2020 GMC Yukon

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 1, 2019

Buying tip

With a new Yukon on the way, cheaper models may be harder to find. We recommend those with automatic emergency braking.

The 2020 GMC Yukon is a business-casual blue-collar SUV with truck-like capability, but many crossovers do it better, and cheaper.

The 2020 GMC Yukon pairs truck-like capability and performance with SUV versatility in a business casual package. With more options than some luxury sedans, but a look that’s getting long in the tooth, we give it 6.0 out of 10 overall. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Yukon gets no changes minus the addition of a new color, Carbon Black Metallic. A new model is due next year.

Think of the Yukon as the Chevrolet Tahoe in a blazer and slacks: the GMC-badged version has a slightly more upscale look and features list than the Chevy, especially in near-luxury Denali guise complete with fine leather and wood-effect accents.

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Sitting on a ladder frame and solid rear axle, the Yukon is a truck underneath, and comes with a truck powertrain and trucklike driving dynamics. Buyers have the option of either a 5.3-liter 355-horsepower V-8, or a 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 hp. A 6-speed automatic comes standard with the smaller engine, while the bigger engine gets a 10-speed automatic to help with fuel economy. Maximum towing capacity is an impressive 8,500 pounds and four-wheel drive is available, making the Yukon far more capable than any crossover at hauling a boat or camper or heading off-road.

Inside, the Yukon’s sweeping dashboard and high-quality materials make for a pleasant cabin, but at a base price of over $50,000 you should expect nothing less. A bench seat comes standard up front on fleet-oriented models, but otherwise, two front bucket seats are separated by a large center console that can be had with a wireless charging pad.

The Yukon can accommodate up to six rear passengers, though space gets significantly tighter as you move back in the rows. With the third-row seat in place, the Yukon’s cargo capacity all but disappears, so opt for the larger Yukon XL if you need space for more than five and cargo. A high load floor hampers passenger and cargo space too, and many crossovers are better at hauling people and stuff for less money and less real estate on the road. All Yukons get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, as well as the option for GM’s excellent 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi system.

Though SLT and Denali models offer adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking among other active safety features as an option, the Yukon leaves something to be desired in the safety department, with only four stars overall from the federal government’s crash tests.

With 5,500 pounds to haul around, the V-8 Yukon is no fuel-sipper, but a cylinder deactivation feature helps slightly, bringing mileage for most models to 18 mpg combined (17 mpg for four-wheel-drive models).

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2020 GMC Yukon

Styling

The 2020 GMC Yukon splits the difference between Chevy and Cadillac with a subdued sophistication.

The 2020 GMC Yukon is a sturdy SUV in office attire, sporting cleaner, curvier lines than its siblings. We give it 6 out of 10 in the style department. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

Lower trim Yukon models – namely the SLE and SLT – look nearly indistinguishable, but the Denali model is loaded with chrome accents and high-class trim like massive 22-inch wheels. It’s more subdued than the Chevrolet Tahoe but not quite as flashy and angular as the Cadillac Escalade, a perfect middle ground for many buyers. There’s no missing the massive grille on the Denali, but lesser trim models are more subdued.

Inside, the Yukon’s curvy dashboard and high-quality materials are welcoming, centered by an excellent 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and featuring just the right number of knobs and buttons. Cloth technically comes standard, but must Yukons feature leather upholstery, and the Denali model adds faux wood trim among other unique accents.

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2020 GMC Yukon

Performance

The 2020 GMC Yukon is proof that when it comes to hauling, hardly anything beats a V-8.

Sometimes, there’s no school like old-school, and while the 2020 GMC Yukon makes use of tried-and-true engines, some new-age technology makes for a potent powertrain. We give it 7 out of 10 here for its V-8 strength. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

Like the Tahoe, all Yukons come standard with a 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard as is a 6-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive is an option across the range. While this engine is plenty powerful, those looking for even more grunt can option the 6.2-liter V-8, which pushes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft through a 10-speed automatic. Denali models get this engine as standard, and it can also be had on the SLT Graphite Performance Edition package.

Both V-8s are equipped with cylinder deactivation technology, which turns them into a V-4 at high cruising speeds to save fuel. You can hear and feel the shift to 4-cylinder mode, and it’s indicated by a green “V4” on the information display when activated.

Thanks to the big V-8s and a body-on-frame construction with a solid rear axle, the Yukon can tow 8,500 pounds maximum with the larger engine and rear-wheel-drive equipped.

While ride quality is good for a truck-based SUV, the Denali weighs about 5,500 pounds, and that heft is felt on curvy roads. Steering is light and deft, and though magnetic suspension helps the Denali’s ride quality, 22-inch wheels make many harsh bumps felt through the seats.

