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2008 GMC Yukon XL Denali 2WD Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

What was tested? 2008 GMC Yukon XL Denali 2WD ($48,130).

Options: Sun and entertainment package ($3,190), 20-inch chrome wheels ($1,995).

Price as tested: $53,315

Pros: It's huge, comfortable, powerful and refined. Few vehicles can match its space and luxury.

Cons: It gets freakisly awful gas mileage (only 12 mpg in town).

RATINGS: (1-10)
Style: 9
Performance: 8
Price: 9
Handling: 4
Ride: 7
Comfort: 10
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Very rarely do I drive a $53,000 vehicle and think it's a bargain.

But there I was Tuesday morning with two cars in front of me. One was the subject of last week's review, a $60,000 mid-size BMW that didn't have satellite radio, a navigation system or DVD player.

Right next to it was the subject of this week's review, a $53,000 GMC Yukon XL Denali. Not only did it have all those gizmos -- the nav screen, XM radio and DVD player that make it a dream car for family road trips -- but it was 50,000 times bigger than the Bimmer.

Granted, I still hated to swap the thrilling 5-Series for a luxury bus, but for that one Twilight Zone moment I thought, "Gee ... maybe $53,000 isn't all that expensive."

Aside from the amount of steel, plastic and leather you get for the money, the Yukon XL offers a nice surprise: impressive engineering.

A few years ago, these mountain-size SUVs were outfitted basically like heavy duty work trucks. General Motors had an especially bad reputation for poor-fitting interiors that looked and felt cheap.

But when you get inside the latest generation of GM's SUVs, you'll see that's taken a dramatic turn for the better. It's still not as perfect as some of the smaller car-based SUVs, but the fit and finish inside seems amazingly car-like for a vehicle that's big enough to join the Greyhound lines.

It's also apparent that engineers spent time refining the Yukon XL's ride. By necessity, big, heavy SUVs need tough suspension systems to support all the weight. But this one seems surprisingly smooth and quiet without any of the rough, bouncy, U-Haul feeling I'd normally expect. It's just pleasant.

Even the turning radius is car-like. Parking garages -- which would normally be intimidating to navigate in something this huge -- are easy work thanks to the tight turning and rear-view camera that helps when you're backing up.

Have I mentioned this thing is big? It's more than 18 feet long and close to 7 feet wide.

Inside, it feels like sitting in a domed stadium with a high roof and virtually unlimited shoulder, leg and hip space. The front and middle row bucket seats feel like La-Z-Boy recliners. And in back, there's a cargo space as big as the Grand Canyon.

Not surprisingly, all this room comes with a price. It gets a scream-inducing 12 miles per gallon in the city and slightly more reasonable 18 on the highway with its 6.2-liter, 380-horsepower V8.

But is it fast?

The simplest answer is the same one I gave my 4-year-old kid: "No, it's just big."

While I suppose it's plenty fast for its size -- including lots of low-end grunt from the V8 -- it still feels like a dump truck when the light turns green.

And finally, would I buy one of these if I had the money?

Honestly, most of the time I'd rather be driving an overpriced BMW than an oversized GMC.

But if I wanted something for long road trips with the kids, the dogs and a boat or camper, I'd trade in a couple of limbs to drive the giant, luxurious Yukon.