2009 GMC Yukon

8.2
2009 GMC Yukon

The Basics:

To bring you this review of the 2009 GMC Yukon, editors at TheCarConnection.com contribute their own observations from driving this sport-utility vehicle, then TheCarConnection.com’s team gathers input from various published reviews across the Web. This means that you have a single compilation of insightful information available.

The 2009 GMC Yukon was last redesigned for 2007 and continues into 2009 with just a few changes. The Yukon shares a platform with the Chevy Tahoe and, thus, has much in common with that vehicle.

The 2009 GMC Yukon Denali still ranks as one of the most stylish and comfortable ways to do serious cross-country hauling.

The top-of-the-line Denali models offer some exclusive powertrain and luxury features that set them in a different class altogether, so they’re covered by a separate review, as is the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid, which achieves a stunning 21 mpg city, 22 highway without a sacrifice in performance.

The standard 2009 GMC Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 202 inches. Extended-wheelbase Yukon XL models give you extra length and a wheelbase that all goes to the cabin—with more space for people and gear. Exterior dimensions are similar to the regular models, but are about 14 inches longer in wheelbase and 20 inches longer in overall length—so if you worry about parking, you probably want to keep to the standard-length version.

Regular 2009 GMC Yukon models offer standard 4.8-liter (295 horsepower), 5.3-liter (310 or 320 hp), or 6.0-liter (352 hp) V-8s. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line, and buyers have a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive at any of the trim levels. Both of the smaller V-8s have plenty of torque to move the Yukon with authority, even with a full load, and fuel economy is quite respectable for such a huge vehicle, with ratings of 14 mpg city, 20 highway from the EPA. The 6.0-liter is the exclusive domain of the XL model and the pick for the toughest towing demands, but mileage will suffer.

Several seating configurations are offered on the 2009 GMC Yukon; in front, the seats are very generously sized and supportive, with a good view of the road ahead. The first two rows can be equipped with bench seats or buckets (called captain’s chairs here); a third-row bench seat is standard on Yukon XL models and available on the Yukon. With the third row removed and the second row folded, the Yukon XL has a huge 137.2 cubic feet of cargo space, and there’s still respectable room for cargo with people in all three rows. Access to the third row is a bit harder in the standard-length version, and there’s very little space behind the last row.

Both 2009 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are available in SLE (cloth trim) and SLT trim (leather appointments), in either rear- or four-wheel-drive configurations. Within each trim are other major packages that pile on luxury features, such as tri-zone automatic climate control, a Bose premium sound system, heated first- and second-row seats, a remote start system, rear parking assist, and power-adjustable pedals. Options really drive up the price and include a navigation system, sunroof, DVD entertainment system, power liftgate, and several wheel upgrades and chrome dress-up packages.

The GMC Yukon achieves top five-star ratings from the federal government in all of its front and side-impact crash tests. Equipment highlights for this big, secure vehicle include standard traction and stability control, as well as curtain airbags.

The 2009 GMC Yukon looks good inside and out—and TheCarConnection.com notes that the styling seems to have been engineered to justify the hefty price tag of the vehicle.

The GMC Yukon comes in two lengths, a regular version and the 2009 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 2009 version is largely unchanged. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com suggest that this is a very good thing, since reviewers love the styling. Car and Driver sums it up perfectly, declaring the 2009 GMC Yukon and other "GMC big boys deliver style" that they deem "tough to top." 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." 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."

The interior is also fabulous on the GMC Yukon 2009. Cars.com reviewers mention that "a lower dashboard with a traditional instrument panel hump replaces the boxy dash" from the previous generation of Yukon. Edmunds lavishes perhaps the greatest praise of the interior, reporting that the GMC Yukon 2009 "cabin certainly looks luxurious, with its wood-tone and metallic accents and padded door inserts." ForbesAutos loves the look of the two-tone interior and notes that it is “crafted with high-quality materials," and that the "instrument panel is positioned lower for easier visibility, particularly for shorter drivers."

