The GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV with 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.
And it's that towing capacity that makes it a sensible choice. Yukon's maximum tow rating ranges from 8100-8500 pounds, or to about 6000 pounds on Hybrid models. Most Yukons can carry 1400-1700 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, longer Yukon XL due to the XL's greater weight.
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 models which pair 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 about 33 percent.
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, which gets better fuel economy due to lighter weight.
The current-generation GMC Yukon dates from the 2007 model year, but the model line has been refined and expanded significantly since then. The 2012 Yukons bring a new, optional hard-drive navigation system integrated into an AM/FM/XM/CD Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound stereo, and featuring a USB port, time-shift recording capability, NavTraffic and available SiriusXM Weather Service. The standard StabiliTrak stability control system now includes electronic trailer sway control and hill start assist. Mid-range SLT models get heated front-row seats as standard equipment, and a heated steering wheel as an option. Flagship Denalis get side blind zone alert. And recovery hooks, fog lamps, and roof cross rails are now standard on all models.
Yukon shares the same basic full-size truck platform used for the Yukon XL, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, Sierra and Silverado pickups, and Cadillac Escalade. Yukon is in the same class as the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia.
The 2012 Yukon SLE 2WD ($40,085) and AWD ($44,095) come with a 320-hp 5.3-liter flex-fuel V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission. SLE trim includes cloth upholstery; three-zone climate control with rear controls; power front bucket seats; 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; Bose AM/FM/CD/XM sound system; Bluetooth; automatic headlights; fog lights; theft-deterrent system; roof rack with crossrails; front recovery hooks; trailer hitch platform with seven-wire harness; six months of OnStar service; and P265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels.
Yukon SLT 2WD ($45,570) and AWD ($48,425) upgrade to leather upholstery; adjustable pedals; rear park assist; remote start; auto-dimming inside mirror; and universal garage door opener. The SLT-2 package ($1,545) adds additional front seat adjustments with 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 ($55,010) and AWD ($58,005) upgrade with 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; and 20-inch chromed aluminum wheels with 275/55R20 tires. Side blind zone alert system, previously an option, is now standard; so is the all-new HDD navigation system described in the Introduction, integrated into a Bose 10.1 Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system and including voice activation, NavTraffiic, and a rearview camera.
Yukon Hybrid 2WD ($52,470) and 4WD ($55,280) are well-equipped, slotting between SLT2 and Denali for features and amenities. However, the Hybrid does come standard with a 6.0-liter V8 gas engine and electric drive system contained within the transmission that rate 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque. The Hybrid models come standard with the new HDD navigation system and rearview camera, locking rear differential, and P265/65R18 low-rolling resistance tires on alloy wheels. It does not have roof rails, fog lamps, or a separately-opening glass on the liftgate. Hybrid mechanicals are warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles. A spare tire for any Hybrid is extra ($995).
Yukon Denali Hybrid is available in 2WD ($60,285) or 4WD ($63,130). It gets Denali trim and appearance, plus 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels. Options are limited but include a spare tire/wheel ($995), moonroof ($995), and rear entertainment ($1295).
Options for Yukon include 20-inch wheels ($1795); audio and entertainment system upgrades; special paints; moonroof ($995); retractable side steps ($1095); trailer brake controller ($200); rear DVD entertainment ($1295); Z71 Off-Road package ($560); second-row bucket seats ($590); 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.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual-stage front airbags; seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front row; 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. Side blind zone alert is standard on Denali but not offered on other models. Optional are rearview cameras, and rear park assist.