The GMC Yukon offers power, space, and towing capacity. It can haul loads of gear, it can survive repeated pounding over rugged terrain, it can pull trailers, all while transporting four or five adults in comfort.
For 2011, Yukon gets minor upgrades, including revised headrests and OnStar version 9.0. The GMC Yukon lineup was completely redesigned for 2007. The Hybrid and XFE models were added for 2008, while 2009 brought an integrated trailer brake controller and expanded use of the 6-speed automatic transmission. 2010 added the Hybrid version of the Denali.
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 rated urban fuel economy by up to 42 percent.
Maximum tow rating ranges from 8100-8500 pounds on standard Yukon models or to about 6000 pounds on Hybrid models. Most Yukons can carry 1000-1300 pounds of passengers and cargo, which must be subtracted from allowable trailer weight. The standard-size Yukon can carry more weight than the equivalent-trim, much longer and roomier Yukon XL due to the latter's higher curb 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 fashion trendiness.
Two four-wheel-drive systems are available. 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 is available for rugged terrain, boat ramps, severe traction conditions.
The Yukon is a good choice for those who need four-wheel drive, cargo space and towing capacity. Those who don't tow might be better served by a larger crossover, such as the GMC Acadia, or an all-wheel-drive minivan.
Yukon shares the same basic full-size truck platform used for the Yukon XL, Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, Silverado, Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade. 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 good highway economy.