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Big-Boned Luxury Truck-Based SUV Comparison: Which Brand has the Best Features, Power, and Utility?

The world of truck-based full-size SUVs has moved relentlessly upmarket over the last decade. Almost every one of the body-on-frame, three-row family haulers out there is now offered in at least one luxury edition or is built with a high-end badge, with only a few mainstream stragglers still trying to turn a profit minus the doodads and leather-lined interiors that have become the stock in trade of this segment.

GMC Yukon Denali on cliff mountain road

How to best decide which full-size, truck-based luxury SUV is the right one for you? Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the current crop of big-boned haulers.

2023 GMC Yukon Denali

The GMC Yukon Denali was once at the forefront of presenting a truly luxurious full-size SUV experience at a price that seriously undercut the competition. In a world where it faces off against a longer list of rivals than ever before, the Yukon Denali has upped its game in terms of features and interior finish (if not necessarily holding the line on cost).

GMC Yukon Denali interior

In terms of spec sheet, the GMC comes in standard and extended XL wheelbases (with up to 145 cubic feet of interior storage), and provides a choice between a 420 hp, 6.2L V8 and a 3.0L I6 turbodiesel that’s good for a substantial 460 lb-ft of torque (each of which is matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission). Towing capacity for the Denali is in the 8,000 pound range (when properly equipped), and it can seat up to up to eight passengers (with a center bench installed).

GMC Yukon Denali cargo area

The key to the Yukon Denali’s appeal lies in its ability to offer a well-executed interior alongside high-end technologies like hands-free Super Cruise adaptive cruise control and MagneRide adaptive suspension. These items will be familiar to anyone who’s perused Cadillac’s equipment sheet for the similarly-sized Escalade, but the window sticker on the Denali stats at just over $75,000, which saves some money over its better-recognized sibling.

GMC Yukon Denali side profile

Who’s the ideal buyer? Someone who wants Escalade-like amenities in a genuinely-useful SUV without feeling the need to pay extra for Cadillac styling or exclusivity.

2023 Cadillac Escalade

The Cadillac Escalade provides all of the above, essentially matching the Yukon Denali pound-for-pound in terms of size, body styles, cargo, and towing. It even lines up perfectly under the hood, featuring the same V8 and turbodiesel options but adding the insanity of a supercharged version of the 6.2L motor that gives the Escalade-V 682 hp and 653 lb-ft of twist.

Cadillac Escalade V V8 engine

Leaving aside the ultra-niche V model, what’s the advantage of ponying up the extra $4k it costs over a generously-equipped Yukon Denali to start spec’ing out an Escalade? The easy answer is prestige: the Cadillac badge on the grille still commands respect among enormous sport-utility vehicles.

Cadillac Escalade front seats

Then there’s its more imposing styling compared to the GMC, and an interior whose materials are a cut above what you’ll find inside the Yukon. That difference in quality grows larger the more money you spend, and once you’ve crested the $114,000 mark to snag the Premium Luxury Platinum (yes that’s what it’s actually called) trim, it’s easier to understand why the Cadillac commands more money.

Cadillac Escalade front view white in desert

Who’s the ideal buyer? The Escalade is anti-stealth when it comes to conspicuous consumption, so it’s a good match for those interested in flaunting their disposable income without having to compromise on how large a boat they can tow to the lake.

2023 Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevrolet Suburban is a bit of a wild card when looking at luxury-adjacent full-size SUVs. It’s being included here because it shares the same platform as the GMC Yukon Denali and the Cadillac Escalade, albeit with a few key differences.

Chevrolet Suburban in front of cottage

Most notably, the Suburban takes its cabin design down a notch. Sure, high-end Premier and High Country trims are offer decent accommodations, but we’re talking about the upper end of mainstream here rather than a luxury-adjacent experience. That being said, you do get access to Super Cruise, which is gradually infiltrating the Chevrolet portfolio.

Chevrolet Suburban rear view in forest

Who’s the ideal buyer? If you want a barebones Suburban you’ll be forking over $57k, which is huge savings over the Yukon Denali or Escalade, especially if your priority is a bus-sized truck that can also tow. That script flips when you get to the Premier ($72,000 for rear-wheel drive models with a smaller, 5.3L V8) and High Country ($78,000). It’s hard to recommend the plush Suburban when the reach to a more powerful, and much nicer GMC is only a few thousand bucks.

2023 Lincoln Navigator

The Lincoln Navigator is the elder statesperson of the big-boned luxury SUV world, beating the original Escalade to market by a full model year and helping to prove to Detroit that there was big money to be had in dressing up a pickup chassis for classier, long-roof duty.

