2008 GMC Yukon Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
September 8, 2008

Buying tip

The 2008 GMC Yukon is a very competitive full-size SUV that knows how to deliver in terms of style, performance, and capabilities. With the rise

There's not a better-looking Chevrolet Tahoe than the 2008 GMC Yukon Denali.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 GMC Yukon to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove several different versions of the GMC Yukon. These experiences enable the team to offer you a definitive opinion on this full-size SUV. This review also compares the 2008 GMC Yukon with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

Like the Chevy Tahoe with which it shares a platform, the GMC Yukon was completely revised for the 2007 model year; they continue into 2008 with minor changes.

The 2008 GMC Yukon family is big, so we'll try our best to help you keep them straight: The standard Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 202 inches. Extended-wheelbase Yukon XL models have exterior dimensions similar to the regular models, but are about 14 inches longer in wheelbase and 20 inches longer in overall length. That extra length and wheelbase gets you a roomier interior that can be stuffed with more gear.

Both Yukon and Yukon XL are available in SLE (cloth trim) and SLT trim (leather appointments), in either rear- or four-wheel-drive configurations. A third-row seat is standard on Yukon XL models and available on the Yukon.

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Regular 2008 GMC Yukon models offer standard 4.8-liter (295 horsepower), 5.3-liter (310 or 320 horsepower), and 6.0-liter (366 horsepower) V-8s with four-speed automatic transmissions. E85/flex-fuel capability is offered with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Yukon XL models get a six-speed automatic transmission. Additionally, equipment highlights include standard traction and stability control, as well as curtain airbags. Base SLE models get a new split front bench seat.

If you want a more luxurious and exclusive SUV but not all of the bling (and baggage that goes with "the look") of a Cadillac Escalade, check out the 2008 Yukon Denali. The Denali and Denali XL models share the basic Yukon specifications but come standard with more luxury features, as well as a standard 6.2-liter, 380-horsepower V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. For the first part of 2008, Denali models feature all-wheel drive, but later in 2008, rear-drive versions will be available.

The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven almost every version and powertrain configuration that one can find in a GMC Yukon. These are impressive truck-based SUVs that offer great towing and hauling capabilities. That said, if you're only moving people around, you might prefer something more efficient, such as a Mazda CX-9.

If your favorite color is green, you can pony up some additional greenbacks to drive the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid, an interesting study in the melding of enhanced efficiencies and environmentalism.

When facing off against the two full-size SUV imports, a properly equipped 2008 GMC Yukon can tow four tons, besting the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada in this important category. These imports are both larger than the Yukon and Yukon Denali, but not quite as enormous as the long-wheelbase Yukon XL and Denali XL.


2008 GMC Yukon


The 2008 GMC Yukon offers high style but is more subdued than its Cadillac Escalade sibling.

The 2008 GMC Yukon styling befits its hefty price tag. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that both the interior and exterior of the GMC Yukon 2008 lineup are functional and stylish.

According to Edmunds, the "2008 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV that's available in two main trim levels: base SLE and ultra-plush Denali." The GMC Yukon 2008 also comes in two lengths, a regular version and the 2008 GMC Yukon XL, which Car and Driver says is "GMC's version of the Chevy Suburban."

The Yukon’s exterior styling was redone for 2007, and the 2008 version is largely unchanged. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com suggest that this is a very good thing, since reviewers love the styling. 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." That tough, functional styling is upgraded on the Yukon Denali XL, which Kelley Blue Book says "gets chrome accents, a distinctive honeycomb grille, unique headlamps with etched GMC logos," and "18-inch polished wheels." Cars.com adds that "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." One of the available options on the GMC Yukon 2008 XL Denali that can be hit-or-miss on other vehicles are "optional 20-inch chrome wheels," but Edmunds vouches that they bring "enough flash to be tasteful, not ostentatious" on the Yukon Denali XL. Car and Driver sums it up perfectly by declaring that the 2008 GMC Yukon and other "GMC big boys deliver style" that they deem "tough to top."

