a more sophisticated look than their predecessors.

Inside, the leather upholstery and softer dashboard materials give the passenger quarters an ambience akin to that of, say, a Cadillac. Were not talking Rolls-Royce here, but the Denalis have definitely moved uptown from their humble pickup truck roots.

Heated bucket seats are standard in the first and second rows and the second-row seats will fold at the touch of a button to improve access to the third row or enhance the cargo compartment.

The GMC engineers did not skimp on safety features, either, and they have been rewarded with a five-star frontal crash safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In addition to its dual front airbags, the Denalis have side curtain airbags for all three rows. If sensors indicate a rollover is about to occur, the airbags will stay inflated for an extended period of time because a rollover occurs more slowly than a side-impact collision.

The vehicles sensors also will automatically trigger tightening of the front seatbelts in certain rear-end collisions.

Other safety features include electronic stability control, a back-up assist which sends an audible warning if the Denali is about to back into something, the OnStar emergency communication system and strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

Base price of the Yukon Denali I drove was a hefty $47,670. The XL Denali starts about $2,500 higher. Standard features include three-zone climate control, premium sound system, driver information center, 12-way power adjustments for the driver and front-passenger seats, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, and power assists for the liftgate and rear window.

Options on the test vehicle, which rocketed the price to $55,505, included a navigation system, sunroof, rear-view camera system, 20-inch chrome-aluminum wheels and a rear seat entertainment system which, annoyingly, restricts the drivers rearward vision when the screen is pulled down.

Next to the Cadillac Escalade, the Denalis are about as plush as sport-utility vehicles get. Yet, I couldnt help but wonder if their stats may not be fading.

With the recent emergence of excellent crossover vehicles, including those built by General Motors, the Denali simply is not as sensible a purchase for family needs as, say, the less expensive, equally roomy and equally opulent GMC Acadia.

There will always be a market for some off-road-capable, full-size SUVs, just as there is one for the eminently practical minivans. But based on their early sales successes the crossovers look like the next bright lights in practical transportation.

Standard Equipment
(partial list)

Major Available Options

(Partial List, depends on model, some options are only available as part of a package, see your GMC dealer for details)

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