2010 GMC Yukon Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
March 17, 2010

The 2010 GMC Yukon Denali gives the moneyed truck aficionado a luxurious, comfortable way to pull thousands of pounds of lifestyle accessories.

The imminent arrival of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids might lead you to believe that full-size SUVs are a thing of the past. Not true: GM builds many of the big profit-making machines, and with the GMC Yukon / XL / Denali lineup, it sells one of the best full-size utes on the market. Similar to the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, as well as the Cadillac Escalade, the Yukon range gets distinctive styling inside and out, a luxurious Denali trim, and a Yukon Hybrid model covered separately. With a base price of $38,000 that rises to more than $56,000, the Yukon competes with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, the Cadillac Escalade, the Ford Expedition, the Lincoln Navigator, the Infiniti QX56, and the Toyota Sequoia.

The Yukon lineup hasn't changed much since the revamped versions arrived in the 2007 model year. They're handsome machines, with good proportions and a minimum of unnecessary detailing. A big GMC grille is framed simply by tall headlamps, and big windows are in good proportion to the Yukon's tall side metal. Yukon XL are 20 inches longer than standard Yukons, and the extra length goes right into the rear windows and metal, which takes the shape out of balance, but it's still nicely drawn. The Yukon's interior has slight differences depending on seating configuration; six-seat versions have a high dash without a center console, while five-seat versions get a wide center storage console. Either shows off a quantum leap in interior quality and styling for the big SUV. There's a wide swath of wood grain trim on some versions, softly rounded corners with tight-fitting, tightly grained plastics, with options for fine leather seats. Denali versions add more luxury touches, like a honeycomb grille up front and Nuance leather and chrome details to the cabin.

With two body styles, three trim levels, and three basic engine variants, the Yukon's performance envelope could be unmanageable-but all versions have good acceleration and ride quality, light steering, and little if any handling feedback (they're huge trucks, after all), as well as pretty dismal fuel economy. Standard-issue 2010 GMC Yukons offer a standard 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 hp in the shorter Yukon and 310 hp in the longer Yukon XL. Both of the smaller V-8s have plenty of torque to move the Yukon with authority, even with a full load, and fuel economy is quite respectable for such a huge vehicle, with ratings of 14/20 mpg from the EPA. A special Yukon XFE edition has the same power output as the smaller base SUV, but with a taller transmission final-drive ratio for better fuel economy, at 15/21 mpg. The Yukon XL and both Denali editions offer a 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8, as an option on the XL and standard on either the Yukon Denali or the Denali XL. It's the pick for the toughest towing demands and accelerates smartly with a rich engine note, but mileage will only reach 12/19 mpg at most, even with new cylinder-deactivation technology applied. There's plenty of reserve power for hills, quick passing maneuvers, and full loads.

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A single six-speed automatic transmission is offered across the Yukon lineup. In all applications, the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly but responsively. All Yukon SUVs can be ordered with available four-wheel drive. A single-speed transfer case system is standard on Yukons; a two-speed transfer case is an option on Yukon and Yukon XL; and Denali editions come with on-demand four-wheel drive. On all versions, the steering feels light but not communicative, and bumps are positively smothered by the massive curb weight and big coil-spring suspension. The GMC Yukon Denali models all get GM's Autoride electronically controlled damping system, which does a great job bringing good ride comfort and decent steering response through the big 20-inch wheels. Overall, the Denali isn't tremendously maneuverable, but it handles surprisingly well on back roads; you'll quickly forget that you're piloting a 6,000-pound vehicle that can tow up to 8,600 pounds.

Two different body styles both have plenty of room for five or six passengers in the 2010 Yukon-and the stretched Yukon XL can carry an astounding amount of stuff. The standard 2010 GMC Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 202 inches. The extended-wheelbase 2010 Yukon XL Denali model adds about 20 inches of overall length and 14 inches of wheelbase, which goes to a more accessible third row and larger cargo capacity in back. That brings its total length up to 222 inches (more than 18 feet), which many city dwellers or even those who frequent shopping malls might find too large to fit easily into conventional parking spaces. Several seating configurations are offered on the 2010 GMC Yukon; in front, the seats are very generously sized and supportive, with a good view of the road ahead. The first two rows can be equipped with bench seats or buckets (called captain's chairs here); a third-row bench seat is standard on Yukon XL models and available on the Yukon. The Denali comes with captain's chairs in the first and second row, with a second-row bench seat offered as a no-charge option. A third-row bench seat has seating for up to three more in back, but in any Yukon, the third-row seat is a bit difficult to clamber into. With the third row removed and the second row folded, the Yukon XL has a huge 137.2 cubic feet of cargo space, and there's still respectable room for cargo with people in all three rows. Keep in mind that in the standard-length version, there's very little space behind the last row; it has 108.9 cubic feet with the second and third rows down, but just 16.9 cubic feet with the third-row seat raised.

Safety features and good crash-test scores are a highlight of the 2010 Yukon lineup. The Yukon gets five-star ratings from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in both front and side-impact crash tests, though it earns only a three-star rollover rating. To help make up for that, its StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has not yet tested the big GM utes. Standard safety equipment includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; traction and stability control; OnStar; and tire pressure monitors. A blind-spot warning system is available on all Yukons; also optional on the base Yukon and Yukon XL are a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and power-adjustable pedals, all of which are standard on Denali editions.

Workhorse editions of the 2010 GMC Yukon can be ordered fairly stripped-which still includes power features, air conditioning, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary and a USB port-but Denali versions approach Cadillac levels of luxury features. Other standard features on the Yukon include XM satellite radio; Bluetooth; steering-wheel audio controls; cruise control; and 17-inch wheels. Options include a rear air conditioner; a DVD navigation system with voice controls; a DVD rear-seat entertainment system; leather upholstery; a Bose premium sound system; real-time traffic; remote starting; 115-volt power outlets; power heated front seats; ventilated front seats; and a sunroof. Denali editions come absolutely loaded with luxury and convenience features, including tri-zone automatic climate control, a power-folding second-row seat, parking sensors, and remote starting. The Denali also gets a standard Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system with 10 speakers and XM Satellite Radio, as well as ventilated seats up front and a heated second-row seat. Denali options include the DVD navigation and entertainment systems, a sunroof, and power-retractable assist steps.

8

2010 GMC Yukon

Styling

It's a familiar look, but the styling of the 2010 GMC Yukon utes is handsome and upscale, particularly inside.

The Yukon lineup hasn't changed much since the revamped versions arrived in the 2007 model year. They're handsome machines, with good proportions and a minimum of unnecessary detailing; Edmunds praises the Yukon's "handsome styling," and although Jalopnik feels the "GMC Yukon Denali's front looks kind of like a Chevy Tahoe with the grille lopped off and replaced with a chrome chain-link fence," they proclaim "it's big and muscular. We like big and muscular." On the Yukon, a big GMC grille is framed simply by tall headlamps, and big windows are in good proportion to the Yukon's tall side metal. Edmunds reviewers report that when "dressed in black, the Yukon's clean, slab-sided body gives the impression that it's something the Secret Service would use, which is actually true." The Yukon XL is 20 inches longer than standard Yukons, and the extra length goes right into the rear windows and metal, which takes the shape out of balance, but it's still nicely drawn. Cars.com adds "the Yukon XL sports sleeker styling and better-integrated lower body panels than the prior generation," and the "fenders, fog lights and lower side cladding are integrated into the body to create a more continuous appearance than the previous Yukon XL's pieced-together look." Car and Driver sums it up perfectly, declaring these "GMC big boys deliver style" that they deem "tough to top."

