Would you believe a full-size sport utility vehicle that's, well, svelte?
In many ways, it's an apt description for the redesigned GMC Suburban, now known as the GMC Yukon XL.
Formerly the biggest of all sport utes along with its sibling, the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC's new SUV, at 18 feet 3 inches long, is 7.4 inches shorter than Ford's Excursion.
IN A NUTSHELL
2000 GMC Yukon XL Half-Ton 2WD
BASE PRICE: $34,468.
AS TESTED: $39,012.
TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, seven-passenger, full-size sport utility vehicle.
ENGINE: 5.3-liter, Vortec 5300 V8.
MILEAGE: 14 mpg (city), 18 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: 97 mph.
LENGTH: 219.3 inches.
WHEELBASE: 130 inches.
CURB WT.: 4,914 pounds.
BUILT AT: Janesville, Wis., and Silao, Mexico.
OPTIONS: Marketing option package 1SD (includes SLT dicor, Homelink garage door opener, OnStar emergency communications system, rear-seat audio, automatic climate control, leather seats and aluminum wheels) $2,657; running boards $325; center bucket seats $290; locking rear differential $252; heavy-duty trailering equipment $164; transmission cooling system $96; high-capacity air cleaner $25.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $735.
The four-door Yukon XL also is 0.2 inches shorter overall than its 1999 Suburban predecessor. Its wheelbase is 1.5 inches shorter, and there's 11.1 cubic feet less cargo room.
But it's the new, modern platform underneath the 2000 Yukon XL, the stiffer body and suspension improvements, that really make this 5,000-pound vehicle feel leaner and more in control than ever before.
The half-ton, two-wheel drive Yukon XL test vehicle, for example, managed turns and curves without the big pitches and overt body roll that I expected.
I made relatively quick lane changes and the vehicle successfully fought the urge to flail about.
There was a palpable stiffness in the ride in mild slalom maneuvers, too, and the Yukon tracked correctly in a straight line.
In fact, I can't remember feeling the test vehicle ''quiver'' in its ride, even on dirt paths.
The 42.3-foot turning circle is more than a foot smaller than that of the 1999 Suburban.
The variable-effort, power, recirculating ball steering provided decent response, too.
The Yukon XL's platform is borrowed from General Motors Corp.'s full-size pickup trucks -- the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra -- and incorporates front and rear rails and supports that are produced in a hydroform process to reduce weight and eliminate hundreds of welds.
Major body sections are some 23 percent stiffer than those of the previous Suburban, and the front now has a torsion bar layout. In back, the old two-stage leaf springs are gone on the half-ton models like the tester. They're replaced by a five-link coil spring suspension that better manages road manners.
Engines are updated, too, providing more power this year. The standard 5.3-liter, Vortec 5300 V8 produces 285 horsepower at 5,200 rpm -- 30 more horses than the bigger Vortec 5700 it replaces. Maximum torque is 325 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm vs. 330 at 2,800 rpm.
This compares with 255 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque in the 5.4-liter Triton V8, the base engine in the Excursion, and 230 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque in the Toyota Land Cruiser's 4.7-liter V8.
The Vortec 5300 in the test Yukon XL brought a relatively quick, steady response each time I pressed the accelerator.
I passed other vehicles without fuss, and merged into highway traffic without a problem. Keep in mind, however, that this heavy vehicle doesn't zoom forward like a lightweight sports car.
Fuel economy -- an estimated 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway -- isn't the greatest.
The only transmissions for both the Vortec 5300 V8 (standard on half-ton Yukon XLs) and the 300-horsepower, 6-liter, Vortec 6000 V8 (standard on three-quarter-ton Yukon XLs) are improved four-speed automatics.
Besides subtle styling updates, the windshield is larger, and outside mirrors give improved visibility.
Headlamps provide a broader light pattern and illuminate a longer range, and the roof rack is redesigned.
Inside the Yukon XL tester were some nagging issues.
None of the head restraints locked into place. The middle rider in the back bench seat got no head restraint and only a lap belt. Toyota's upcoming Sequoia full-size SUV will include three-way seat belts at each of the eight-passenger seat positions.
Shoulder belts in the front bucket seats of the Yukon XL and in the rearmost bench were integrated into the sides of the seats, rather than attached to pillars. Non-adjustable for height, they brought complaints from a 6-foot rider.
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