2011 Yukon Hybrid New Car Test Drive
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.
The 2010 GMC Yukon lineup offers a choice of three V8 engine sizes and four trim levels: SLE, SLT (split into SLT1 and SLT2), Denali, Hybrid and new Hybrid Denali. All are offered with 2WD or all-wheel drive, except the Hybrid, which is 2WD or 4WD; SLE and SLT-grade models offer a two-speed transfer case option if you also get a trailering and off-road suspension package.
The GMC Yukon SLE 2WD ($38,020) or 4WD ($42,080) comes with a 320-hp 5.3-liter flex-fuel V8 and six-speed automatic transmission. It includes cloth upholstery; dual-zone manual climate control with rear controls; split front bench seat; six-way power driver's seat; 60/40 split-folding second-row bench seat; 50/50 split-fold third row; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls; cruise control; intermittent wipers front/rear; power locks, windows and heated mirrors; remote keyless entry; side assist steps; AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers; XM satellite radio; Bluetooth; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; roof rails; front recovery hooks; trailer hitch platform with seven-wire harness; one year of OnStar service; and P265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels. The SLE 2 package ($1560) adds three-zone climate control, power front bucket seats with console, and Bose sound system in conjunction with other required options.
Yukon SLT adds leather upholstery; three-zone automatic climate control; Bose six-disc audio system; adjustable pedals; rear park assist; remote start; auto-dimming inside mirror; and universal garage door opener. SLT2 adds more adjustable heated front seats, driver memory system, heated second row seats with power seat release, power-operated liftgate and outside heated power-adjustable, power-folding mirrors.
Yukon Denali 2WD ($53,000) and 4WD ($55,995) upgrade to a 403-hp 6.2-liter engine, 12-way power front seats; heated front and second-row seats; driver memory system; power tilt, heated, wood-and-leather steering wheel; Autoride suspension; power liftgate; power-folding reverse-tilt mirrors; auto-dimming inside and driver's side mirrors; chrome trim and unique grilles; Bose Centerpoint audio system; rain-sensing front wipers; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with 275/55 tires. Available only on Denali is a side blind zone alert system ($500).
Yukon Hybrid 2WD ($51,185) and 4WD ($53,995) are well-equipped, slotting between SLT2 and Denali for features and amenities. However, the Hybrid does come standard with a 6-liter V8 gas engine and electric drive system contained within the transmission that rate 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque, navigation system with rearview camera, locking rear differential, and P265/65R18 low-rolling resistance tires on alloy wheels. It does not have roof rails, fog lamps, tow hooks, or a separately-opening glass on the liftgate. Hybrid mechanicals are warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles.
Yukon Denali Hybrid 2WD ($58,500) and 4WD ($61,345) feature Denali trim with the hybrid powertrain. Options are limited to a spare tire/wheel ($995), moonroof ($995), rear entertainment ($1295) and blind zone alert ($500).
Options include 20-inch wheels ($1795); three-zone climate control ($195); and audio and entertainment system upgrades. More choices include a moonroof ($995); retractable side steps ($1095); trailer brake controller ($200); rear DVD entertainment ($1295); Z71 Off-Road package ($1830); second-row bucket seats ($490 plus $425 for power release) and engine block heater ($75). Yukons that come with second-row buckets may often be ordered with a 60/40 second-row bench at no charge, and larger wheels can often be downsized to standard 17-inch at no cost for rough roads, tire chain clearance, and so on.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual-stage front airbags; three-row, head-protecting curtain side airbags with rollover sensors; four-wheel antilock brakes; StabiliTrak stability control system with rollover mitigation; LATCH child safety seat anchors; and a tire pressure monitor. Optional are rearview cameras, rear park assist, and Denali’s side blind zone alert.