2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
January 18, 2010

If you don't mind the added cost, the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers excellent fuel economy with few compromises.

Experts from TheCarConnection.com drove the GMC Yukon Hybrid to write this first-hand road test summary. TCC also has compared the 2010 Yukon Hybrid with other fuel-efficient large sport utilities to give you alternatives as you shop for your next vehicle. For the companion full review, TheCarConnection.com studied a range of expert-written reviews from other sources to bring you a comprehensive look at the Yukon Hybrid. High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided GMC Yukon Hybrid to produce this hands-on road test.

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid lets buyers have their cake and eat it too. It's a large, roomy, and capable SUV that offers unmatched fuel efficiency for the class, albeit at a steep price premium over its nonhybrid counterpart. It's well equipped, and if you need even more accoutrements, you can now get the plusher Yukon Denali as a hybrid as well. Prices start at $50,920-a $13,000 jump over the base-level gas-only Yukon-and the competition includes the likes of the new BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class with clean BlueTEC diesel.

The GMC Yukon Hybrid doesn't fit into the traditional hybrid mold-like that quintessential hybrid, the Toyota Prius, for instance-in that it still looks like a standard GMC Yukon full-size sport utility vehicle. That means it's a tall, upright, and slab-sided vehicle based on a truck chassis. The GMC Yukon was last redesigned for 2008, and aside from its front-end styling, it is largely similar to the Chevrolet Tahoe, with which it shares its platform. But the Hybrid model has several subtle modifications that improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, along with a number of Hybrid badges. The top-of-the-line Denali model, reviewed separately, adds exclusive and more elegant interior and exterior touches to dress up the basic Yukon. Last year, a Yukon Denali Hybrid model was added to give the bucks-up version the option of better fuel efficiency. Even the standard Tahoe Hybrid, however, is trimmed somewhat better than its non-hybrid Tahoe counterpart.

Launched in 2008, the Yukon Hybrid enters its third year virtually unchanged. The Two-Mode Hybrid system combines a specially tuned 332-horsepower, 6.0-liter aluminum V-8 with an electrically operated continuously variable transmission jointly developed by General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. That transmission is an astoundingly complex mix of fixed gears, clutches, planetary gear sets, and two electric motor generators, all of which add up to a system that can run the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid on electric power alone, supplement the gas engine with electric torque, and recharge the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that powers the motors. The Yukon Hybrid will accelerate gently on electric power up to 27 mph, though top speed falls during cold weather. Both air conditioning and power steering run electrically, so they function whether the engine is on or off. When the gasoline engine does kick in, it's seamless and easy to miss. Under light loads, it runs on just four cylinders to save fuel, a feature GM calls Active Fuel Management.

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Driving the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid requires no special skills; you interact with the vehicle as you would a normal Yukon. The result of all the technology is a large, luxurious SUV with abundant torque that drives beautifully. It cruises quietly, and the low-speed electric mode is quiet enough to be almost eerie. As for fuel economy, the Yukon Hybrid delivers in spades. The EPA rates it at 21 mpg city, 22 mpg highway-a full 50 percent better in the city than the standard Yukon with a 5.3-liter V-8-while it maintains a respectable tow rating of 6,000 pounds. The Yukon Hybrid can be ordered with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It holds the road fairly well, considering that it is a tall, heavy vehicle with a solid rear axle, though passengers will know when the rear wheels hit a rough patch. The Yukon Denali Hybrid features GM's MagnaRide suspension, which uses magnetic particles in the shock absorber fluid to adjust the damping rate electrically.

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid requires almost no compromises; it seats seven easily, eight adequately. Like the standard GMC Yukon, the 2010 suffers from a cramped third-row seat and limited cargo room behind the back row. The battery pack under the second-row seat also limits legroom in that third row. Lightweight leather-trimmed front seats are unique, as is the instrument panel, which includes an economy meter and a slew of information displays unique to the Hybrid. Flush controls and chrome instrument rings add to the impression of high quality. Interior materials are solid and beautifully assembled; the sole off note is the hard plastic dash top. The Yukon Hybrid's noise suppression is quite remarkable, especially considering the road noise you would expect from its bluff shape and large wheels and tires.

With front, front side, and side curtain airbags, the Yukon Hybrid adds front seat-mounted side airbags for 2010. Anti-lock brakes and the StabiliTrack stability control system are standard. The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid is highly rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), earning a perfect five stars for occupant protection in the frontal and side impact category, though only three stars for rollover likelihood. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet had a chance to rate the Yukon Hybrid or the very similar Chevrolet Tahoe or Cadillac Escalade hybrids.

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers few options. On many other SUVs, its base equipment would be described as "fully loaded," including features that are optional on the nonhybrid Yukon. Six-way power-adjustable front seats with leather trim are standard, as are adjustable pedals. The AM/FM/XM audio and navigation system includes voice recognition and GM's OnStar system, as well as real-time traffic information. The premium Yukon Denali Hybrid ups the ante even more, ending up a notch short of the pricier (and even blingier) Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. It adds standard 12-way power, heated and cooled, leather-appointed perforated front seats, as well as heated second-row seats. The only three options on the Yukon Denali Hybrid are a sunroof, a rear-seat entertainment DVD system, and a blind-spot alerting system in the side mirrors. For 2010, GMC adds a standard USB port in the center console, making it easier to use personal music devices and to charge certain electronic gadgets.

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