GMC unveils 2021 Yukon full-size SUV
The GMC Yukon is the third best-selling full-size SUV in America, but when you combine sales with the closely related Chevrolet Tahoe, the GM platform is by far the most popular large SUV on the market. Only the Ford Expedition (currently in second place) offers serious competition to the GM models.
A big part of the reason for that dominance is that GMC has been developing the Yukon for decades, and this SUV comes with the kind of luxury and capability that buyers demand today. In addition to the basic Yukon, GMC offers the top-tier luxury Denali sub-brand. Denali is more than a trim level, offering technology and comfort not found anywhere else. Further, in the last couple of years GMC added the AT4 off-road equipment package, which optimizes the Yukon for more aggressive use. Full disclosure: I drove a GMC Sierra AT4 pickup truck up to the frozen Arctic Ocean and back last winter, and the package does work as advertised.
People buy full-size SUVs for passenger carrying and towing. The new Yukon improves both functions, adding 10.1 inches of third-row leg room, and boosting rear cargo space by 66% over the outgoing model. In all, you can get 122.9 cubic feet of cargo into a 2021 Yukon with all the rear seats folded down. The second row includes optional sliding captain's chair seats, which also helps the third-row passengers get comfortable. To get that space, GMC added 5 inches to the Yukon's wheelbase and 6 inches to the overall length.
The new Yukon also excels in technology. The SUV has an available camera package with nine different views including high definition surround vision, rear camera mirror and GMC's ProGrade trailering system that supports in-trailer cameras and a camera mounted on the rear of the trailer for unobstructed rear vision. You can also order a 15-inch-diagonal multicolor head-up display, which projects speed, navigation, safety features and other driver-centric information onto the windshield.
When it comes to towing and hauling, the Yukon has a good answer. Yukon drivers have their choice among three engine options starting with the standard 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Upgrade options include a 6.2-liter V8 rated at 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Both the 5.3 and 6.2 engines feature automatic stop/start and cylinder deactivation technology that enables the engine to operate on two to eight cylinders, depending on demand, to optimize power and efficiency. GMC customers can also select the 3.0-liter inline-six turbo-diesel engine.
All three available engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and GMC's Electronic Precision Shift push-button gear selector. Four-wheel-drive is available throughout the lineup, with automatic 4WD mode available. That feature is worth a little explanation: if you have the Autotrac 2-speed transfer case, you can drive the Yukon in rear-wheel-drive mode to save fuel, or put the system in Auto mode to instantly engage 4WD when needed. If you have the Autotrac single-speed transfer case, Auto 4WD is always engaged, but you can lock in 4WD if needed. We used Auto 4WD all the way up to the Arctic in winter, and it works like magic.
With the new drivelines, the basic Yukon can tow 7500-7900 pounds, or up to 8400 pounds with the upgrade engines. Cargo payload ranges from 1616 to 1792 pounds. GMC offers a full towing setup.
One last thing to mention is the available air ride adaptive suspension. This tech offers ride-height adjustments of up to 4 inches, as well as an automatic self-leveling feature. The self-leveling feature helps with comfort and control, particularly when the vehicle is loaded with cargo and when trailering. Drivers can raise the body up to 2 inches for additional ground clearance when driving off-road, or drop the Yukon 2 inches for easier entry and exit when parked. On the freeway, the Yukon will automatically drop by 3/4-inch for stability and increased fuel economy.
We spent a full day driving the new Yukon Denali, and it's impressive. You'll definitely notice that the 2021 model is larger than the older Yukon, but from the moment you approach the new Yukon, you'll know that this is a new and very much improved edition. On the road, the Yukon is quiet, stable, and powerful. Whether you're headed to the high desert or the coast, pulling a trailer or just enjoying the drive, the Yukon's got you covered.
The 2021 Yukon is available in GMC dealer showrooms now.
2021 GMC Yukon Denali
Base price: $71,400
Price as tested: $84,320
Type: Full-size SUV
Engine: 6.2-liter V8 (420 hp, 460 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 14/19
Overall length: 210 inches
Curb weight: 5,827 pounds
Final assembly: Arlington, Texas
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