Riding on the same platform as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade, the GMC Yukon is big all over. And that's exactly what American families like best about it. It comes in a wide variety of trims, including a hybrid, which – with the exception of its GM cousins – is the only full-size hybrid SUV in its class.
Although the Yukon does just about everything perfectly, it has one small failing. Where competitors such as the Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada have flush, folding third-row seats, attaining a level cargo floor in the Yukon requires the 50/50 split rear seat to be removed and stowed. This may seem like nit-picking but it’s a real issue for people who have no place to store the seats or have problems lifting heavy objects.
Why you want it
The Yukon can accommodate eight passengers. Although realistically, that number is closer to six if they want to be comfortable. The Yukon offers a choice of three powerful V8 engines, some are E85-capable and some can get better than 20 miles per gallon on the highway and around 15 in the city.
Live somewhere that sees regular snow and ice? No problem. The Yukon offers one of the best all-wheel drive systems around. Need to tow a boat or a horse trailer? Relax, the Yukon can tow up to 8,200 pounds when equipped appropriately. Want something more upscale? Check out the Yukon Denali. With its luxurious interior, 380-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 and big 18- or 20-inch rims, it has all the trappings of a premium SUV without the price.
Notable features and options
The SLE comes pretty well equipped, including a 4.8-liter V8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, power windows and door locks, heated power mirrors, dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, cloth seating, AM/FM stereo with CD and auxiliary audio input, OnStar, 40/20/40 front bench with power driver’s seat, and 17-inch wheels.
Moving up to the SLT brings bucket front seats, leather seating, ultrasonic rear park assist, and a power passenger seat. The top-of-the-line Denali adds model-specific front and rear fascias, a power rear liftgate, Bose nine-speaker audio, power flip and fold second-row seats, heated and cooling front seats, tri-zone automatic temperature control, and active suspension damping.
Later SLE models gain more standard equipment. All Yukons feature anti-lock disc brakes, StabiliTrak stability control, front side-impact airbags and, on 2008 and newer, full-length side curtain airbags. Popular options include the third-row seat, rear seat DVD player, power side steps, a rear-view camera, navigation and a power sunroof. SLE and SLT trims can be equipped with four-wheel drive, while the Denali offers a more sophisticated all-wheel drive system.
Incidentally, all-wheel drive remains engaged at all times, while the Autotrac four-wheel drive system only engages when the rear wheels begin to slip. The system can be locked into four-wheel drive/high or low, but in these modes the vehicle cannot be driven at high speeds on dry pavement, only in conditions where there is wheel slippage, such as in deep snow or mud.
2008: Head curtain side airbags are made standard on all models.
2009: A six-speed automatic transmission is paired with the 5.3-liter engine. A third-row seat and Bluetooth are made standard on all models. Denali trims gain rain-sensing wipers, an integrated brake controller and a more powerful 6.2-liter engine. New options for the Denali include Side Blind Alert, a power adjustable steering column, heated steering wheel, and heated and cooled front seats.
2010: The 5.3-liter V8 is made E85-compatible, while the 6.2-liter V8 gains Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation. A USB port is added to the center console and OnStar 8.2 with long-range traffic is made standard. A single-speed transfer case is made standard on all four-wheel-drive models, with a two-speed unit available.
Engines and performance
The Yukon offers a 295-horsepower 4.8-liter on SLE 2WD, and a 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 on the SLE 4WD and SLT. The Denali is powered by a 6.2-liter engine good for around 380 hp (power jumps to 403 hp in 2009). The 5.3-liter engine (and later 6.2-liter V8) features Active Fuel Management, which basically cuts off fuel to four of the eight cylinders when they are not needed. This allows the Yukon to achieve truly impressive highway fuel economy without sacrificing power.
A combination of electronic sensors and rollover mitigation software make this the best-handling, most controllable full-size SUV ever offered by GMC. StabiliTrak stability control helps the vehicle go where it is pointed, using a combination of individual wheel braking and power reduction to keep from skidding out of control. Both the four-wheel and all-wheel drive systems can be used at highway speeds, with four-wheel-drive models offering a two-speed transfer case, should the need arise to venture off-road.
Recalls, safety ratings and warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2007 to 2010 Yukon.
2007 to 2009: Two recalls were issued for the same problem. The first deals with a possible short in the heated screen washer fluid system’s circuit board that could lead to overheating and a possible fire. The remedy was to install an inline fuse in the wiring harness. However, subsequent problems after the fix forced a second recall in which the fix was for dealers to deactivate and remove the option completely.
2009: Possible defective fuel system control module seal that could allow water to enter the module, resulting in a short circuit and ultimate failure.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety-wise, the 2007 to 2010 GMC Yukon scores well in the government’s tests. NHTSA gives the Yukon five out of five stars in its front and side impact crash tests, and three out of five in the roof strength rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did not test the Yukon.
GMC offers a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty on all Yukons and Yukon Denalis. GMC also offers extended warranty coverage through GM’s Certified Pre-Owned program. GM CPO cars come with a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the vehicle’s original in-service date.
Word on the web
We checked sites like Consumer Reports, CarComplaints.com and TahoeYukonforum.com. Other than a few complaints for one-off problems, we didn’t find much in the way of general disappointment. Owners rave about the Yukon’s interior, versatility and performance. Some found that accessing the third-row seat was not always easy, while others lamented the lack of a flush-folding third row. Consumer Reports gives positive marks in the areas of engine, drivetrain, brakes and suspension, but only average to below-average marks for squeaks and rattles, body hardware and power equipment.
Auto Trader recommendations
While all three trim levels have their benefits, the best buy is the four-wheel-drive SLT. Most features that come standard on the upscale Denali are also available for the SLT, and many owners opted for them. If towing and maximum four-wheel performance is a top priority, however, then the Denali’s advanced all-wheel drive system and larger V8 makes the most sense.