The Yukon's interior has slight differences depending on seating configuration; six-seat versions have a high dash without a center console, while five-seat versions get a wide center storage console. Either shows off a quantum leap in interior quality and styling for the big SUV. There's a wide swath of wood grain trim on some versions, as well as softly rounded corners, tight-fitting, tightly grained plastics, and options for fine leather seats. Cars.com reports "a lower dashboard with a traditional instrument panel hump replaces the boxy dash" from the previous generation, and Edmunds applauds the interior; the "cabin certainly looks luxurious, with its wood-tone and metallic accents and padded door inserts," they say. ConsumerGuide is disappointed that the gauges can be "too indistinct for best legibility," though. Denali versions add more luxury touches, like a honeycomb grille up front and Nuance leather and chrome details to the cabin. The Denali's more luxurious interior wins even more praise from reviewers; Edmunds calls it "handsome," and compliments it on a "simple and straightforward" layout. The one major criticism of the overall appearance comes from Jalopnik, where reviewers "feel as though [they've] seen this interior before-like on the GMC Sierra, the Chevy Silverado and the Chevy Tahoe," although they concede that "for the most part it's well-designed."

7

2010 GMC Yukon

Performance

The 2010 GMC Yukon drives well for such a massive vehicle, but fuel economy is as low as you might expect.

With two body styles, three trim levels, and three basic engine variants, the Yukon's performance envelope could be unmanageable-but all versions have good acceleration and ride quality, light steering, little if any handling feedback (they're huge trucks, after all), and pretty dismal fuel economy.

Standard-issue 2010 GMC Yukons offer a standard 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 hp in the shorter Yukon and 310 hp in the longer Yukon XL. Both of the smaller V-8s have plenty of torque to move the Yukon with authority, even with a full load, and fuel economy is quite respectable for such a huge vehicle, with ratings of 14/20 mpg from the EPA. Jalopnik reports the "Vortec V8 gives you a much power as you need, whenever you need it." ConsumerGuide agrees: "Yukons are muscular off the line and in highway passing/merging with the 5.3-liter V8." A special Yukon XFE edition has the same power output as the smaller base SUV, but with a taller transmission final-drive ratio for better fuel economy, at 15/21 mpg.

The Yukon XL and both Denali editions offer a 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8, as an option on the XL and standard on either the Yukon Denali or the Denali XL. It's the pick for the toughest towing demands and accelerates smartly with a rich engine note, but mileage will only reach 12/19 mpg at most, even with new cylinder-deactivation technology applied. There's plenty of reserve power for hills, quick passing maneuvers, and full loads. ConsumerGuide doesn't think it's so different from the rest of the Yukon engine lineup; it says the "Denali's 6.2 feels only slightly stronger" than the other powerplants.

A single six-speed automatic transmission is offered across the Yukon lineup, one with "shift lever buttons for manual operation," ConsumerGuide points out. In all applications, the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly but responsively. Kelley Blue Book says its "responses are less harsh than in [previous] models, with less-noticeable delays." ConsumerGuide reports the transmission provides "crisp, timely shifts."

All Yukon SUVs can be ordered with available four-wheel drive. A single-speed transfer case system is standard on Yukons; a two-speed transfer case is an option on Yukon and Yukon XL; and Denali editions come with on-demand four-wheel drive. Cars.com explains the Denali's permanent 4WD is "distinct from the available part-time four-wheel drive on the regular Yukon."

On all versions, the steering feels light but not communicative, and bumps are positively smothered by the massive curb weight and big coil-spring suspension. The Yukon lineup boasts impressive handling for a vehicle of this size and pedigree, although it's not universally praised. Edmunds reports the "Yukon's steering, although precise, is too light for such a large vehicle." Kelley Blue Book contends that "ride quality...is hardly truck-like at all, and it feels secure in curves." ConsumerGuide also praises the "car-like comfort over bumps," and they note "long-wheelbase XL models are slightly more comfortable regardless of tire choice."

