2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 24, 2008

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid carries cargo like a brute ute--but drinks fuel at a sedan-like pace.

TheCarConnection.com’s hybrid experts studied the latest reviews on the new 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid to write this conclusive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the GMC Yukon Hybrid and have added opinions and observations where they help you make a better decision. This review also compares the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid with other vehicles to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

For some buyers, the big news about the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid will be fuel economy. GMC achieved EPA ratings of 21 mpg city/22 mpg highway for the Yukon Hybrid two-wheel-drive model. This is impressive mileage for such a big vehicle, and the EPA numbers easily surpasses the standard Yukon's standard (and less powerful) 5.3-liter V-8, which manages 14 city/20 highway mpg. The Yukon Hybrid's mileage is so good that it nearly equals that of mid-size sedans in city driving cycles. For example, the efficient 2008 Chevy Malibu with the 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder is rated at 22 mpg city, only 1 mpg better than this full-size SUV.

For other buyers, simply driving a vehicle that is considered green is what really matters--provided it doesn't crimp their style. It is the opinion of the experts at TheCarConnection.com that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid won't impede your vehicular life in any way. And here's why: The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid includes all the goodness that comes with the nonhybrid GMC Yukon model, and in most every respect, it drives like a standard nonhybrid Yukon equipped with a big V-8.

Operating and benefiting from the advanced gasoline-electric two-mode technology requires absolutely no special knowledge or skills. Once you get yourself a 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, all you do is hop in, tumble the key, pick a gear, and get rolling. In some cases, the gasoline engine may not start, as this GMC is capable of running up to 32 mph on only electric power. This full-size SUV can even tow, with a maximum trailer load weight of 6,000 pounds.

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The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid's advanced powertrain combines a specially outfitted 332-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 with what looks like a regular automatic transmission. But the transmission isn't "regular" at all, because it's actually an Electrically Variable Transmission, a four-speed automatic transmission combined with two electric motors. The technology (co-developed with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler) works very well. The result is that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid drives beautifully. There is an abundance of power, and the extra torque from the twin electric motors make this full-size SUV feel lively and agile. Cruising is quiet, especially when the SUV is running on battery power. At first it's a bit eerie, but you get used to it, and then other vehicles simply seem loud.

Inside and out, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is different from other SUVs based on the GMT900 truck platform, including the Chevrolet Tahoe. The exterior has been aerodynamically refined with special features that help the Yukon Hybrid slip through the air more easily. Inside, the Yukon Hybrid is equipped much like the premium Yukon Denali, but the instrument panel is unique, as are the lightweight leather-trimmed front seats.

Unfortunately, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid suffers from some of the same issues as the standard GMC Yukon, such as the cramped third-row seat. A more important concern is the approximately $5,000 premium GMC charges for the Yukon Hybrid. This charge (it's rumored that GMC is losing money on this option) is so large that it would take approximately five years of driving 15,000 miles per year to recoup in terms of saved gasoline.

Furthermore, even when the Chryslers arrive, the Durango/Aspen platform is generations behind the 2008 GMC Yukon, so the GMC is simply a better truck.

If you don't need a hybrid, for 2008 competitive SUVs include the Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, and Mercedes GL (which comes in a diesel version). But if buying a hybrid is the driving force behind your decision, Toyota/Lexus does offer smaller, mid-size SUVs: the Highlander and RX400h hybrid models. These are both very nice SUVs, but neither has the room, towing, or genuine four-wheel-drive capabilities of the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid.

If your goal is to simply lower your carbon footprint, then how does a 30 percent reduction strike you? If that sounds good, consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the newly available 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. It delivers EPA ratings of 17/22 mpg with excellent towing and off-road capabilities. Of course, the Jeep is considerably smaller than the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid.

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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Styling

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid might be built to maximize fuel economy, but don't forget about its appealing styling.

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid might not win any awards for groundbreaking exterior styling, but this big SUV still looks good.