While reviewers rave about the GMC Yukon 2008 exterior redesign, one glance inside the Yukon Denali shows that GM designers have done a great job with the cabin as well. ForbesAutos claims that the "two-tone interior" looks great. Edmunds brings perhaps the greatest praise of the interior, reporting that the GMC Yukon 2008 "cabin certainly looks luxurious, with its wood-tone and metallic accents and padded door inserts." Cars.com reviewers also mention that "a lower dashboard with a traditional instrument panel hump replaces the boxy dash" from the previous generation of Yukon Denali. ForbesAutos spotlights "a two-tone interior...crafted with high-quality materials," and that on the 2008 GMC Yukon XL, the "instrument panel is positioned lower for easier visibility, particularly for shorter drivers." ConsumerGuide reviewers appreciate the "large" gauges on the 2008 GMC Yukon lineup, but they are disappointed that the markings can be "too indistinct for best legibility." On the positive side, ConsumerGuide also states that the "optional navigation system absorbs, but doesn't complicate, audio functions."

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2008 GMC Yukon


The 2008 GMC Yukon offers tremendous power and towing ability, and it drives better than you might expect.

Performance is certainly a strong suit on the 2008 GMC Yukon, especially in the form of towing ability.

The 2008 GMC Yukon lineup offers a variety of engine choices, including some exclusively offered on the XL versions of the GMC Yukon 2008. On the regular-length GMC Yukons, Edmunds says "three V8s are employed," which include a "4.8-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque" on "two-wheel-drive Yukon SLEs," while "all other Yukon SLE models pack a 5.3-liter V8 (320 hp and 340 lb-ft)." Edmunds adds that "the GMC Yukon Denali boasts a 6.2-liter V8 (380 hp and 415 lb-ft)."

On the XL trims, Cars.com reports "a 5.3-liter V-8 propels regular-duty Yukon XLs," while there is also "an optional 6.0-liter V-8." The 2008 GMC Yukon XL Denali is available with only one engine option, which Kelley Blue Book says is a "class-leading 380-horsepower 6.2-liter V8." That V-8 scores very well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and Edmunds praises the "massive pulling power" it affords the Yukon XL Denali. They add that the "nearly 6,000-pound Yukon Denali is surprisingly quick," noting it "responds like a vehicle that weighs half as much" and can run "zero to 60 in just 7.2 seconds." Thus, "if you lined this massive ute up against a Honda Civic Si, it'd be really close." Edmunds also claims that the Yukon Denali has enough power for "towing up to 7,800 pounds of recreational toys." Yukon SLEs are slightly mightier, and Cars.com states "a Yukon SLE can tow up to 8,200 pounds." Regular-length GMC Yukons also have ample strength, with ConsumerGuide attesting "Yukons are muscular off the line and in highway passing/merging with the 5.3-liter V8."

The various engine options on the 2008 GMC Yukon lineup are paired with one of two transmissions. Cars.com says that regular-length Yukon SLEs boast "a four-speed automatic," while the GMC Yukon Denali sports "a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode." Car and Driver adds that "full-time four-wheel drive is among the options" on the GMC Yukon 2008 lineup. Regarding the available six-speed transmission, ForbesAutos reports "this transmission includes two overdrive gears to help maximize the vehicle's performance." Kelley Blue Book reviewers rave about the GMC Yukon 2008's six-speed automatic, finding that its "responses are less harsh than in four-speed models, with less-noticeable delays" than the transmission found on lesser versions of the GMC Yukon lineup. The four-speeds still earn praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, with Consumer Guide claiming "the transmissions provide crisp, timely shifts." Edmunds also mentions that "previously, the Yukon Denali only came in all-wheel-drive (AWD) form, but GMC made a running change this year and added a two-wheel-drive variant" that delivers power through the rear wheels.

Auto experts at TheCarConnection.com are not surprised the performance capabilities of this vehicle come at a price that will be felt every time you fill up the tank. ForbesAutos notes the Yukon XL Denali and its massive V-8 engine are "the least fuel efficient of those offered in the Yukon XL" family. The official EPA estimates for GMC Yukon 2008 fuel economy are 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway for either the 2WD or 4WD versions of the Denali, even with its six-speed transmission. The 4.8-liter engine fares somewhat better, returning an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 19 mpg on the highway, while the 5.3-liter engine gets 14/20 mpg. On the 2008 GMC Yukon XL, the available 6.0-liter engine gets 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, according to the official EPA figures. (The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid is covered separately.)

