By Aaron Bragman on September 12, 2013
Competes with: Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada
Looks like: A more aerodynamic and elegant take on the current model
Drivetrain: Standard Ecotec3 5.3-liter V-8; six-speed automatic transmission; optional 6.2-liter V-8, Denali only
Hits dealerships: Early 2014
Need a full-size SUV, but find the Chevrolet Suburban to be a bit too common? Like the luxury of a Cadillac Escalade, but don't want the attention? Refuse to set foot in a Ford, Nissan or Toyota product? Then GMC would like to show you the new Yukon and longer Yukon XL, redesigned for the 2015 model year after a long stretch without much in the way of updates. The last Yukon update happened in 2007, and GM believes that there are many current Yukon owners who have been waiting for this model to arrive before heading down to their dealers to upgrade.
GMC has thoroughly reworked the Yukon and Yukon XL, the only real difference between the two being the length and the resultant interior volume. Changes discussed here generally apply to both the Yukon and Yukon XL models. Changes start with all-new sheet metal and a distinctive front end that incorporates the new GMC C-shaped LEDs into the headlights.
Powertrains come in two flavors — standard is GM's new Ecotec3 5.3-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and optional is the big 6.2-liter V-8 that's available only on the upmarket Denali luxury trim. The Denali gets subtle cosmetic changes as well, including a mesh grille, 22-inch wheels and nicer interior trim with an 8-inch reconfigurable driver display screen. No information was made available about the Yukon's four-wheel-drive system, towing abilities or fuel economy numbers at press time.
Interiors on all Yukons are a dramatic improvement and a welcome update. Carlike and beautifully styled, they are made of high-quality materials that seem very well screwed together. The dashboard contains a standard 8-inch touch-screen and GMC's IntelliLink multimedia system with optional navigation. A storage cubby resides behind the articulated touch-screen, and cupholders abound throughout the interior.
New for the Yukons is a fold-flat third-row seat — no longer removable, the rear split-bench folds into the floor at the touch of a button, as does the second row, resulting in a relatively flat cargo floor without the need to manhandle a heavy bench out the rear hatch and store it somewhere. The new system does take a good 3 or 4 inches out of the usable interior cargo height, but the trade-off for always having three rows of seats with you is likely to be worth it to many buyers.
As one would expect with a major redesign, the new SUVs get a full raft of the latest GM electronic safety equipment. Forward radar for collision and lane departure warning systems, blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic braking systems, center-mounted side airbags for the front seats, adaptive cruise control and the patented Safety Alert Seat are all available.
The new Yukons will start production in Texas soon and are slated to arrive in dealerships in the first few months of 2014.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron