If you prefer your vehicular transportation on a massive scale, the GMC Yukon is rolling out the welcome mat. A very large welcome mat.
For 2021, the first cousin to the Chevrolet Tahoe – and rich-uncle Cadillac Escalade – has been redesigned, top to bottom. Most obvious is the Yukon’s grille that’s even larger than the previous generation’s, plus crisp new body panels that look tidy and elegant, which is a neat trick for this squared-off mega-hauler.
There’s also a new frame to which an equally new independent rear suspension – a first for Yukon – is attached. Beyond improving overall ride and handling, it contributes to increased stowage capacity behind the standard three rows of seats.
The 2021 Yukon is 15 centimetres longer than before and has nearly 13 more centimetres between the front and rear wheels. Room behind the third row has increased by an astounding 66 per cent. With the second and third rows folded flat, total load area is up by 30 per cent. Third-row legroom is increased by 41 per cent.
The second-row seats (bench or optional captain’s chairs) now slide fore and aft by up to 14 centimetres, providing easier access to the third row.
The longer-wheelbase Yukon XL – the twin of the Chevrolet Suburban – is also larger, but not nearly to the same degree as the standard-length Yukon.
The restyled cabin includes an upscale-flavored dashboard and gauges, and thankfully retains easy-to-use knobs for the audio and climate controls. The only glitch is a turn-signal stalk that also operates the windshield and rear-window wiper/washers.
A tablet-type touch-screen is standard for base models, while the version in the premium Denali model is flush with the dash.
The extra-wide floor console has plenty of room. Optional for upper trims is a power-sliding console that can be adjusted rearward by up to 25 centimetres and reveals a hidden storage spot for your valuables.
The standard engine is a 5.3-litre V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, which carries over from 2020. An available 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel is rated at 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet. Its max torque occurs at a low 1,500 rpm, which makes it ideal for trailering (Yukons can tow up to 3,800 kilograms). Also returning is a 6.2-litre V-8 — exclusive to the Yukon Denali — with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard.
The 5.3’s fuel consumption is rated at 14.3 l/100 km in the city, 11.8 on the highway and 13.2 combined. That engine delivers more than sufficient grunt for motivating the 2,450-kilogram Yukon without feeling stressed or strained.
All-wheel-drive is optional in the base SLE, SLT and Denali Yukons, but is standard with the new off-road oriented AT4 trim. It’s fitted with a two-speed transfer case, underbody protective skid plates, Hill Descent Control and multi-mode Traction Select with Tour, Sport, Tow/Haul and Off Road settings. Also included is a heated steering wheel, premium leather seat coverings and heated front and rear seats.
The base Yukon SLE starts at $59,900 (including destination charges), while the AT4 costs $76,600. The Denali starts at $81,700. That’s a fair chunk of coin but is totally in keeping with the Yukon’s competitors.
Considering the size bump bestowed upon the Yukon, which dramatically increases interior space, it might be less necessary to spend an extra $3,000 for the XL. Whichever iteration you choose, you can be secure in the knowledge that, kilo for kilo, the Yukon’s style, comfort and performance are pretty much tops in its class.
What you should know: 2021 GMC Yukon
Type: Rear/ all-wheel-drive full-size sport utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.): 5.3-litre OHV V-8 (355); 6.2-liter OHV V-8 (420); 3.0-litre DOHC I-6, turbo-diesel (277)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Market position: The Yukon and Yukon XL are part of an elite group of extra-large utility vehicles dominated by the GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands. All have been re-engineered for the 2021 model year.
Points: The newest edition conveys a bolder, more stylish image. • Larger size creates significantly more cargo and passenger space for those seated in back. • Heavy reliance on the 5.3-litre V-8 engine, but it has a nearly ideal balance of power and efficiency. • The power-retractable running-board option is almost a requirement for shorter passengers.
Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (std.); adaptive cruise control (opt.); front emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (n.a.); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 14.3/11.8 (5.3 V-8)
Base price (incl. destination): $59,900