Along with impressive towing and acceleration capabilities, the 2008 GMC Yukon lineup boasts impressive handling and a comfortable ride. Kelley Blue Book says that GMC Yukon 2008 "ride quality...is hardly truck-like at all, and it feels secure in curves." Edmunds reports the "Yukon's steering, although precise, is too light for such a large vehicle," but they add that "thanks to the Denali's 'Autoride' automatically adjusting suspension damping, ride quality over L.A.'s pockmarked pavement was impressive, as was the lack of wallowing through the turns on a section of twisty two-lane." ForbesAutos says of the Autoride system that its "electronically controlled shock absorbers make adjustments according to changing road and driving conditions to help maintain a smooth ride." 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 only real performance drawback on the GMC Yukon is in terms of braking, as Edmunds says that the big SUV takes "134 feet" to stop from 60 mph. Cars.com reports that "the heavy-duty 2500 series include a newly standard electronic stability system," however.

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2008 GMC Yukon

Comfort & Quality

Materials quality, passenger comfort, and cargo space are all major pluses on the 2008 GMC Yukon.

The cavernous 2008 GMC Yukon offers tremendous interior space and some very high-quality interior materials.

The 2008 GMC Yukon offers "rugged and luxurious transportation for up to" nine passengers, according to Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book raves about the "great passenger comfort" and "spacious interior" on the Yukon Denali, and they report "a lower-positioned instrument panel helps add leg space." Furthermore, Kelley Blue Book says 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 "the third row offers 34.9 inches of legroom, nearly 10 inches more than that of a standard Yukon." ForbesAutos adds that "a two-person third-row seat is standard, and one that fits three occupants is optional," but Cars.com notes "third-row passengers sacrifice headroom and legroom."

Aside from generous passenger space, the GMC Yukon 2008 boasts quite a bit of cargo room, but some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com register complaints in terms of practicality. While Kelley Blue Book says that GMC Yukon 2008 "third-row seats fold flat, tumble forward and are removable," other reviewers, such as those at ForbesAutos, report that "the fact that the third-row seating doesn't fold flat into the floor and must be removed is unfortunate." Once those seats are out of the Yukon Denali XL, though, cargo space is voluminous, and ForbesAutos characterizes it as a "truly mammoth maximum cargo capacity of 137.4 feet." Even without moving the heavy third row, Edmunds states that "there are 45.8 cubic feet available" behind the third row. Cargo space is impressive enough on the base GMC Yukon, but for those who need more, ConsumerGuide divulges that the "XL models are about 14 inches longer in wheelbase, 20 inches longer overall, and have nearly 30 cu ft more cargo volume." Inside the GMC Yukon 2008 cabin, storage space abounds as well, and Kelley Blue Book proclaims "the Yukon's gloveboxes are huge."

One of the areas of focus for the 2007 redesign of the GMC Yukon lineup is interior quality, and the new interior is very high-class indeed. Edmunds says "a tall, well-padded console top and large, cushioned armrests all around keep forearms happy." Cars.com reviewers also find that "higher-quality fixtures include flush-mounted controls, low-gloss materials and chrome instrument surrounds." The only real blemish on the GMC Yukon 2008 interior, according to Edmunds, "is the use of hard plastic for the dash top instead of soft-touch material, though you may only notice that if you tap it, since the graining neatly matches the other surfaces surrounding it." ConsumerGuide appreciates the extra interior attention, though, and reports "materials are generally solid to the touch and assembled with great care to create a high-quality ambiance, even on SLE versions"; they go on to note that "Denalis get added dress-up touches." Aside from materials quality, Edmunds declares that, "as with the exterior," the interior "build quality is solid."

One of the nice aspects of solid build quality is noise suppression, and the 2008 GMC Yukon handles ambient noise as well as any vehicle on the road. Edmunds reviewers report "the quietness of the cabin at speed is eerie for something that looks as aerodynamic as a brick."

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2008 GMC Yukon


Safety is clearly a priority on the 2008 GMC Yukon, and this big SUV scores well in almost any safety category.

