Historically thought of as a towing workhorse, the 2020 GMC Yukon still performs this function brilliantly. This is mostly due to its body-on-frame, truck-based construction. GMC continues to feature a solid rear axle in the Yukon. This is the best setup for towing and hauling heavy loads. (Maximum towing capacity with the V8 is a robust 8,500 pounds.) It isn’t, however, the best setup for transporting people or running everyday errands. The solid rear axle not only does a poor job absorbing pavement irregularities, it requires a high cargo floor. Neither of these features are favorable for everyday use.
If you are more interested in hauling people than towing heavy loads, you might take a look at the Ford Expedition. It eliminates the two serious shortcomings of Yukon’s solid axle by using an independent rear suspension.
Otherwise, Yukon is a solid choice in the full-size SUV arena. Even the base SLE grade is well-equipped, and, in its Denali trim, it’s downright luxurious.
What’s New for 2020?
With the next-generation Yukon scheduled to launch early next year, there are no changes for 2020. See the 2020 GMC Yukon models for sale near you
What We Like
- Upscale interior
- A user-friendly infotainment system
- Seats as many as nine
- Impressive towing with either powertrain
What We Don’t
- Absurdly snug third row in the regular length
- Sky-high load height
- Solid-rear axle
- Lack of maneuverability in tight spaces
- Sluggish off the line
- Surprisingly pricey
The standard engine for the GMC Yukon and the 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, this engine achieves 15 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg in combined driving. Those figures are effectively reduced by one mpg in the 4-wheel-drive versions.
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 transmission. Fuel economy is 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined with RWD and 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined with 4WD.
For those who need to tow, the 5.3-liter Yukon is rated up to 8,500 pounds with RWD and 8,200 pounds with 4WD. Denali RWD will tow a maximum of 8,400 pounds and 8,100 pounds with 4WD.
Standard Features & Options
The GMC Yukon comes in four trim levels: SLE, Standard SLT, SLT and Denali. Two body styles, the regular-length Yukon and the larger Yukon XL, are offered. 4WD is available on all versions. Prices include the $1,295 factory destination fee.
The Yukon SLE ($51,895 Yukon; $54,695 Yukon XL) features a 5.3-liter V8, 18-in wheels, a backup camera, automatic wipers, fog lights, remote ignition, a roof rack with cross bars, heated outboard mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a power driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt 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 seats 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, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. The Convenience package adds a power lift gate, power-adjustable pedals and an auto-dimming mirror.
Moving up to the Yukon Standard SLT ($56,095 Yukon; $58,895 Yukon XL) adds automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam assist, 12-volt outlets, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, leather front seats, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.
SLT ($59,095 Yukon: ($61,795) Yukon XL) brings with it lane-change alert, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, hands-free power rear lift gate, remote keyless entry, push-button start, integrated turn signals in heated outboard mirrors, heated/ventilated front seats, heated second-row outboard seats, heated steering wheel, power folding third-row seat and power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel.
Optional is the Graphite Edition Package with upgraded 22-in bright wheels, black assist steps, a black grille insert and fog light surrounds as well as the Z85 suspension package. The Graphite Performance Edition includes the larger 6.2-liter V8 engine, the 10-speed automatic transmission, 22-in black wheels, an 8-in driver info center, a head-up display, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, Bose active noise cancellation, a trailer-brake controller and magnetic ride control, among other goodies.
The premium Yukon Denali ($68,995 Yukon; $71,795 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 the 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-in wheels, power-retractable running boards and nine extra months of satellite radio.
The 2020 GMC Yukon includes a full complement of airbags, including front-seat, side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags. A segment-exclusive front-seat center-mounted airbag is also standard (only on models with bucket seats) and provides the driver and passenger with an extra level of protection in the event of a side-impact collision. Additional safety features and options include parking sensors, GM’s Safety Alert Seat, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic assist 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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Behind the Wheel
If you’re holding your breath, anticipating we’ll tell you the Yukon has precise handling and sporty moves, you should exhale now because no such comment is coming. The SUV comes off as clumsy to drive. With its weight of 5,500 pounds, its tall height and its body-on-frame construction, the Yukon drives every bit as big as it is. However, those elements are common to all full-size SUVs. The Yukon actually goes a few steps farther 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 performance and ride-quality demons is the Denali grade. Its larger engine boasts more power and torque, and importantly, the standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension improves the model’s ride quality considerably. Handling is also improved somewhat.
Inside, the 2020 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 provides a pleasant place to spend some 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. This is rectified in the Yukon XL and another problem not shared by the Expedition. Again, this is the result of a rear suspension elevating the cargo area load floor to an uncomfortable height.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Ford Expedition — 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.
2020 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban — This duo is mechanically identical to the Yukon and the Yukon XL, with Chevy‘s models being less expensive versions. Also, Magnetic Ride Control is standard on Chevy’s LTZ trim, which costs less than the Denali.
2020 Buick Enclave — 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, yet it’s still part of the GM family. Prices are steep, though, so as an alternative to Yukon, you’ll probably want to look at a certified pre-owned or a used model.
If ride quality is of maximum importance to you, we think you’d be better off with a Ford Expedition. But if you must go with the Yukon, the SLT offers the upscale features buyers expect from a GMC while still holding the bottom line around the $60,000 mark. Ponying up extra for the XL may be a good idea, too, if a functional third-row seat is a priority. Find a GMC Yukon for sale