2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

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.

Review continues below

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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2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Styling

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers only a few subtle cues that it isn't the standard gas-guzzling SUV.

The GMC Yukon Hybrid 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.

ForbesAutos says the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid shares the regular Yukon's "unashamedly big and broad-shouldered" styling, though it does get a new, "brash front-end treatment." Cars.com concludes that "few onlookers will mistake the Yukon Hybrid for anything but a Yukon." Motor Trend notes that "the grille is slightly larger for better cooling," along with tapered running boards "to decrease wind resistance." Also, "the roof rack rails are eliminated" to cut drag. Kelley Blue Book adds that "a lower air dam that reduces drag" replaces the "traditional fog lamps and tow hook openings," and "wide openings in the grille" help "cool the advanced hybrid power electronics." Cars.com also cites "lower side cladding and unique 18-inch wheels" that help to reduce drag, working with the hybrid system to improve fuel economy. Finally, Kelley Blue Book points out that the Yukon Hybrids "delete the standard roof rack side rails" and replace the steel 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."

The interior of the 2010 Yukon Hybrid is universally appreciated by reviewers. On the revised center stack, Cars.com notes that the Yukon Hybrid's "center display screen incorporates an animation showing the flow of power through the hybrid drivetrain" and points out that "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." Edmunds calls the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid's "handsome cabin" one of its most appealing aspects, while ForbesAutos says that the "GMC Yukon Hybrid's handsome interior includes a two-tone instrument panel with LED-backlit instrumentation" and "chrome trim."

Review continues below
8

2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Performance

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid's impressive hybrid-electric system not only boosts fuel economy but runs smoothly and imperceptibly.

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 also runs on just four cylinders to save fuel, a feature GM calls Active Fuel Management.

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 for the rear-wheel-drive version-a full 50 percent better in the city than the standard Yukon with a 5.3-liter V-8-and 20 mpg city, 20 mpg highway for the all-wheel-drive version. 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.

Reviewers rave about the Two-Mode Hybrid system in the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Motor Trend says, "In large-SUV history, this just might be the single greatest leap forward in powertrain technology." USA Today attests it "works well in city and highway use, instead of favoring one, as rival systems do." Edmunds states that the 6.0-liter V-8 engine coupled to a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors will "produce 322 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque." Kelley Blue Book finds that "the shift between electric power and the gasoline engine is seamless," and the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid's Active Fuel Management system switches "from eight cylinders to four" when cruising. 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 proclaims "when going to wide-open throttle, as when merging on a fast-moving interstate, the GMC tester held the engine at high revs-5000 to 5500 rpm-an unusually long time before shifting into another gear."

In terms of acceleration, Edmunds reviewers advise that "although the Hybrid is the most powerful Yukon available, it's also the heaviest, so don't expect particularly brisk acceleration." Reviewers are unanimously impressed by the ride and handling, 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." Even the braking on this big SUV wins over 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," though Popular Mechanics considers the brakes "tricky to operate for smooth deceleration when towing." Car and Driver lists the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid's "refined ride" as one of its greatest attributes. USA Today chimes in that the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid boasts the "same nimble feel and tight turning circle that allow all GM biggies to drive as if they're midsize." Edmunds notes "maximum towing capacity for a properly equipped 4WD model is 6,000 pounds."

Fuel economy on the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid is the primary reason consumers will purchase this vehicle, and it doesn't disappoint. Car and Driver says that the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid boasts "mpg gains of up to 25 percent" over traditional Yukon models.

Review continues below
8

2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers lots of cargo space, high-quality interior trim, and a hushed ride.

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid requires almost no compromises; it seats seven easily, eight adequately. As in 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.

Motor Trend says the Yukon Hybrid "sacrifices little towing, payload capability, or passenger space." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that passenger room in both the front and middle rows is substantial, and Kelley Blue Book praises the "lighter, thinner seats" on the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid, which "add 1.5 inches of second-row passenger knee room." But Car and Driver points out that the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2010 has "snug third row seating" best reserved for children.

Complaints do crop up over the rearmost row of seats. ForbesAutos says 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." The task is magnified by the fact that "the two seats weigh slightly less than a Geo," according to Edmunds. Despite the complaints, no other hybrid comes close to the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid's 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."

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid is an example of GM's renewed focus on quality and design. Reviewers rave about the quality of the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Edmunds declares that the "newest Yukon boasts attractive, high-quality materials and tight panel gaps." ForbesAutos reviewers concur, adding the "GMC Yukon Hybrid's handsome interior includes a two-tone instrument panel" and "chrome trim" that contribute to the upscale materials feel.

A high-quality ride can be just as important as design and build quality. GM focuses a lot of attention on wind and road noise, yielding excellent results. ForbesAutos notes that the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid features "a fully boxed frame for stout structural rigidity with reduced noise." It must work; Edmunds calls the cabin "eerie quiet when accelerating and braking," thanks to the fact that the gas engine shuts off and electricity takes over.

Review continues below
9

2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Safety

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid includes the standard suite of airbags and stability control, and it does fairly well in front and side crash testing.

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.

ForbesAutos says that the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2010 features "GM's StabiliTrak stability control system" and points out that the side-curtain airbags "remain inflated for several seconds to protect passengers in the event of a rollover." Edmunds reviewers add that standard safety equipment on the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid includes "full-length side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, traction control, OnStar and a rearview camera."

Considering the size of the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid, visibility from behind the wheel is excellent. While the Yukon Hybrid's sheer size impedes visibility directly to the rear, Kelley Blue Book says the standard "rearview camera system" makes reversing and parallel parking maneuvers somewhat easier. Reviewers at AutoWeek attribute the feeling of driver control to "a seating position above the fray."

Review continues below
8

2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Features

The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid costs a fair amount, but its list of standard features is long.

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.

Edmunds says of the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid 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." 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 the Yukon Hybrid "expensive." Other standard equipment on the GMC Yukon Hybrid 2010, according to Kelley Blue Book, includes "power folding heated side mirrors, electric power steering, side-mounted assist steps, rear park assist," and an impressive "Bose nine-speaker audio system."

Because it is so heavily loaded, there are few options on the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, such as the one from USA Today, note that "only rear-seat video and a sunroof are options" for the interior. Just two more options complete the available list for the Yukon Hybrid: an "engine block heater" for those in cold climates, according to Kelley Blue Book, and a "locking rear axle."

Review continues below
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Styling 8
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