The Car Connection GMC Yukon Overview
The GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV that's similar to the Chevy Tahoe or Suburban. The GMC Yukon is available in standard- or long-wheelbase configurations, called the Yukon XL. Both are related to the full-size GMC Sierra pickup and all can haul plenty of people and gear.
With the Yukon, GMC has a full-size SUV to compete against the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada, and Infiniti QX80. The Yukon shares its running gear with others in General Motors' portfolio, namely the Chevy Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade.
MORE: Read our 2021 GMC Yukon review
The new GMC Yukon
The new GMC Yukon was unveiled January 2020 and featured a four-wheel independent suspension, available four-corner air suspension, adaptive dampers, and automatic four-wheel drive. Compared to the mechanically related Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, the Yukon dresses up its interior and exterior—particularly in the top Denali trim level—and offers a slew of ride comfort systems not found on the Chevies.
Like its predecessors, the Yukon and Yukon XL are standard- and long-wheelbase versions of the big utility vehicles, respectively. The new Yukon offers the same 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V-8 engine options as before, but a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 is newly available. All engines pair to a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear- or four-wheel drive.
The new Yukon offers an off-road AT4 version for the first time in its history. The AT4 combination adds standard four-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels wrapped with all-terrain tires, and skid plates.
Inside, the Yukon seats up to seven with more leg room in the third row than before and more cargo space thanks to a longer body and longer wheelbase. A 10.2-inch touchscreen is standard on all models and Yukon Denali versions get their own interior with unique dashboard and specific leather and interior trim combinations.
The 2021 Yukon went on sale in summer 2020.
GMC Yukon history
GM introduced the first Yukon for the 1992 model year. That original model was a two-door SUV version of the company's GMT400 family of trucks and utilities. The first four-door Yukon arrived in 1995, using the same basic V-8 engine and automatic transmission. Yukons of this generation were initially offered with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Changes over the early model's lifespan included the addition of OnStar, an all-wheel-drive option, and the fancier Denali trim level.
For the second-generation Yukon, GM moved its big trucks and SUVs to the GMT800 architecture, introducing new engines and transmissions along with them. A 275-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 was the base engine, while a 5.3-liter V-8 good for 295 hp was also available. Underneath, most versions of this Yukon pulled their weight with either rear- or four-wheel drive; the Denali kept the on-demand all-wheel-drive system as an exclusive. This second-generation Yukon was sold through the 2006 model year, over time 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 well-regarded Hybrid model was added in the 2009 model year, but was a slow seller. A 6-speed automatic became the standard transmission on all versions save for the 4.8-liter V-8 versions, which held fast with the 4-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.
In this generation, the Yukon family of SUVs had its own distinctive styling inside and out, with a vast and well-trimmed interior, and options for a third passenger seat in the front row. Fuel economy on the Hybrid versions was exceptional—as high as 20 mpg city, 23 highway—and the Denali editions were suitable Range Rover replacements for some.
This Yukon rolled on into 2014 essentially unchanged, although GM introduced some improvements in the later years of this generation, including trailer sway control (2012) and engine braking (2013). The Hybrid edition was dropped after the 2013 model year.
For its biggest change in eight years, the 2015 Yukon adopted a more squared-off body, updated powertrains, and new fold-flat rear seats. Available in two body styles as before, the Yukon rode on two wheelbases: Yukon and Yukon XL. The styling was traditional, but despite the very angular look. Compared to the previous-generation Yukon, materials and design were updated throughout the cabin, and made for a more luxurious SUV, particularly in Denali-trim examples.
To reduce weight and improve crash safety, the Yukon's frame used more high-strength steel. The suspension still used leaf springs and a live axle at the rear—with a standard locking differential—but with a wider track that improved stability and handling. Top-spec Denali models received standard adaptive shocks, which improved both ride and handling. The Yukon could tow up to 8,500 pounds.
Powertrains are shared with the full-size Sierra pickup as well as the other GM SUVs. The standard engine is the same 5.3-liter V-8 found in the Sierra; in the Yukon, it's rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. The upgrade engine is GM's new 6.2-liter V-8, with 420 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque—it's similar to the engine used in the Corvette Stingray. Both powerplants were teamed with a 6-speed automatic at launch, with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic for the bigger V-8 came online part-way through the 2015 model year and moved to all engine combinations in future model years.
The 2018 Yukon Denali gained a new 10-speed automatic transmission, but the 6-speed stuck around for the regular Yukon. Changes in 2019 were minor.