GMC’s largest family vehicle gets a facelift for 2021. The Yukon is undergoing an aesthetic overhaul and major technical improvements that improve its roominess and handling. As a bonus, its range of engines is enriched with a turbodiesel that promises reduced consumption.
Close relative of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and the Cadillac Escalade, with which it shares its architecture and its engines, this GMC is still available in two versions: the Yukon, which has a long body of 5.2 meters, and the Yukon XL , whose body rises to 5.7 meters. The XL is also longer than two smart placed end to end!
These vehicles accommodate 7 to 9 people, depending on the version and layout chosen, and take up the classic architecture of a frame with spars on which the body rests. This newly designed chassis has a wheelbase that is 3% longer and GM has fitted it with independent rear suspension, as Ford did in 2003 with the Expedition.
These changes provide a substantial gain in legroom for the rear occupants (+ 40%), as well as a slightly lower floor for the trunk. The latter also gains 66% of useful volume in the case of the Yukon, when the 60/40 backrests of its rear seat are raised. For the Yukon XL, the volume increased by 5% seems less impressive. However, the 1,175 L available behind the back seat, when it is in place, will suffice for many needs. Note that General Motors of Canada tells us that one in three Yukon buyers will opt for the XL version; a trend also observed among buyers of Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban.
New AT4 variant
The 2021 range still includes SLE and SLT versions. More affordable, they are offered with two or four-wheel drive. The Denali version, which has four-wheel drive, remains the most luxurious and still ranks higher. If the trend continues, it will also be the choice of 60% of buyers. To this trio is added a new variant: the AT4. Created for customers wishing to move away from asphalt (25% of buyers), it has an endowment designed for this purpose with, among other things, a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch Goodyear off-road tires , protective plates under the chassis, air suspension to increase ground clearance by 10 cm, as well as a driving management system including an off-road mode and a downhill speed control system. The AT4 also shares with the Denali an astonishing 15-inch head-up display system.
Inside, we discover a redesigned dashboard that adopts a different look depending on the model. For the Yukon SLE, SLT and AT4, this styling is made modern by the 10.2 ” floating touchscreen dominating the center space. The Denali’s touchscreen, recessed lower in the center of the dashboard, gives the cabin a more classic look; a style that some might call old-fashioned. However, the quality of the materials and the meticulous finish contrast with the image of GM products of yesteryear. Plus, the supple leather and real wood trims that adorn the Yukon Denali elevate it to Cadillac Escalade standards.
To animate these mastodons, GM uses the same V8s that were used in the models of the previous generation. The 5.3L engine, which powers the SLE, SLT and AT4 versions, still delivers 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, while the 6.2L, which is reserved for the Denali, maintains its 420 hp and 460 lb-ft. One new feature, however, in the 2021 catalog is the Duramax 3.0L turbodiesel offered for Sierra pickup trucks. This fuel-efficient 6-cylinder develops 460 lb-ft of torque (as much as the 6.2L V8) and is an option on all trim levels except the AT4.
Less greedy turbodiesel
These engines share a new 10-speed automatic gearbox fitted with a device capable of automatically downshifting it on slopes. In addition, to optimize the consumption of the two V8s, each has a rather discreet automatic stop-start device at idle and a displacement variator.
The latter allows them to stop up to six cylinders, depending on the needs of the moment. However, according to EnerGuide figures, this hardware store gives the 5.3L V8 used in four-wheel-drive Yukon (buyers prefer 4x4s, according to GM) an average fuel consumption of 13.5 L / 100 km, while the 6.2L engine gives the Denali 4×4 an average of 14.8L. At the time of this writing, the turbodiesel ratings weren’t known. However, we know that this engine can reduce the consumption of Sierra 4×4 pickups by about 20 to 25%, when comparing the ratings of the Duramax to those of the two V8s.
In addition, the towing capacity of these trucks remains high. It can reach 3,765 kg in the case of the Yukon XL and 3,810 kg for the Yukon. The Ford Expedition offers more, however, from 4082 to 4173 kg depending on whether you choose a long or short model. Buyers who want to tow heavy loads regularly with their Yukon should also be aware that they will need to opt for the optional Max Towing Package worth $ 725 to get the ProGrade towing system equipment, a more efficient cooling radiator and, for SLE and SLT versions with four-wheel drive, an active two-speed transfer case.
On the road, this GMC is very impressive with its aplomb, its very precise steering (not at all over-assisted) and its powerful and easy to modulate braking. At least that’s what emerges from a recent one-day test driving a Yukon Denali. The handling and surprising handling of this vehicle makes you feel like you’re behind the wheel of a smaller, more agile SUV, like a GMC Terrain. The body roll in a curve remains naturally pronounced (it remains a “leggy” vehicle) despite the air suspension listed among the options of this model and those of the AT4. However, it must be recognized that the transitions are gradual. In addition, the front end of the Yukon Denali does not dip under braking, as the Lexus GX 460 does. In short, regulars in the Yukon will be very pleasantly surprised by the many improvements that have been made to them.