ConsumerGuide also states that the "optional navigation system absorbs, but doesn't complicate, audio functions." Overall, the reviewer appreciates the "large" gauges on the 2009 GMC Yukon lineup but is disappointed that the markings can be "too indistinct for best legibility."

Nearly all reviewers, along with the editors of TheCarConnection.com, note that the 2009 GMC Yukon gets strong acceleration and ample power from its V-8 engines. Towing ability is the vehicle's shining feature.

The 2009 GMC Yukon lineup offers a variety of engine choices. On the regular-length GMC Yukons, Edmunds says "three V-8s are employed," which include a "4.8-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque" on "two-wheel-drive Yukon SLEs." The 2009 GMC Yukon SLE offers another option: "all other Yukon SLE models pack a 5.3-liter V-8 (320 hp and 340 lb-ft)." On the XL trims, Cars.com reports "a 5.3-liter V-8 propels regular-duty Yukon XLs," and there is "an optional 6.0-liter V-8."

Regular-length GMC Yukons have ample strength, with ConsumerGuide attesting, "Yukons are muscular off the line and in highway passing/merging with the 5.3-liter V8." Yukon SLEs are slightly mightier, and Cars.com states that "a Yukon SLE can tow up to 8,200 pounds."

For 2009, a six-speed automatic transmission is newly standard across the 2009 GMC Yukon lineup. According to Cars.com, this used to be standard only in the higher-end Denali version, which TheCarConnection.com covers in a separate review. Kelley Blue Book reviewers rave about the GMC Yukon 2009's six-speed automatic, finding that its "responses are less harsh than in [previous] models, with less-noticeable delays." ForbesAutos reports that "this [six-speed] transmission includes two overdrive gears to help maximize the vehicle's performance." ConsumerGuide contends that GMC's "transmissions provide crisp, timely shifts."

The plus-sized 2009 GMC Yukon is no winner when it comes to fuel efficiency, but with one of the smaller V-8s, it’s probably not as bad as you might think. The smallest 4.8-liter engine returns an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 19 mpg on the highway, while the 5.3-liter engine gets 14/20 mpg. On the 2009 GMC Yukon XL, the available 6.0-liter engine is much thirstier; it gets 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, according to the official EPA figures. (The 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid gets considerably better mileage but is covered separately at TheCarConnection.com.)

The 2009 GMC Yukon lineup boasts impressive handling for a vehicle of this size and pedigree, although it’s not universally praised. Edmunds reports the "Yukon's steering, although precise, is too light for such a large vehicle."

Cars.com points out that "the heavy-duty 2500 series include a newly standard electronic stability system," a must in any large rollover-prone SUV. The only real performance drawback on the 2009 GMC Yukon is in terms of braking, as Edmunds says that the big SUV takes "134 feet" to stop from 60 mph.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com report that the 2009 GMC Yukon is downright cavernous inside. Plus, it's built with notably high-quality materials.

The 2009 GMC Yukon offers "rugged and luxurious transportation for up to" nine passengers, according to Edmunds. 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." 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." Kelley Blue Book raves about the "great passenger comfort" and "spacious interior" overall on the 2009 Yukon.

The 2009 GMC Yukon also boasts quite a bit of cargo room. Even without moving the third row, Edmunds states that "there are 45.8 cubic feet available" behind the third row. To get more space, the third row can be removed—but some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com register complaints in terms of practicality. ForbesAutos, for example, reports that "the fact that the third-row seating doesn't fold flat into the floor and must be removed is unfortunate." Kelley Blue Book doesn't go into details, simply saying that GMC Yukon 2009 "third-row seats fold flat, tumble forward and are removable."

Once those seats are out, though, cargo space is voluminous, and ForbesAutos characterizes it as a "truly mammoth maximum cargo capacity of 137.4 feet." 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 2009 cabin, storage space abounds as well, and Kelley Blue Book proclaims that "the Yukon's gloveboxes are huge."

