Search Cars for Sale

2021 GMC Yukon: First Look

  • The 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are fully redesigned
  • Independent rear suspension
  • New AT4 off-road model
  • Available V8 with class-best power

The 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are solid evidence that GM’s dedicated truck division, GMC, isn’t sitting on its hands in the face of Ford upping its big-UTE game with the latest generation Expedition. What we see in this comprehensive update of GMC’s flagship SUV is the brand’s determination to maintain Yukon’s luxury, as it increases capability. To those ends, the top-of-the-line Denali grade gets its own unique, even-more opulent interior. As for capability, a more powerful V8, an all-new turbodiesel and GMC’s AT4 off-road grade all come on line for 2021.

How Much Bigger is the New GMC Yukon?

Although Yukon has grown more than the Yukon XL, both are larger inside and out. Yukon’s wheelbase is up by almost 5 in and overall length by more than 6 in. This, along with the all-new independent rear suspension, contributes to third-row legroom increasing by more than 10 in, as cargo room behind that seat is up by the same amount.

Yukon XL’s growth is more modest, but its wheelbase is up by more than 4 in, and its length increased by almost an inch. Third-row legroom is better by more than 2 in and its maximum cargo space is up by 23 cu ft.

What Are the New Performance Bits?

Where to begin? Yukon and Yukon XL offer two all-new engines, as well as an enhanced carry-over V8. Standard is a new 5.3-liter V8 engine, joined by an available all-new 3.0-liter turbodiesel. The eyebrow raiser, though, is the beefed up optional 6.2-liter V8, generating 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. These numbers push the 6.2L’s output to the front of the pack of full-size SUVs.

Perhaps the biggest news for the made-over 2021 GMC Yukon is the replacement of its solid rear axle for an independent suspension system. This not only improves ride quality, but also increases cargo space.

Also available is what GMC calls its Active Response 4WD System, combining an electronic limited slip differential with other technologies to improve the system’s response to surface conditions and slipping wheels. An available four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension improves ride comfort, as well as raises the body by two inches when the Yukon is in 4WD LO.

What About Denali?

With Denali representing 60 percent of Yukon sales, it is a critical element of the SUV’s story. For the first time, Denali models have their own exclusive interior with four unique color themes, hand-cut, hand-stitched leather and authentic wood accents. All exterior lights are LEDs. Standard tech includes HD 360-degree view monitor, 15-in multi-color head-up display and rear pedestrian alert.

What Is AT4?

Already offered as a grade on the Sierra and Sierra HD trucks, as well as the Acadia, AT4 is another GMC sub-brand. This one enhancing the off-road experience. Standard are a 2-speed transfer case, Traction Select System with off-road mode, hill-descent control, skid plates and assorted appearance elements.

Why Should the Yukon Be on My Shopping List?

With this redesign, GMC has addressed one of our biggest gripes about Yukon: Its stingy third-row legroom and lack of serious cargo space behind that seat. Another plus is the added ride quality of the independent rear suspension. The range of powertrains is yet another plus. Oh, and for pure luxury, the Denali grade pretty much stands alone.

Initial Driving Impressions

After a day in a topline Yukon Denali, GMC’s new full-size SUV surprised us with just how much more refined it has become. The switch to an independent rear suspension, combined with the magnetic ride control and air suspension on this model, made for an impressively comfortable ride. It’s so good that you might forget you’re driving a sturdy, body-on-frame SUV.

The Denali’s 6.2-liter V8 proved a gratifying motivator. This engine is a well of power has satisfying grunt. The 10-speed transmission it’s connected to is also an example in smoothness. Between this ride quality, V8 power and high seating position, we felt a kinship with semi truckers. The Yukon has definite presence.

Conversely, in small confines its size requires you to plan your turns and take things slow. It also made us appreciate its new multi-camera systems.

When Will the 2021 GMC Yukon Be Available and How Much Will It Cost?

Look for the 2021 GMC Yukon to hit showrooms early this summer. GMC isn’t revealing pricing yet, but expect the MSRP of the ground-floor Yukon to be somewhere north of $50,000. An unadorned Yukon Denali may fetch as much as $70,000. Find a GMC Yukon for sale or Find a GMC Yukon XL for sale

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best Truck Deals: June 2022

These are the best deals on trucks for the month of June 2022.

Here Are 5 Great 1980s Performance Cars for Sale on Autotrader

Looking for a fun 1980s car? Look no further.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This