2021 GMC Yukon preview

Reviews

The 2021 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV from the truckmaker and its biggest to date. It’s new for the 2021 model year and its changes represent the largest shift for the brute ‘ute in more than a decade. 

Like the outgoing model, the 2021 Yukon is available in standard or long-wheelbase configuration, the latter is called Yukon XL. The Yukon is mechanically related to the new 2021 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, which are covered elsewhere. 

With the Yukon, GMC has another high-dollar hauler to add to its arsenal and one with more trims than before. 

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GMC hasn’t said how much the Yukon will cost when it goes on sale in summer 2020, but it’s likely to crest the $51,895 starting price of the outgoing 2020 version. GMC will offer the 2021 Yukon in SLE, SLT, AT4, and Denali trim levels. 

Styling and performance

The 2021 Yukon draws heavily from the Sierra 1500 from which it’s based and stubs a bigger grille into the truck’s snout—depending on trim level. 

So far, GMC has only detailed the luxury Denali and off-road-adjacent AT4 trim levels, each with their respective looks. The Denali goes all-in on chrome up front with a big, honeycomb chrome grille up front, surrounded by chrome above and below. C-shaped LED lights frame the badge, which floats toward the top in the ocean of chrome.

More chrome? Sure. The fog lights have chrome surrounds, and the body sides have chrome too. 

The AT4 version subs in black and matte black in place of the Denali’s chrome and adds accents such as red tow hooks and visible skid plating to boost its macho resume. 

Inside, the Yukons have a low dash with a 10.0-inch touchscreen planted on top of the dash. A push- and pull-button gear selector—similar to the GMC Terrain, except vertically oriented—sits on the driver’s side, next to touchscreen and climate controls perched low in the center stack. 

Yukon Denalis get their own dashboard that’s more upright and covered in real wood trim. The 10.0-inch touchscreen is integrated into the dash for a better look, although the center console and storage are the same throughout. 

GMC relies on one of two V-8 or a 3.0-liter turbodiesel to power the Yukon. A 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 is standard on most trims and a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 is optional, except on the Denali version, where it’s standard equipment. A 277-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 is available on the Denali and other trims and all engines pair to a standard 10-speed automatic. 

Rear-wheel drive is standard on most trims and automatic four-wheel drive is available on every trim except AT4, where it’s standard. 

For the first time, the Yukon rides on a four-wheel independent suspension that can be upgraded with adaptive dampers and an air suspension that can raise or lower the Yukon by 4 inches for better ground clearance or cruising. 

An electronic limited-slip differential is available on most models equipped with four-wheel drive to find better grip—should any Yukons dare to leave the road. 

GMC said the Yukon AT4 will be equipped with chunky Goodyear all-terrain tires wrapped around 20-inch wheels, while Denali version will strut on 22s when they arrive. 

Comfort, safety, and features

The 2021 Yukon is longer than its predecessor by nearly six inches (210 inches from bumper to bumper) with a wheelbase that stretches 120.9 inches, almost five inches longer than before. 

The biggest change inside is for wayback riders in the third row, which gets nearly 35 inches of leg room, up more than 10 inches on the 2020 version. The Yukon’s cargo capacity has grown too. With all three rows of seats in place the Yukon holds 25.5 cubic feet of gear or 122.9 cubic feet with the second and third rows stowed. 

The Yukon XL measures 225.2 inches from end to end (up about one inch from last year) and rides a wheelbase that’s 134.1 inches long. Third-row riders get 36.7 inches of leg room. With rows two and three in place, the Yukon XL holds 41.1 cubic feet of cargo, or 144.7 cubes with the rows out of the way.

GMC didn’t detail many of the 2021 Yukon’s safety features, but automatic emergency braking is standard on all models and a surround-view camera system is available. The Yukon offers up to nine cameras for better outward vision and towing assistance and the Yukon likely features adaptive cruise control and active lane control available or standard on most models. 

GMC also didn’t say how each trim would be fitted nor how much the Yukon would cost when it goes on sale in summer 2020. 

Stay tuned.

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