Faced with rising gas prices and eco-protests, the market for full-size SUVs has seen better times. But there are still occasions and uses when no other class of vehicle will get the job done. Often these occasions involve towing. The Yukon shares the same basic full-size truck platform used for the Chevy Silverado 1500, Avalanche, Suburban and Tahoe, as well as the Yukon XL.
For 2010, Yukon gets more evolutionary updates including E85 compatibility on all 5.3-liter engines, OnStar 8.2 with long-range remote start, active fuel management on the 6.2-liter, a USB port and gearing changes. The GMC Yukon lineup was completely redesigned for 2007. The Hybrid and XFE models were added for 2008, while 2009 brought expanded use of the six-speed automatic transmission, and an integrated trailer brake controller.
Yukon offers power, space, and towing capacity. It can haul large loads of gear, it can survive repeated pounding over rugged terrain, it can pull trailers, all while transporting four in luxurious comfort.
Inside, the Yukon features a simple, elegant dash that hints at aspirations for entry-luxury status. The Yukon has three-row seating standard and can be configured for two to nine occupants. Seating in the first and second rows has plenty of room, but the third row is best left for kids and has to be removed for maximum cargo space.
Engine choices are all V8s. The 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 and Denali’s 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 both have a system that shuts down half the cylinders under light loads to improve fuel economy. For better economy in daily driving look to the Hybrid model which pairs a 6-liter gasoline V8 that switches off completely when not needed, and battery pack with dual electric motors inside the transmission to increase urban fuel economy by 25-30%.
Maximum tow rating ranges from 8100-8600 pounds on standard Yukons to about 6000 on Hybrid models. Most Yukons can carry 1000-1300 pounds of passengers and cargo, which must be subtracted from allowable trailer weight.
Ride and handling characteristics are typical of large SUVs. The Yukon leans in turns and is not agile. The ride quality, on the other hand, is commendable, even with the Denali's available 20-inch polished wheels that add a touch of high fashion trendiness.
All-wheel drive models use Autotrac, a system that can be engaged on dry pavement but does not repeal the laws of physics as some owners believe. Four-wheel drive with low-range gearing handy for rugged terrain, launch ramps, and severe winter weather, is optional.
For those who need a real four-wheel drive with cargo space and towing capacity the Yukon is a competitive choice. Those who don't tow might be better served by a larger crossover like the GMC Acadia, or an all-wheel drive minivan.
In addition to the Tahoe, the Yukon is in the same class as the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia. Those in need of mileage should put the Hybrid on their shopping list alongside the Lexus RX hybrid, and the diesel versions of the BMW X5, Audi Q7, VW Touareg and Mercedes ML and GL that provide hybrid-like city economy and superior highway economy.