GMC’s Yukon proves bigger is better, sometimes |

GMC’s Yukon proves bigger is better, sometimes

Andy Stonehouse
summit daily auto writer
2009 GMC Yukon Denali. X09GM_YU011 (United States)
Wieck | GM

With a level of largesse that seems straight out of a Presidential entourage, the mighty GMC Yukon went through a substantial refresh a few years back. I actually attended the launch event in early 2006, heading off on a strange ride and drive through the wilds of northeastern Georgia, but having spent much of that year in a slightly altered state, I was left with some fairly dim impressions.

Three years later, straight as an arrow, I stepped back behind the gigantic wheel of the Yukon and I realized that it’s a pretty impressive machine, as far as large, imposing SUVs go.

The standard Yukon, outfitted with 4WD and a 320-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8, will do all the things an SUV is supposed to do: Tow up to 8,400 pounds of trailer, haul you and as many as eight passengers around and return a solid 20 mpg highway, maybe 14 in the city.

Those final figures started catching up with GM during last year’s fuel fiasco, and this year has seen the release of a hybrid version of the Yukon, which, oddly, substitutes a larger engine (a 6.0 liter Vortec) and a matching electric motor system to double the city mileage (21 city, 22 hwy.) and produce a little more power and torque (332 HP, 367 lb.-ft.).

I didn’t get to play with the Yukon hybrid setup this go-round, although I did spend a week in the hybrid GMC Sierra not soon afterwards, and can attest that the company’s new two-mode gas-electric system is much more livable and less herky-jerky than in the past. Not a Prius, by any means – there’s still a building-sized piece of people-hauling metal to move around – but General Motors’ award-winning hybrid configuration is a nice idea, especially when you do the math on the total mileage increase. Well, maybe.

As for the old-fashioned (but admittedly flex fuel-capable) Yukon, feeling large and in charge is both a good and a bad thing. Hit the remote starter, clamber up into the cabin and … almost instantaneously, you find yourself swaggering like Kid Rock and driving like a distracted Highlands Ranch soccer mom. Look out, everyone.

It seems impossible to commandeer a Yukon in a subtle fashion; maybe its birth in a GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas has something to do with that. But to the big machine’s credit, it absolutely and completely effortlessly got me through the final day of snow back in the spring here in the Front Range, absolutely secure in 4WD despite the impressive mass of the machine.

And even in “base” Yukon guise (the Yukon Denali bumps things up to near-Escalade interior finery), it’s a comfortable, leathery-cabined experience that includes a substantially powerful Bose stereo system, ferocious three-zone heating and cooling and just a bit too much fake wood trim and plastic for 50 large.

GM’s six-speed automatic transmission with an adjustable sequential switch on the lever imparts more control in harnessing the power; the slightly thin steering wheel is festooned with an ungainly array of buttons.

Second-row seats rather loudly and powerfully flop and crash forward to gain access to a full and comfortable third row of seating, while a touchpad activates the power rear liftgate.

Looks are equally big and brassy, from the huge, chrome-clad wheels to the gigantic, chrome-rimmed grille and the washbasin-sized headlamps.

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