2021 GMC Yukon presents enormous capabilities and a diesel to match

For the model year 2021, GMC has redesigned the large SUV Yukon. The Yukon, now entering its fifth generation as a truck-based sports tool, is modernizing interior comfort and spaciousness while maintaining fantastic towing and towing capacity. A diesel driveline is now also available.

An overview

  • Well-balanced in both price and capacity for the large SUV segment
  • Much more comfortable to drive daily than before
  • Diesel engine provides good fuel economy and competent towing

The GMC Yukon shares a platform with the cheaper Chevrolet Suburban and the more expensive Cadillac Escalade (which we reviewed earlier). Sharing these components and supporting the design means that the Yukon gets the independent rear-wheel suspension, longer length and wheelbase, and three adult-friendly seats as its half-siblings. Still in terms of design, the new Yukon is still a GMC in terms of fit and trim and price. Where the Chevrolet starts at around $ 52,300 and the Cadillac quickly reaches $ 100,000 in price, the Yukon goes in the middle to around $ 67,000 in its top Denali package.

Among the changes made to the Yukon, the most advantageous for daily driving is the transition from a solid rear axle to an independent rear lineup. This significantly improves the ride quality and feel, facilitates turning and improves the spaciousness of the interior in the rear blocks – especially for the third row. With a good chunk over six feet (1.8 meters) in height, I had no problem getting in and sitting on the third row of the Yukon. The additional six inches (15.2 cm) length also facilitates the legroom in the second and third rows.

Yukon has three engine choices this year. The standard engine is a well-thought-out 5.3-liter V8 that provides 355 horsepower (264.7 kW) and 383 pound-feet (519 Nm) of torque. It is respectable and provides 20 mpg (11.8 l / 100 km) on the highway and a maximum towing capacity of 7,900 lb (3,583 kg). These are good numbers for a full-size, basic model SUV.

The Yukon’s Denali package adds a 6.2-liter V8 that delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft (313 kW and 623.7 Nm). Fuel economy remains at 20 mpg on the highway, even if the city and the combined number are reduced by one. Towing is increased to a maximum of 8,200 lb (3,719.5 kg).

Almost all Yukon models for the 2021 model have the option of a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel engine that provides 277 hp (206.6 kW) and 460 lb-ft (623.7 Nm) of torque. Fuel economy with diesel jumps to 27 mpg (8.7 l / 100 km) on the highway. Towing returns to a maximum of 7,900 lb with this engine.

Our test model was the diesel-powered version of the Denali package. For our money, that diesel seems to be the best option for the new Yukon. It is a flexible, spinning power plant that gets excellent fuel economy for the segment and does everything nicely. The 300-lb towing gain for the big V8 is not much of a payoff, given the costs associated with the big of a gas guzzler. In addition, there is nothing that beats a diesel for steady, cultured trailer towing. Which, if you buy a big SUV like this, is half the reason you buy … the other half is passenger transport, which Yukon also excels at.

The interior of the new Yukon, especially in its Denali package, is posh without being decadent. The Yukon comes standard with a 10.2-inch touch screen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as advanced collision warning and braking. Basic seating arrangements are for eight (three in the third row, three in the middle and two at the front). A bench for nine passengers (front row) is also available. The Max Trailering package adds a trailer brake controller, transmission cooling system and tire pressure monitoring for the trailer. Highly recommended.

The main complaint for the 2021 Yukon is its large size - but that size is the point of this SUV
The main complaint for the 2021 Yukon is its large size – but that size is the point of this SUV

Aaron Turpen / New Atlas

The Yukon also has an AT4 terrain-oriented trim, which improves its approach angle, dirty appearance and air filtration (among other things). However, the Denali package is the most elegant of the four trim levels, adding most of the options available for the previous trims by default, with a few exceptions. While technology is being upgraded in Denali, to get adaptive cruise control and digital rearview mirror available, an additional technology package needs to be added. It’s disappointing considering the price paid for the 2021 Yukon in this top model.

Other options include larger wheels (from 20 to 22 inches), a panoramic sunroof, electrically retractable side steps, a rear-seat entertainment system and the aforementioned Max Trailering package. Most of these upgrades are available in different upgrade packages, with several that combine features and often overlap. Some, like Max Trailering, are also independent.

The main complaint for the 2021 Yukon is its large size. But that size is the point of this SUV. Huge SUVs like this one are meant to be big, bold and very capable. Towing without bulk to steer the trailer is no fun experience, and with the capacity approaching most full-size pickup trucks, a SUV like the Yukon becomes appealing when its cavernous cargo space (almost 123 cubic feet / 3,483 liters at maximum) and seats for seven to nine people are combined.

Where the Yukon falls short is when only seating and cargo space are needed. Because there are much more manoeuvrable, affordable and efficient crossover SUV models available.

We like the GMC Yukon for its mid-range appeal, though, and maximized performance. It is located in the premium area where it is not a luxury ride like the Escalade, but is not as simple as the Chevrolet Suburban. General Motors has found a sweet spot for the GMC brand here.

Product page: 2021 GMC Yukon

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