The Yukon also manages just fine off-road, though not as well as more purpose-built SUVs and trucks, especially ones that are much lighter.

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2020 GMC Yukon

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 GMC Yukon is well-equipped and outfitted, but cargo and passenger space leave something to be desired for the steep asking price.

The 2020 GMC Yukon might as well be wearing a Cadillac badge in terms of build quality and comfort. Many crossovers manage similar or better interior space without so much heft, however, so we’ve awarded it 8 out of 10. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

The base SLE trim comes with cloth upholstery, a bench seat up front, and soft-touch materials throughout, but most buyers will start with the SLT trim or above, which features standard leather upholstery with twin bucket seats and a large center console.

Adults will be comfortable enough in the second row, either on a flat bench seat or dual captain’s chairs, but legroom is hampered by the ladder frame below, and third row passengers will find limited space for both heads and knees. What’s more, cargo space nearly disappears behind the third row, but the Yukon XL does offer much more ample capacity thanks to a much, much longer footprint.

Speaking of cargo, the Yukon (and its GM siblings, for that matter) makes loading difficult out back with an extremely high floor, and though 95 cubic feet of room is available with both rear rows folded flat, many large crossovers manage similar figures with much easier access. At over $50,000 to start, it may be worth considering if a crossover is not the way to go. The Yukon XL pushes max capacity to 121 cubic feet, but its enormous size may be off-putting for some buyers.

Denali models dial up the luxury to near-Cadillac level with fine leather, faux wood trim, heated and cooled seats, and more power and electronic features, but at over $80,000 fully loaded, it’s a tough sell. It also doesn’t look nearly as lavish as a Lincoln Navigator, dollar for dollar.

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2020 GMC Yukon

Safety

The 2020 GMC Yukon can be had with some safety tech, but lackluster crash test scores are a concern.

The 2020 GMC Yukon thankfully offers active safety technology, but what crash test data there is leaves something to be desired. As the IIHS hasn’t given it a full rating, we’re also unable to assign a score here. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

The Yukon comes standard with a center-mounted front airbag to keep occupants from colliding with each other.

Low-speed automatic emergency braking is optional on the SLE model and standard on SLT and Denali, while the top two trims add the option for full-speed stopping tech. Adaptive cruise control comes with this option, and active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, power-adjustable pedals, and more are optional the SLT and Denali trims.

The federal government gives the Yukon a four-star overall crash test rating with only four stars for frontal impact and three stars for rollover, and the IIHS hasn’t tested the Yukon in years, unfortunately.

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2020 GMC Yukon

Features

The 2020 GMC Yukon is well-equipped from the start, while the Denali model is a downright luxury vehicle, with a price to match.

The 2020 GMC Yukon is well-equipped to start and near-Escalade-nice at the top end, but the price negates some value. We give it 6 out of 10 for features. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

The Yukon and its longer XL sibling are identical in terms of trim levels and features, making ordering easier. The SLE trim occupies the low end of the range, with cloth upholstery and a front bench seat or two buckets with a center console. Even this fleet-ready model comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and can be had with GM’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi system for a mobile work environment or streaming hub. Bose audio is also standard, as well as automatic wipers and three-zone climate control.

The SLT model will attract most buyers—it’s our pick—as it includes leather upholstery, heated front- and second-row seats, cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and power-folding second and third rows. Full-speed automatic emergency braking is optional, as well as a rear-seat entertainment system for the kids (or kids at heart), navigation, and a moonroof.

The Yukon Denali is a luxury truck, with the 6.2-liter V-8, upgraded Bose audio including active noise cancellation, 20-inch wheels, and magnetic suspension as standard. Power side steps, adaptive cruise control, 22-inch wheels, and more can all be had as an option on the Denali.

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2020 GMC Yukon

Fuel Economy

While more efficient than it would seem, the 2020 GMC Yukon is still a massive, V-8-powered truck and drinks fuel like one.

Despite its big engines and weight, the 2020 GMC Yukon manages decent fuel economy for a truck-based SUV. However, that doesn’t count for much on our scale, warranting a score of 3 out of 10. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

Naturally, rear-wheel-drive Yukons are slightly more efficient, with the 5.3-liter base model managing 15 city, 22 highway, and 18 combined mpg. Four-wheel-drive only represents a slight penalty at 15/21/17 mpg.

Amazingly, the larger and much more powerful 6.2-liter V-8 actually improves highway mileage with its 10-speed transmission and cylinder deactivation, making 15/23/17 mpg with rear-wheel-drive and 14/22/17 mpg with four-wheel-drive. The numbers are nearly identical for Yukon XL models to its shorter counterpart.

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6.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety N/A
Features 6
Fuel Economy 3
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