2017 Yukon New Car Test Drive
The GMC Yukon is a full-size three-row SUV with V8 power, a step-brother of the Chevy Tahoe, as the Yukon has one significant genetic difference, an available bigger V8, as well as a Denali model with more features.
As, as the Tahoe has its big brother the longer Suburban, at GMC both wheelbases, 116 inches and 130 inches, belong to the Yukon, with the Yukon XL model matching the Suburban, and bringing more legroom in the third row. The price, of course, being the hauling around of another dozen or so inches on the outside of the vehicle.
SUVs built on truck chassis, like Tahoe and Yukon, are a dying breed. They'll never disappear because the world needs trucks, but when they're mostly gone, we'll say, with fondness and appreciation, They don't build them like that any more. That's your Buy American pitch. The Yukon isn't Canadian. Its name was taken out of admiration.
The standard V8 is a 5.3-liter making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, with direct injection, mated to a six-speed automatic. That sounds like enough horsepower and torque for a truck, but there's nearly three tons of its own weight to carry, and then there's the issue of towing. So if you don't want your Yukon to be the wimpy one, you need to opt for the 6.2-liter V8 making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic. At the moment the Yukon Denali is the only GM SUV using this engine that's gained fame in high-performance Cadillacs, Corvettes and Camaros. It's coming to Tahoe as a 2018 model, and probably inevitably for Suburban, but Yukon was first.
The Denali with the 6.2-liter is rated to tow 8500 pounds, but that still only holds its own in the big-mother SUV tow department. The Ford Expedition, with its twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 can tow 9200 pounds. The Nissan Armada lives up to its name with 9000 pounds. Both the Toyota Sequoia and Dodge Durango can tow more than the Yukon.
Very few people ever tow that much, of course. If you tow more than 8500 pounds, you're into horses, racecars, or boats big time. But that tow rating is a number that gives you an idea of overall strength of the chassis and powertrain.
Both engines have cylinder deactivation, which cuts the engine down to a V4 when the throttle is relaxed, to use less fuel. The mileage still sucks. The 5.3-liter is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined.
The ladder-type boxed frame uses mostly high-strength steel, for safety and rigidity. The rear suspension is old school, with a live axle and leaf springs, delivering a very good ride. But Magnetic Ride Control is available, the high-tech active suspension that basically absorbs bumps that the solid axle just deflects. A locking rear differential is standard.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, four-wheel drive available. Yukon 4WD models use a single-speed Autotrac system for automatic operation on the highway. If you want 4WD with a low-range for rock crawling or slimy boat ramps, you have to get the HD tow package two-speed transfer case. Denali 4WD comes with it.
There are only a couple changes to the 2017 Yukon. Automatic emergency braking is now standard on SLT and Denali models, optional on SLEs. The Enhanced Driver Alert Package has been upgraded to include forward collision warning, automatic high-beam headlamps, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. It also features GM's Safety Alert seat that buzzes the bottom cushion to let drivers know if they're drifting out of their lane or if there's about to be a close call.
The Yukon comes in SLE, SLT, and Denali models, and is offered in standard and extended Yukon XL configurations, and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.