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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

GMC Yukon

The GMC Yukon is a full-size, truck-based SUV that shares many of its components with the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban. It's also offered in extended-wheelbase, hybrid and upscale Denali versions. The Yukon competes with, those other GM SUVs, as well as the Ford Expedition, the Lincoln Navigator, the Toyota Sequoia, and the Infiniti QX56. See our full review of the...

The GMC Yukon is a full-size, truck-based SUV that shares many of its components with the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban. It's also offered in  extended-wheelbase, hybrid and upscale Denali versions.

In 1992 GM introduced the first Yukon, a two-door version of the old "GMT400" family of trucks and utes. In 1995, the first four-door body style emerged, though the Yukon still sported the basic V-8 and automatic powertrain. Rear- and four-wheel-drive versions were offered; in its lifetime, this generation of Yukons added Onstar, all-wheel drive and Denali trim to the basic package.

For the second-generation Yukon, GM moved to the GMT800 architecture, and introduced new engines and transmissions, including a 4.8-liter V-8 and a 5.3-liter V-8. The eight-cylinders produced between 275 and 295 horsepower. Underneath, this Yukon range pulled its weight with either rear- or four-wheel drive; the Denali kept the on-demand all-wheel-drive system as an exclusive. This Yukon was sold through the 2006 model year, over the years gaining stability control, satellite radio and rear-seat entertainment systems.

In 2007 GM began replacing all its full-size trucks and SUVs with new "GMT900" vehicles, and introduced new versions of the Yukon including a new four-door model--the Yukon XL, which replaced the former long-body GMC Suburban. The Denali returned, and the name was applied to the XL editions along with accompanying luxury trim. Engines included 4.8-liter V-8, the 5.3-liter V-8, and a 6.2-liter V-8 for Denali editions with up to 403 hp. A Hybrid model was added in the 2009 model year, to acclaim but to slow sales. A six-speed automatic became the standard transmission on all versions save for the 4.8-liter V-8 versions, which held fast with the four-speed automatic (with that engine and transmission discontinued after 2009), and the Hybrid, which applied a specially engineered two-mode automatic for better fuel economy.

Today's Yukon--including the XL, Denali and Hybrid editions--rolls on into 2013 essentially unchanged, although GM has introduced some improvements that those who tow will appreciate: Trailer Sway Control (2012) and Powertrain Grade Braking (2013) were introduced to aid stability. With only minor changes since the addition of the Hybrid edition for the 2009 model year, the Yukon carries its three engine options, available four-wheel or all-wheel-drive systems, strong safety ratings from the NHTSA and from the IIHS.

Though it's mechanically close to the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and to the Cadillac Escalade, the GMC Yukon family of SUVs gets its own distinctive styling inside and out.  The Yukon's interior, particularly in XL editions, is vast and well-trimmed with options for a third passenger seat in the front row. The third-row seat isn't particularly easy to reach and doesn't fold away into the floor, but in XL editions there's already a walk-in closet worth of storage space behind the third row. Fuel economy on the Hybrid versions is exceptional--as high as 20 mpg city, 23 highway--and the Denali editions are suitable Range Rover replacements for the Texans who just can't be seen in a foreign car--or see a Cadillac Escalade as too highbrow.

With hybrids, plug-ins and electric cars in the public consciousness--if not every driveway--the big, old-fashioned sport-utility vehicle seems a little out of fashion. And yet, that wide range of models gives the Yukon plenty of cover. It suits many tastes with its handsome style, capable towing and hauling performance, and immense interior room.

Replacements for the current batch of full-sisze SUVs are long overdue; but GM has confirmed that replacements are arriving in the next year. Both the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 go on sale this summer--and soon after, GMC is expected to launch new versions of the Yukon.

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