The GMC Yukon Denali models all get GM's Autoride electronically controlled damping system, which does a great job bringing good ride comfort and decent steering response through the big 20-inch wheels. Road & Track even reports that the "Yukon Denali [feels] surprisingly fleet of foot," with the "taut, well-tuned chassis [feeling] more car-like than truck-like in operation." Kelley Blue Book calls the 2010 GMC Yukon Denali "by far the best handling full-size SUV ever to wear a GMC badge," though ConsumerGuide isn't quite so impressed with the ride quality, stating that "impact harshness over sharp bumps is exaggerated by the short sidewalls of the available 20-inch tires." Braking is another strong point; ConsumerGuide says the "brakes offer no-drama stopping control with solid pedal feel." Jalopnik confirms "the four-wheel disc brakes worked with aplomb" during their road test. Overall, the Denali isn't tremendously maneuverable, but it handles surprisingly well on back roads; you'll quickly forget that you're piloting a 6,000-pound vehicle that can tow up to 8,600 pounds-"strong towing and hauling capabilities," as Edmunds describes it.

9

2010 GMC Yukon

Comfort & Quality

The third-row seat is a letdown, but the rest of the 2010 GMC Yukon's interior package is spacious, comfortable, and well-built.

Two different body styles both have plenty of room for five or six passengers in the 2010 Yukon-and the stretched Yukon XL can carry an astounding amount of stuff.

The standard 2010 GMC Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 202 inches. The extended-wheelbase Yukons add about 20 inches of overall length and 14 inches of wheelbase, which goes to a more accessible third row and larger cargo capacity in back. That brings its total length up to 222 inches (more than 18 feet), which many city dwellers or even those who frequent shopping malls might find too large to fit easily into conventional parking spaces.

With "rugged and luxurious transportation for up to" nine passengers, according to Edmunds, the Yukon offers several seating configurations. All offer "great passenger comfort," Kelley Blue Book says, and a "spacious interior." In front, the seats are very generously sized and supportive, with a good view of the road ahead. The first two rows can be equipped with bench seats or buckets (called captain's chairs here); a third-row bench seat is standard on Yukon XL models and available on the Yukon. Kelley Blue Book states that the "front seats gain fore-and-aft and recline travel and second-row seats recline further, too." In the middle row, Edmunds finds that "the plush seats" offer "plenty of back and under-thigh support," while on the XL model, "the third row offers 34.9 inches of legroom, nearly 10 inches more than that of a standard Yukon." A third-row bench seat has seating for up to three more in back, but in any Yukon, the third-row seat is a bit difficult to clamber into. Cars.com notes "third-row passengers sacrifice headroom and legroom."

Denali models have slightly different seating. The standard configuration is for seven, spread across two front buckets, two middle-row captain's chairs, and a three-person rear bench seat. A second-row bench seat is a no-charge option. ConsumerGuide observes the "front seats are supportive," with "ample headroom and legroom" and "a power tilt feature [for] the steering column." Kelley Blue Book reports the middle row offers "power fold-and-flip second-row seats," but they warn that, "unlike the Ford Expedition, Dodge Durango and Nissan Armada, none of GM's full-size SUVs feature a fold-flat third-row seat," and point out "this could be the Yukon's deal-breaker." The seat itself-as in the standard Yukon-is cramped. ConsumerGuide says the "low-to-floor 3rd row cushion forces knees-up discomfort for anyone larger than toddler size."

Cargo capacity, even in the short-wheelbase Yukon, is massive-depending on the presence of the third-row seat, which robs the Yukon of some of its vast expanses. In the standard-length version, there's very little space behind the last row. It has 108.9 cubic feet with the second and third rows down-which "rivals that of the Ford Expedition and bests most other competitors," Edmunds says"-but just 16.9 cubic feet with the third-row seat raised. The XL fares much better, of course. With the third row removed and the second row folded, the Yukon XL has a huge 137.2 cubic feet of cargo space-"that's compared to the Expedition EL's 130.8 cubic feet," Cars.com explains-and there's still respectable room for cargo with people in all three rows. With the third row in place, the Yukon XL and Denali XL have cargo volumes of "45.8 cubic feet behind the third row," Cars.com reports. Inside the cabin, storage space abounds as well; for example, Kelley Blue Book proclaims that "the Yukon's gloveboxes are huge."