Lincoln Navigator side view in motion

The current Navigator is an exercise in excess, with Lincoln working hard to throw one special trim level after another at shoppers. There are some commonalities to be found across the Navigator line-up, however, including the availability of regular and “L” cabin lengths (delivering 120 cubic feet of maximum cargo space), available eight-passenger seating, a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 that throws down 440 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque (matched with a 10-speed automatic), and 8,300 pounds of maximum towing.

Lincoln Navigator cargo area

Lincoln has installed a detail-rich environment for driver and passengers, especially for those willing to climb up the ladder to its Black Label models. It’s a peaceful enclave hidden behind an imposing exterior persona, and while the Navigator might not be able to match the tech quotient of the Escalade (its own adaptive cruise system isn’t quite as advanced), it’s still a worthy opponent at a very similar ($82,000) starting price.

Lincoln Navigator driving down coastal road

Who is the ideal buyer? The Navigator’s cabin will likely pull buyers away from any of GM’s entries into the plush three-row, full-size segment, and there’s no denying that the huge torque provided by its EcoBoost engine nudges it ahead of any other SUV V8 out there not wearing a V tattoo. The Lincoln is still in a class of two when it comes to American-built, gigantic luxury SUVs that have carved out significant pop culture real estate.

2023 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

What of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, then? The only other similarly-sized contender to the Navigator and the Escalade et al, the Grand Wagoneer starts out with two strikes against.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer rear view

Jeep came very late to the game with its full-frame SUV, and even later to the idea of pushing the Grand Wagoneer as a sort of high-dollar sub-brand. This concept, and the vehicle itself, still have yet to catch on with the same fervor afforded the Navigator or the Escalade, nor is there the same built-in audience that exists for the wide-ranging Denali family of vehicles.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer driving front view

Then there’s the looks. The Grand Wagoneer is outstanding inside, one of the best American SUVs out there in terms of materials and design (if you can get over the idea of nearly every surface offering a touchscreen of some kind). But the package that goodness comes in is bland at best, offering anonymous sheet metal that doesn’t do much to evoke the exclusivity associated with its $91,000 window sticker.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer cargo area

If you can get past the looks and spend some time behind the wheel, there are a few other areas where the Grand Wagoneer turns in a commendable performance. A recent upgrade to a twin-turbo, 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine provides 510 hp, while towing capacity is now rated at just under 10,000 pounds when properly equipped. That’s on top of 131 cubic feet of total cargo space, and eight passenger seating.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer interior front seats dashboard

Who is the ideal buyer? Jeep diehards don’t have anywhere to look if they want a super-sized SUV, with the three-row Grand Cherokee L clearly in class below when it comes to dimensions and luxury. Although not “Trail Rated,” the Jeep name also promises a level of off-road capability that remains integral to the brand in a way none of the other vehicles on this list can claim. Still, you have to think outside the box to spend Escalade money on a Jeep, especially one that doesn’t offer the visual knock-out blow that the Cadillac provides.

2023 Infiniti QX80

The Infiniti QX80 sneaks onto this list because it technically qualifies as a luxury SUV that borrows its bones from a pickup truck (in this case, the Nissan Titan) to offer a full-frame experience. Unlike the other models discussed here, however, the QX80 hasn’t kept up with the passage of time, riding on the same platform it’s been sporting for well more than a decade now.

Infiniti QX80 front view 3/4

What does this mean from a practical standpoint? While the QX56’s 400 hp, 5.6L V8 is perfectly fine, it’s not impressive in the same way as the power plants wielded by the competition, and its seven-speed automatic transmission can sometimes feel like it’s a bit behind the play when it comes to gear shifts. There’s no extended-wheelbase model, and its 95 cubic feet of total cargo space (and the more cramped nature of its third row of seating) aren’t exactly competitive either (although its 8,500 pounds of towing keep it in good standing).

Infiniti QX80 interior dashboard

While the QX80’s cabin is quite nice and clearly put together with care, it bears its years quite visibly in terms of its overall design. The Infiniti lacks the tech advancements found nearly across the board in the SUV set, and is missing a number of features one would expect (whither massage seats?) on such a pricey truck.

Infiniti QX80 rear view

Who is the ideal buyer? At $72,000, it’s one of the more affordable options in its class, but you’re still paying a lot of cash for what is essentially a time machine. If you need a tow rig with a much nicer interior than a Suburban, and aren’t as concerned about the cargo space you give up by sticking with a standard wheelbase, the Infiniti might be worth a test drive. Everyone else would be better served with a more modern choice.

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