The 2008 GMC Yukon is a true safety standout, with only one noteworthy blemish on its crash-test ratings. It also offers a wealth of safety features and impressive driver visibility.

Few vehicles on the road today can match the 2008 GMC Yukon when it comes to occupant protection during a crash, and none can exceed it, at least according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After conducting its full battery of crash tests, the NHTSA awarded the GMC Yukon 2008 XL Denali a perfect five-star rating for all impact protections. That includes five-star ratings for GMC Yukon 2008 driver and passenger protection during front impacts, as well as five stars for occupant protection during impacts on either side. The only blemish on the GMC Yukon 2008 safety record comes in the rollover category, where the NHTSA gives the Yukon Denali XL only three out of a possible five stars. While this score is somewhat disappointing, it is rare for a full-size SUV to score well in the rollover category. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the other major crash-test authority in the United States, has not yet had a chance to try out the GMC Yukon 2008.

Aside from very high crash-test ratings, the 2008 GMC Yukon rates well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com when it comes to safety features. ForbesAutos reviewers say that "stability control is standard" on the Yukon Denali, and it now "incorporates rollover mitigation technology that can deploy the vehicle's head-curtain airbags before a crash occurs." Cars.com further notes that the GMC Yukon 2008 rollover prevention system "senses when the vehicle is likely to tip, then triggers the stability system in an attempt to prevent it," and "to date, only Ford Motor Company's Roll Stability Control feature can sense that a rollover has begun and attempt to forestall it." Other standard safety features on the 2008 GMC Yukon Denali XL include "dual-stage front air bags" and "side-curtain airbags," along with "rear park assist" and "OnStar, GM's hands-free, in-vehicle communications assistance program," according to J.D. Power. ConsumerGuide also mentions that all 2008 GMC Yukon models come standard with an "antiskid system," a "tire-pressure monitor," and "daytime running lights."

One other characteristic of the 2008 GMC Yukon XL Denali that improves overall safety is its commendable driver visibility. As mentioned earlier, ForbesAutos reviewers are pleased to find that the "instrument panel is positioned lower for easier visibility, particularly for shorter drivers," and other reviewers mention the impressive visibility as well. Furthermore, for tight parking situations, the 2008 GMC Yukon XL Denali offers "rear park assist" as a standard feature; a "rearview camera" can be equipped as well, according to Edmunds.

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2008 GMC Yukon


Standard features abound on the 2008 GMC Yukon, and the optional navigation system is world-class.

From the base-level GMC Yukon SLE to the premium-trim GMC Yukon Denali XL, all members of the 2008 GMC Yukon family are loaded with features. According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, GM also offers a variety of options to allow buyers to create the GMC Yukon 2008 configuration that's best for them.

The 2008 GMC Yukon leaves the factory with a long list of standard features, and Edmunds says that "niceties like leather upholstery, heated seats in the first two rows, power-adjustable pedals," and a "rear park assist are all standard." Adding to that list of standard features, Cars.com reviewers find that the Yukon Denali comes with "a premium audio system, rain-sensing windshield wipers and an available heated steering wheel." The premium GMC Yukon 2008 sound system is a hit in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and Kelley Blue Book states it incorporates a "six-CD changer" and "Bose 10-speaker Centerpoint Surround Sound audio." Kelley Blue Book rounds out the roster of the most noteworthy standard features by reporting that "a leather-wrapped steering wheel with genuine wood accents" is also found on the Yukon Denali.

Aside from the numerous standard features, the 2008 GMC Yukon also offers quite a few noteworthy options. Kelley Blue Book reports "some tempting extras are available," including a "navigation system" and "DVD entertainment." The GMC Yukon 2008 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." Edmunds also lists "additional optional equipment in the form of a sunroof" and "rearview camera," while Kelley Blue Book reviewers mention "20-inch wheels" are available on the GMC Yukon 2008 XL Denali SUV. Other desirable options include a "power sunroof" and "power-deployable running boards," which ConsumerGuide says are available for $995 and $1,095, respectively.

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2008 GMC Yukon 2WD 4-Door 1500 SLT w/4SB


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My Yukon has provided me with great service and reliaility. The only Negative issues I hve with it is that the back seats do not fold down flat like some other SUV's do. Looking to get a new Yukon but the... + More »
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