2017 GMC YukonEnlarge Photo
Both among just a few full-size, body-on-frame SUVs on the market, the GMC Yukon and Lincoln Navigator are uniquely American—and American-sized.
They’re quite luxurious, too. Although Lincoln’s traditional luxury rival is Cadillac, with the ascension of the Cadillac Escalade as a pop-culture icon and status symbol, the GMC Yukon Denali is more of a direct rival to the Lincoln Navigator.
Using our new scoring system, we've rated the impressive Yukon a 7.0 out of 10, and give the Navigator the same score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
These models stand as quite compelling alternatives for those who need to do more than just carry around the family. They command a presence; they work for taking clients out to dinner; and they can even flex their muscles with trailer-towing when necessary.
The Navigator was starting to look like a forgotten relic in the Lincoln lineup; then for 2015 the brand gave it a new direction, with some freshening of its details, a new infotainment system, and a more fuel-efficient (and stronger, albeit smaller) twin-turbo engine. Meanwhile, the GMC Yukon was fully redesigned for 2015, with much-improved ride and refinement, stronger and more fuel-efficient powertrains, and new flat-folding third-row seats.
Both of these models are offered in multiple lengths. The Yukon family of SUVs includes the standard-length Yukon, the long-wheelbase Yukon XL, and the luxurious Yukon Denali. And for the Lincoln, the difference is between Navigator and longer Navigator L models. And it's worth noting that, under its tony skin, the Navigator is the same vehicle as the Ford Expedition.
Is hulking size and mass, a high hood and huge front grille enough of an extroverted statement? Both of these models make that, although there’s little more than that on the outside. The Navigator’s grille got a little slimmer in its last minor refresh, with new LED accent lighting squaring off its headlamps and lowering the rear end visually. The Yukon, meanwhile, looks straightforward and purposeful, with a more chiseled look on the outside, countering the Navigator’s more rounded look.
Inside, the Navigator's twin-binnacle dash wears a new leather-wrapped dash with twin-stitched seams. It speaks to a more classic luxury aesthetic, while the layout of the Yukon Denali goes for more of a modern luxury look, with a cleaner layout and ambient lighting. In both models, big touchscreen systems now dominate the center stack, and cabins are now covered in soft-touch materials.
As for what’s under the hood, it’s completely different in these two models. Neither of these two models are especially nimble or responsive to quick power demands, but it’s the Yukon Denali and its 6.2-liter V-8, making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, that’s the clear winner here. The Navigator’s engine, a turbocharged V-6, kicks out nearly as much—380 hp and 460 lb-ft—and its 6-speed automatic is a little bit smoother than the 6-speed auto in the GM trucks (soon to be replaced by an 8-speed in all models). Direct injection and cylinder deactivation help bring the big GM V-8s surprisingly good mileage under some conditions, so the difference between them and the Lincoln’s turbo V-6 isn’t as vast as you might expect in real-world driving.