For the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008, GMC designers have done very little to make the vehicle stand apart from the traditional, gas-only GMC Yukon. Cars.com writes "few onlookers will mistake the Yukon Hybrid for anything but a Yukon." ForbesAutos, meanwhile, says that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid shares the regular Yukon's "unashamedly big and broad-shouldered" styling, though it does get a new, "brash front-end treatment." Kelley Blue Book lists these new changes as "a different front end where a lower air damn that reduces drag" comes in to replace "the traditional fog lamps and tow hook openings," and "wide openings in the grille help cool the advanced hybrid power electronics." They also note that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrids "delete the standard roof rack side rails and replace the rear liftgate with a one-piece aluminum door featuring a fixed glass window," while "an extended rear spoiler improves aerodynamics, as do the sharp-edged D-pillars." Cars.com also points out that the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 sports "lower side cladding and unique 18-inch wheels" that all help to reduce drag and work with the hybrid powerplant to improve fuel economy.

Moving inside the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid's sheetmetal, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that reviewers are very impressed with the overall interior styling of the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008. Reviewers at Edmunds list the "handsome cabin" on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid as one of the most appealing aspects of the vehicle, while ForbesAutos says that the "GMC Yukon Hybrid's handsome interior includes a two-tone instrument panel with LED-backlit instrumentation" and "chrome trim, and a high center stack for the climate control and audio systems." On the revised center stack, Cars.com finds that the GMC Yukon Hybrid's "center display screen incorporates an animation showing the flow of power through the hybrid drivetrain," and they note "the gauges include a gas mileage meter." Kelley Blue Book adds that "a revised instrument cluster plays home to a unique tachometer designed to inform the driver when the Auto Stop feature engages," which is where "the gasoline engine shuts down and the Hybrid is propelled solely by the electric motors built into its transmission."

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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Performance

The hybrid propulsion transplant works just as well as advertised on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, and the Yukon can still tow three tons.

Unlike some previous GM hybrids, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is a full-fledged hybrid capable of running only on electric power.

The GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 features "a 6.0-liter V8 engine coupled to a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors" that Edmunds states "produce 322 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that reviewers love the new hybrid system, which USA Today says "works well in city and highway use, instead of favoring one, as rival systems do." Kelley Blue Book finds that "the shift between electric power and the gasoline engine is seamless," and the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid's "Active Fuel Management" system switches "from eight cylinders to four" when cruising. In terms of acceleration, Edmunds reviewers write that "although the Hybrid is the most powerful Yukon available, it's also the heaviest, so don't expect particularly brisk acceleration." Still, for a hybrid vehicle, the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 is a very capable work machine, and Edmunds notes "maximum towing capacity for a properly equipped 4WD model is 6,000 pounds."

Along with one engine and motor set, the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 comes with one transmission option, though that transmission is quite complicated. Kelley Blue Book says that GM calls the system an "Electrically Variable Transmission," and Edmunds declares that the system is "essentially like having two transmissions inside one -- continuously variable drive for light load conditions and fixed-ratio for high load conditions." While most reviewers appreciate the smooth operation, USA Today writes, "when going to wide-open throttle, as when merging on a fast-moving interstate, the GMC tester held the engine at high revs -- 5,000 to 5,500 rpm -- an unusually long time before shifting into another gear." They elaborate on this phenomenon by reasoning that "it could be because the transmission was switching from conventional four-speed automatic mode" to the "variable-ratio that's part of the hybrid setup." Edmunds reviewers also report that "the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive."

Fuel economy on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is, understandably, one of the most appealing features on this 2008 GMC SUV. Car and Driver says that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid boasts "mpg gains of up to 25%" over traditional Yukon models. The official EPA estimates for the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid are 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for 2WD models, while the 4WD offers 20 mpg both in the city and on the highway.

Ride and handling on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid are impressive for a large SUV. Reviewers are unanimously impressed by what ForbesAutos calls "a responsive suspension setup," which "delivers a fairly smooth ride with handling that's more composed than you might expect from a vehicle of this size and weight." Car and Driver also lists the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid's "refined ride" as one of its greatest attributes. Heaping on additional praise is USA Today, which writes that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid boasts the "same nimble feel and tight turning circle that allow all GM biggies to drive as if they're midsize." Even the braking on this big sport ute wins favor with reviewers, as Edmunds finds that "the regenerative braking system produces a firm braking feel and, according to GM, actually stops the big SUV better than the regular Yukon's conventional brakes do."

