New Car Review
2017 GMC Yukon: New Car Review
The number of big, three-row crossovers is expanding, but there will always be strong demand for a full-size SUV like the 2017 GMC Yukon. The extra capability and presence they deliver just can't be matched by the Acadias and Traverses of this world.
Like its Chevrolet siblings and the Ford Expedition, the Yukon is available in regular length and extended Yukon XL models. Generally, we think the latter is the more appealing choice due to its usable third-row seat (the regular Yukon's is shockingly uninhabitable for a vehicle its size) and greater cargo space with all seats in place. However, both models suffer from a sky-high load height and a jiggly ride caused by their solid rear axle suspension. Competitors have a more modern setup and thus have better rides and more easily accessed cargo areas.
And then there's the issue indicative of all full-size SUVs: Unless you need their stout towing and hauling capabilities, one of those big, three-row crossovers will be more maneuverable, efficient and even spacious inside.
So, although the Yukon makes a good impression -- its handsome, well-made interior truly is top notch, and its Denali trim level is just a few steps shy of the Cadillac Escalade -- it is ultimately an imperfect choice.
What's New for 2017?
A forward-collision warning system with low-speed automatic braking is added to the available features list for 2017. The optional rear seat entertainment system is also upgraded with a HDMI port and an additional USB port. Notably, every Yukon gets active grille shutters for improved highway aerodynamics.
What We Like
Upscale interior; user-friendly infotainment system; can seat up to nine people; Denali's 6.2-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic are ideal for towing
What We Don't
Third-row seats in regular Yukon are barely usable; sky-high load height; not easy to maneuver in confined spaces; sluggish throttle response; surprisingly expensive
The standard engine for the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL is a 5.3-liter V8, good for 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive (2WD), this engine achieves 16 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined. Those figures are effectively reduced by 1 mpg in the four-wheel-drive (4WD) version.
The pricier Denali trim is powered by a 6.2-liter V8, which produces 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It comes with an 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy is 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy and 17 mpg combined with 2WD and effectively the same with 4WD.
For those who need to tow, the Yukon is rated up to 8,500 pounds with 2-wheel drive and 8,200 pounds with 4-wheel drive; Denali models are rated at 8,400 and 8,100 pounds, respectively.
Standard Features & Options
The 2017 GMC Yukon comes in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. Two body styles, the regular-length Yukon and the larger Yukon XL, are also offered.
The Yukon SLE ($48,500 for the Yukon; $51,200 for the Yukon XL) features a 5.3-liter V8, 18-inch wheels, a backup camera, automatic wipers, fog lights, remote ignition, a roof rack with cross bars, heated mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a power driver seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, an 8-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, OnStar, on-board WiFi, five USB ports, satellite and HD radios, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a 9-speaker Bose sound system. Standard front bucket seating can be replaced with a 40/20/40-split bench, increasing the overall passenger capacity from eight to nine people.
The optional Enhanced Driver Alert package adds forward collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, and lane-departure warning and intervention. The Convenience package adds a power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals and an auto-dimming mirror.
Moving up to the Yukon SLT ($57,300 for the Yukon; $60,000 for the Yukon XL) includes those extras along with a hands-free power rear lift gate, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, keyless entry and push-button starting, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, second- and third-row power-folding seats, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
The premium Yukon Denali ($66,000 for the Yukon; $71,700 for the Yukon XL) brings a 6.2-liter V8, a magnetically controlled suspension, xenon headlights, a head-up display, second-row captain's chairs, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system.
Certain features on upper trim levels are available on lower ones. The SLT and Denali can be equipped with a sunroof, a rear entertainment system and adaptive cruise control.
The Yukon includes a full complement of airbags, including front-seat, side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags. Also standard is the segment's only front-seat center-mounted airbag (on models with bucket seats only) that provides greater protection to the driver and passenger in the event of a side-impact collision. Additional safety options include parking sensors, GM's Safety Alert Seat, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems and automatic high beams.
The Yukon earned a 4-star overall score out of five possible stars in crash testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The regular Yukon received 5-star ratings for frontal and side crash protection, but the XL oddly differed with a 4-star frontal score. Neither have been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Behind the Wheel
If you're holding your breath anticipating that we'll tell you that the Yukon has precise handling and sporty moves, you should exhale now, because no such review is coming. It is ponderous to drive, with its weight of 5,500 pounds, tall height and body-on-frame truck construction. However, those elements are common to all full-size SUVs. The Yukon actually goes a few steps further with sluggish throttle response and a wiggly, jiggly ride courtesy of its solid rear suspension. Competitors like the Ford Expedition do not suffer from this.
The one model that does exorcise some of these demons is the Denali trim. Its larger engine boasts more power and torque, and importantly, the standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension (the same technology used in the Corvette) improves the ride quality considerably. Handling is also improved somewhat.
Inside, the Yukon impresses with its class-leading design, materials quality and technology features. The standard IntelliLink touchscreen is easy to use, and these days, who can argue with five standard USB ports? Really, every trim level is a pleasant place to spend time. Well, as long as you're not in the third row of the regular-length Yukon. It's shockingly cramped for a vehicle of its size, something that is rectified in the Yukon XL and another problem not shared by the Expedition. Again, this is the result of the rear suspension that also elevates the cargo area load floor to an uncomfortable height.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Ford Expedition -- The Expedition and Expedition EL are about to be replaced and fall well short of the Yukon's interior design and quality. However, they offer superior third-row space and cargo capacity, along with a more civilized driving experience.
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban -- The Chevrolet duo is mechanically identical to the Yukon and Yukon XL, with the Chevy models available in less expensive versions. Also, Magnetic Ride Control is standard on Chevy's LTZ trim, which costs less than the Denali.
2017 GMC Acadia -- The GMC Acadia shrank considerably for 2017, and yet it still has a more spacious third-row seat than the regular Yukon. It's also more maneuverable, comfortable and efficient.
Used Cadillac Escalade -- The Escalade touts more equipment, more standard power and more exuberant styling than the Yukon, along with a well-known brand name. Prices are steep, though, so you may want to consider a used model.
To us, the clear choice is the SLT. It offers all the upscale features buyers expect from a GMC while still holding the bottom line well below $60,000. If you need basic family transportation with minimal frills, the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban pair cost a bit less than the duo's Yukon counterparts. If you're looking for the ultimate in luxury, the Denali will save you some money over a comparably equipped Escalade.