Throughout the Yukon's cabin, details and build quality impress reviewers from around the Web. Edmunds notes the "high-quality fit and finish" throughout the interior. Cars.com points out the "high-quality fixtures include flush-mounted controls, low-gloss materials and chrome instrument surrounds." Compared to both the domestic and foreign competition, Edmunds says the Yukon's fit and finish "place it among the class leaders." Edmunds also thinks "the quietness of the cabin at speed is eerie for something that looks as aerodynamic as a brick," while ConsumerGuide asserts noise suppression is "impressive for a large SUV."

8

2010 GMC Yukon

Safety

With good crash-test scores and a long list of safety features, the 2010 Yukon ranks near the top of the safety charts.

Safety features and good crash-test scores are highlights of the 2010 Yukon lineup.

The Yukon gets five-star ratings from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in both front and side-impact crash tests, though it earns only a three-star rollover rating. To help make up for that, its StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has not yet tested the big GM utes.

Standard safety equipment includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; traction and stability control; OnStar; and tire pressure monitors. ConsumerGuide also mentions the Yukon is fitted with "daytime running lights." Cars.com explains the rollover prevention system "senses when the vehicle is likely to tip, then triggers the stability system in an attempt to prevent it."

Road & Track reviewers report that "GM's Side Blind Zone Alert monitoring system is a new option," and Cars.com adds that "a rearview camera system that's integrated into the rearview mirror, rear parking assist and rain-sensing wipers" are all available. Also optional on the base Yukon and Yukon XL are rear parking sensors and power-adjustable pedals, which are standard on Denali editions.

Visibility can be an issue with a vehicle of this size. Kelley Blue Book recommends springing for the rearview camera, advising, "vehicles this big benefit the most from rearview cameras that let the driver see what's lurking behind the back bumper." ConsumerGuide says "visibility is unobstructed by headrests or roof pillars," although the "body's tall flanks block the driver's view of small nearby objects, making the optional rearview camera worth considering."

9

2010 GMC Yukon

Features

The 2010 GMC Yukon goes from lightly equipped to full-boat luxury in a matter of seconds-if you're not careful with the order form.

Workhorse editions of the 2010 GMC Yukon can be ordered fairly stripped-which still includes power features, air conditioning, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary and a USB port. Other standard features on the Yukon include XM satellite radio; Bluetooth; steering-wheel audio controls; cruise control; and 17-inch wheels.

Kelley Blue Book reports "some tempting extras are available," including a "navigation system" and "DVD entertainment." Options include a rear air conditioner; a DVD rear-seat entertainment system; leather upholstery; a Bose premium sound system; real-time traffic; remote starting; 115-volt power outlets; power heated front seats; ventilated front seats; and a sunroof. The navigation system scores particularly well among reviewers, with Edmunds calling it "one of the best out there, with its intuitive design and large, brightly lit display."

Denali versions approach Cadillac levels of luxury, with standard features including tri-zone automatic climate control; a power-folding second-row seat; parking sensors; and remote starting. The Denali also gets a standard Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system with 10 speakers and XM Satellite Radio, as well as ventilated seats up front and a heated second-row seat. Kelley Blue Book states that some of the base Yukon's "optional equipment that's standard on Denali includes a power liftgate, power fold-and-flip second-row seats, ultrasonic rear parking assist (standard on SLT), power-adjustable pedals," and an "upgraded audio system." Cars.com adds "standard leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant controls" to the list. Road & Track says "new amenities like hands-free Bluetooth cellphone connectivity, OnStar turn-by-turn navigation and third-row seating are all standard" on the Denali XL.

Denali options include the DVD navigation and entertainment systems, a sunroof, and power-retractable assist steps. ConsumerGuide reports the "optional navigation system absorbs, but doesn't complicate, audio functions." Edmunds notes "this year's navigation system now has real-time traffic capability," and considers it one of the best navigation systems on the market.

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8.2
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
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