Review: 2021 GMC Yukon AT4

General Motors makes major powertrain and suspension changes to its full-size SUVs with about the same frequency as a career politician follows through on his election year promises. It is worth paying attention to the extensive modifications that GM has introduced to its range of large animals; like a fulfilled promise from Ottawa or Queen’s Park, it will probably only happen once or twice in your lifetime.

We’ll get to the fancy new sheet metal in a moment, but for now we’ll start with the greasy bits. For 2021, GMC has ditched the traditional live rear axle, a bit of technology that dates back to chariots at the Roman Colosseum. In its place is a more compact multi-link independent rear suspension, which allows for a lower cargo floor that opens up more interior space for both cargo and people. Ride quality is top notch, with our region’s level crossings and pockmarked roads failing to upset even the notoriously fussy Nanny Hynes on her way to socially distant bingo.

If you hear a Yukon AT4 exhaling air, it’s likely equipped with GMC’s available four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension. This offers ride height adjustments while incorporating an automatic self-leveling feature. The latter comes in handy when testing the outer limits of the Yukon’s towing capacity. Drivers can raise the body up to two inches for additional ground clearance when driving off-road, and when driving on the highway at higher speeds, the system automatically lowers the Yukon’s ride height by approximately 1 inch to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

This Yukon AT4 is powered by a familiar 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 355 horses and 383 lb-ft of torque. A fancy new Duramax diesel with almost a hundred more torque is also available, while the 6.2-litre V8 remains standard kit on the uber-luxe Denali and should really be offered as an option on the AT4. All three are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, allowing for markedly improved pants-of-the-pants acceleration over older 5.3-liter equipped GM vehicles with fewer gears. Also, someone tweaked the exhaust on this V8 because it sounds much more robust on startup than your author’s 2018 Sierra pickup ever did. The Yukon’s automatic start-stop system is almost invisible in traffic.

The Yukon’s handsome new styling defines the meaning of road presence. This AT4 livery uses a two-bar grille with a blackout treatment, complemented by a set of stylish stacked headlights. Other details will continue to prove that there is no sheet metal like chrome. The AT4 also provides a pair of red recovery hooks similar to the Sierra AT4 pickup. Other AT4-specific off-road goodies include undercarriage skid plates and an aggressive front bumper designed to provide a 32-degree approach angle.

When you step inside, you’ll find an interior cabin that’s worlds away from GM’s current crop of pickup trucks—both in terms of layout and materials. Soft perforated surfaces line the dashboard, and contrasting stitching looks great. Physical dials for ventilation and audio use a plastic-like material, which makes them fall out of step with the rest of this well-assembled interior. Gauges are dinner plates and the color heads-up display is large.

Visibility is clear in all directions, especially out over the hood, which is the size and shape – and in our case, the color – of a Sealy Posturepedic mattress. Storage abounds, including a cube-shaped cubby to the right of the Yukon’s infotainment screen that’s covered by a sliding door as if hiding the Turin’s casing. A wireless charger with an improved design compared to the old truck is ready to feed electrons into your smartphone. Don’t listen to the Luddites raving about the new push-button gear selector – it works just fine.

The new rear suspension has a marked impact on interior space, especially in the third row. Your author stands 6-feet 6-inches in her size 13 stocking feet and had little trouble getting used to sitting in the way back. GMC’s redesign of this area has resulted in a shocking 10.1-inch increase in third-row legroom; in fact, this year’s Yukon has more room for people than last year’s plus-size Yukon XL. Thanks, new suspension (an extra six inches long didn’t hurt either).

Review the 2021 GMC Yukon AT4

Review the 2021 GMC Yukon AT4

Cargo space also benefits. Behind the rear seat, customers will now find 25.5 cubic feet of space, 10.2 cubic feet more than last year. Maximum cargo space now measures a yawning 122.9 cubic feet (up nearly 30 percent). There’s so much acreage here that it’s tempting to list the thing on AirBnB to help cover fuel costs.

Costs that are, as you might expect, as large as the Yukon’s own dimensions. Our test unit managed 14.9 L/100 km (15.8 mpg) during a cold week in February, one that saw plenty of idling and remote starting. I expected David Suzuki to show up at my door and scold me with a Gemini Award. Still, those numbers are comparable to other machines in its segment and even to some a size smaller (the 4Runner comes to mind).

Its sticker price is equally ambitious. Your writer would forgo his tester’s Premium Plus package, which sounds like a soup cracker but is actually a $9,795 option set consisting of a panoramic sunroof and other minor amenities. This would keep an AT4 closer to its starting price of $74,698. Don’t forget the entry-level (but hardly base model) Yukon has the exact same amount of space and power as our tester but stickers for $61,298.

In an age of electrification, this and sustainable that, the Yukon AT4 remains a glorious aberration — as big as a Yonge Street apartment and as politically correct as a Monsanto home fracking kit. The thing is, if you need to carry six people and towing a heavy trailer, the GMC Yukon remains one of the few games in town that can comfortably do both at once while keeping its occupants comfortable and looking good in traffic.

The Yukon knows its role and performs it very well.

Review the 2021 GMC Yukon AT4

Tthe vehicle was provided to the author by the car manufacturer. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to e.go approval.

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