One of the areas of focus for the 2007 redesign of the GMC Yukon lineup was interior quality, and the 2009 Yukon interior is very high-class indeed. ConsumerGuide appreciates the extra interior attention and reports "materials are generally solid to the touch and assembled with great care to create a high-quality ambiance, even on SLE versions." Edmunds says "a tall, well-padded console top and large, cushioned armrests all around keep forearms happy." The reviewer also declares that, "as with the exterior," the interior "build quality is solid." 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 2009 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."

One of the nice aspects of solid build quality is noise suppression, and the 2009 GMC Yukon handles ambient noise as well as any vehicle on the road. Edmunds reviewers report that "the quietness of the cabin at speed is eerie for something that looks as aerodynamic as a brick."

GMC's Autoride system also brings compliments from many reviewers. ForbesAutos, for example, 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." Kelley Blue Book contends that GMC Yukon 2009 "ride quality...is hardly truck-like at all, and it feels secure in curves." ConsumerGuide also praises the "car-like comfort over bumps," and they note "long-wheelbase XL models are slightly more comfortable regardless of tire choice."

Experts at TheCarConnection.com are pleased to note that the 2009 GMC Yukon does well in terms of safety.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet tested the GMC Yukon 2009. After conducting its full battery of crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the GMC Yukon 2009 a perfect five-star rating for all impact protections. That includes five-star ratings for GMC Yukon 2009 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 2009 safety record comes in the rollover category, where NHTSA gives the Yukon three out of a possible five stars—the lowest score typically awarded. While this score is somewhat disappointing, truck-based SUVs like the Yukon rarely fare well in rollover testing.

The 2009 GMC Yukon also offers an impressive range of safety features. ConsumerGuide also mentions that all 2009 GMC Yukon models come standard with an "antiskid system," a "tire-pressure monitor," and "daytime running lights." Other standard safety features on the 2009 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. ForbesAutos reviewers say that "stability control is standard," 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 2009 rollover prevention system "senses when the vehicle is likely to tip, then triggers the stability system in an attempt to prevent it." 2009 brings an optional Side Blind Zone Alert feature.

Driver visibility is better in the 2009 GMC Yukon than in previous models. For tight parking situations, the 2009 GMC Yukon XL Denali offers "rear park assist" as a standard feature; a "rearview camera" can be equipped as well, according to Edmunds. 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.

Across the line, editors at TheCarConnection.com find that the 2009 GMC Yukon offers plenty of features. A wide range of options allows drivers to choose a smart and personalized customization.

The 2009 GMC Yukon leaves the factory with a long list of standard features. The premium GMC Yukon 2009 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." 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."

In addition to the numerous standard features, there are quite a few noteworthy options on the 2009 GMC Yukon. 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 2009 XL Denali SUV. Kelley Blue Book reports "some tempting extras are available," including a "navigation system" and "DVD entertainment." The GMC Yukon 2009 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." New options for 2009 include a Bluetooth hands-free interface, XM NavTraffic, and a Luxury Package. Other desirable options include a "power sunroof" and "power-deployable running boards," which ConsumerGuide says are available for $995 and $1,095, respectively.

Buying Tips:


If you're only moving people around, you’ll probably be happier with vehicle that’s designed more for passenger-duty, such as Chevrolet’s own Traverse.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Ford Expedition
  • 2008 Toyota Sequoia
  • 2009 Nissan Armada

Reason Why:

If you need a vehicle that’s good for towing, people-hauling, and even modest off-roading, you should put the 2009 GMC Yukon on your list. The 2009 GMC Yukon can tow four tons, besting the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada in this important category. And although the Armada is arguably a bit more stylish from a distance, the Yukon has a better-executed interior, with pleasing materials. The Sequoia and Armada are both larger than the Yukon and Yukon Denali, but not quite as enormous as the long-wheelbase Yukon XL and Denali XL. The big GMC offers a wider choice of engines than the Ford Expedition, and the differences in performance are notable. However, the Ford performs well, and TheCarConnection.com's editors appreciate its comparatively better ride quality.

The Bottom Line:

The 2009 GMC Yukon really stands out among truck-based SUVs because of its great towing and hauling capabilities.

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