If you’re looking for information on a newer GMC Yukon, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 GMC Yukon Review
Full-size SUVs like the 2018 GMC Yukon deliver capabilities and sheer presence that the large crossovers of this world simply can’t match. However, if you’re truly in need of that capability, we doubt the Yukon will be your best bet. Yes, it still makes a good impression with a handsome, well-made interior, ample tech features and a stout V8 engine. However, it falls way behind in other areas.
Several of those reasons are a result of its antiquated solid rear axle suspension. This causes a jiggly ride on all but the Denali, raises the cargo area to an absurd height and renders the third-row seat nearly useless. Sure, the extended Yukon XL corrects the latter problem and adds space behind the third row as well, but you don’t have to pony up in such a way with the impressive 2018 Ford Expedition. That all-new model doesn’t suffer from the Yukon’s issues, while also boasting less ponderous handling, sharper throttle response and a more efficient engine. As such, we think it would be a good idea to start your full-size SUV search there instead.
What’s New for 2018?
The Yukon Denali gets a new 10-speed automatic and a revised grille for 2018. Its Denali Ultimate package is also new. See the 2018 GMC Yukon models for sale near you
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; jiggly ride; 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 one mpg in the 4-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 a 10-speed automatic. Fuel economy is 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy and 17 mpg combined with 2WD and effectively the same with 4WD.
For those who need to tow, the 5.3-liter Yukon is rated up to 8,500 pounds with 2-wheel drive and 8,200 pounds with 4-wheel drive.
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 ($49,100 for the Yukon; $51,800 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-telescopic steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, an 8-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, OnStar, on-board Wi-Fi, 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 lift gate, power-adjustable pedals and an auto-dimming mirror.
Moving up to the Yukon SLT ($57,200 for the Yukon; $59,900 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 start, 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 ($66,200 for the Yukon; $68,900 for the Yukon XL) brings a 6.2-liter V8, a 10-speed automatic, 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 Denali Ultimate package includes all those items plus 22-inch wheels, power-retractable running boards and nine extra months of satellite radio.
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 monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system 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’s 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 all-new 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 improves the ride quality considerably. Handling is also improved somewhat.
Inside, the 2018 GMC Yukon impresses with its class-leading design, materials quality and technology features. The standard 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
2018 Ford Expedition — The Expedition is all-new for 2018. It has superior third-row space and cargo capacity, a far more civilized driving experience and interior quality to rival the Yukon. If you’re in the market for a capable full-size SUV, this is where your search should start.
2018 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.
2018 Buick Enclave — Because the GMC Acadia shrank last year, your best large crossover alternative at a GMC-Buick dealership is the Enclave. It has a more spacious third-row seat than the regular Yukon, while being more maneuverable, comfortable, efficient and luxurious.
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.
We think you’d be better off with a Ford Expedition. But, if you must, the SLT offers the upscale features buyers expect from a GMC while still holding the bottom line well below $60,000. Ponying up extra for the XL may be a good idea, too, since its third row is actually usable.