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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid has a step up on just about all its competitors when it comes to materials quality and cargo space.

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is put together very well, and the spacious interior boasts a tremendous amount of usable space. As far as hybrids go, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is comfortable and capable in the extreme.

The interior of the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 "can seat up to eight passengers," according to Edmunds, thanks to "its standard third row." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that passenger room in both the front and middle rows is exceptional, and Kelley Blue Book praises the new "lighter, thinner seats" on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, which "actually add 1.5-inches of second-row passenger knee room." However, Car and Driver writes that the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 has "snug third row seating," and that space is best reserved for children.

The third row is also the source of several reviewer complaints, thanks to its poor design when it comes to cargo space. ForbesAutos says that the third row "can't be folded flat into the floor like seats offered by the competition" and "must be removed manually, which can be quite a chore." That task is magnified by the fact that "the two seats weigh slightly less than a Geo," according to Edmunds reviewers. Other than that gripe, however, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers tremendous cargo space. Edmunds claims that the "maximum cargo capacity is a whopping 109 cubic feet with the folding second row down -- much more than any other hybrid offers."

When it comes to build and materials quality, the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 definitely doesn't fit the stereotype that most domestic vehicles suffer from poor construction. Rather, reviewers rave about the quality of the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Edmunds writes that the "newest Yukon boasts attractive, high-quality materials and tight panel gaps." ForbesAutos reviewers agree, adding the "GMC Yukon Hybrid's handsome interior includes a two-tone instrument panel" and "chrome trim" that contribute to the upscale materials feel.

One more benefit of the impressive build quality on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is the impressive job it does in reducing ambient noise. Edmunds avers that the cabin is "eerie quiet when accelerating and braking," thanks to the fact that the gas engine shuts off and the electrics take over. ForbesAutos also notes that the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid features "a fully boxed frame for stout structural rigidity with reduced noise."

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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Safety

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid uses its size to its advantage in crash tests, and the standard safety equipment is well matched to the Yukon.

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid has been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency responsible for such tests, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are particularly impressed with the results. After subjecting the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid to its full battery of tests, the NHTSA awarded the SUV a perfect five stars for occupant protection in every impact category. That includes a five-star rating for driver and passenger protection during front impacts, as well as full marks for protection during both driver and passenger side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the other major crash tester in the U.S., has not yet had a chance to rate the expensive and relatively rare GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008.

In addition to strong crash-test ratings, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid also boasts a long list of standard safety features. According to Edmunds reviewers, the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid's "standard safety equipment includes full-length side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, traction control, OnStar and a rearview camera." ForbesAutos adds that the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 features "GM's StabiliTrak stability control system," and they note the side-curtain airbags "remain inflated for several seconds to protect passengers in the event of a rollover."

Also aiding overall safety ratings is the impressive driver visibility, especially considering the size of the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Reviewers at AutoWeek attribute this to "a seating position above the fray." While visibility directly to the rear is impeded simply by the size of the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, Kelley Blue Book says that a "rearview camera system" helps make backing up and parallel parking maneuvers more manageable.

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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Features

The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is expensive, but features are plentiful.

For 2008, General Motors is selling the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid and its rebadged twin, the Chevy Tahoe, in only one trim that comes, essentially, fully loaded. The standard features list is accordingly lengthy, but the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid leaves little room for personal touches.

When it comes to the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, USA Today reviewers divulge that in order "to help hide, and pay for, the cost of the hybrid system, it's a premium model." Kelley Blue Book simply calls that one trim "expensive," but at least you get quite a few standard features in exchange for the high sticker price. Edmunds says that "other than its sophisticated running gear, the Yukon Hybrid is essentially a fully loaded Yukon SLT," and it comes standard with "niceties like leather, a rearview camera and navigation system." Other standard equipment on the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008, according to Kelley Blue Book, includes "powerfolding heated side mirrors, electric power steering, side-mounted assist steps, rear park assist," and an impressive "Bose nine-speaker audio system."

As far as options go on the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008, well, at least they've kept things simple. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, such as the one from USA Today, say that "only rear-seat video and a sunroof are options" for the interior. The only other pair of available options for the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2008 are an "engine block heater" for those living in cold climates and a "locking rear axle," according to Kelley Blue Book.

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