GMC Yukon continues to go BIG!
If you’re the type of driver that feels bigger is better you’d better hustle off to a GMC dealer and declare your love for the 2015 GMC Yukon.
This is a heavyweight that’ll pull at least 8,200 lbs., has room for 6 or 7 adults, rides high and commands the road like little else, except its bigger brother, the Yukon XL. Note that Chevrolet has its own versions of both, with Chevy’s Tahoe being a twin to Yukon, while the Suburban is comparable to the Yukon XL.
Let’s be perfectly clear, you don’t need a Yukon, unless you tow a big boat, large trailer or happen to have a big-boned large family. But you may want one if even a bit of the aforementioned is true and you intend to tow something heavy.
Start with its dimensions. The tested Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase and is 203.9 inches long. The XL expands the wheelbase to 130 inches and grows 21 inches in length. That’s a lot more cargo room. The XL also is the one you want if you need to carry 9 adults. There’s more legroom in the third row seats.
But legroom and headroom are decent in the second and third rows even in the Yukon. The downside with Yukon is that there’s precious little cargo room behind row three. In fact, grocery bags are about it, unless you strap some cargo to the roof.
The good news?
Well, in the test truck that carried a hefty $64,520 price tag, the third row seats power down via buttons inside the power rear hatch. The second row seats also fold flat into the floor and have a power feature in the tested SLT model. So if you’re hauling a lot of cargo, say 94.7 cu.ft. worth of stuff, it’ll fit fine. The cargo bed also is high, so sliding heavy items in and out will be a breeze.
Yukon and Tahoe have been restyled to be even boxier and smoother with a new chassis and suspension system underneath. Yukon’s doors are what GM calls inlaid doors that are said to make the big truck slicker through the air, gaining 10% in fuel economy. The door seams are tight and Yukon looks more like an athlete in a well-tailored suit than the previous model.
GMC brags that it’ll get 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. I got 18.7 mpg in about 80% highway driving. Past experience shows that’s better than I’ve experienced, but low considering all the highway driving. Still, up is up!
There’s no denying the Yukon looks like it means business and its new 5.3-liter V8 engine with variable valve timing and an active fuel management system offers good grunt to pull a load. But there’s also no denying the Yukon weighs 5,545 lbs., which makes it feel heavy and slow in city driving, despite its 355 horsepower.
While the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts cleanly, there’s just not much oomph when you accelerate normally in town. The truck doesn’t creep much when you take your foot off the brake and you have to press the accelerator a fair ways before it engages power from the engine. I felt I had to jam the gas pedal if I wanted to pick up any speed quickly.
There’s also the usual hesitation you get with a truck or large vehicle as you accelerate coming out of a corner at speed. I mention this only to point out that trucks do NOT drive the same as large cars, due to their height and weight. You need to plan ahead if you think you’ll need power post haste.
Handling is OK, but the steering definitely has improved from past models. While not carlike, steering reacts quicker with the new chassis and suspension. I still felt some lane wander on the big 18-inch tires, but correcting it is easy.
Ride is still trucky, meaning there is some jiggle on bumps and some rock and roll over parking lot entry ramps or other road imperfections. But it’s well controlled and you’re well insulated in the Yukon so bumps aren’t painful. In general, this feels like a luxurious pickup in ride and comfort, just much quieter.
While two-wheel drive is standard, this one has a 4-wheel-drive system controlled by a dial on the dash’s left. Automatic allows the system to shift between 2- and 4-wheel drive, or you can set it to whichever you deem necessary, including low for off-roading.
The tested black SLT with 4-wheel-drive looks luxurious, hence its $57,735 starting price. Its interior delivers a luxury sedan look too, but with more and bigger seats. It packs all the bells and whistles you’d expect on any luxury vehicle, and the SLT comes with leather seating.
The test truck had a tan over brown leather dash and door trim with tan perforated leather seats. The seat bottoms are fairly flat, but the backs offer more side support and both front seats are power adjustable. The driver gets a power lumbar button and two position memory settings too.
Front seats are heated and cooled seats while the second row’s two captain’s chairs are heated. The steering wheel also is heated with a button on its hub and there’s the usual array of electronic goodies, such as a back-up camera, blind-spot warning system, lane departure warning and forward collision alert that lights up and brakes the vehicle automatically if a vehicle slows suddenly in front of you.
The cruise control is dynamic too, that means it’s smart enough to slow down when a vehicle pulls in front of you on the highway and then waits until that vehicle has put some distance between you before resuming your original speed. While aiding safety, in heavy traffic this can become annoying, so switch it off and drive it yourself.
Did I mention how quiet the Yukon is inside? This too is like a luxury sedan.
Other pluses include power-adjustable gas and brake pedals and wide running boards. The test truck also added a $3,255 sun and entertainment package that includes the sunroof, and a big audio/navigation touchscreen plus a rear seat entertainment system with fold-down screen. There also is a trailering package ($650), polished aluminum 20-inch wheels ($1,400) and more.
With a $995 delivery fee the test truck was nearly $65 grand, but you don’t have to spend that much. A base 2-wheel-drive Yukon SLE starts at $47,330 and a 4-wheel-drive model for $50,330. Moving up to the top-level Yukon Denali with all-wheel-drive pushes the price to $66,675, but the Denali has a 420-horse 6.2-liter V8 and larger 20-inch tires vs. 18-inch on the test ute.
If you need the longer version, an XL SLE model starts at $50,030 for a 2-wheel-drive model and goes up from there.
In any form the Yukon is a big luxury ute that will pull a big load to the lake, mountains or campgrounds, and will give you a strong luxury feel.
FAST Stats: 2015 GMC Yukon 4WD SLT
Hits: Big and comfy with all the bells & whistles, such as heated/cooled seats, back-up camera, blind-spot warning, forward collision alert, heated steering wheel, power down rear seats and hatch. Quiet inside, has running board and will tow with the best of them.
Misses: Still modest gas mileage, ride is trucky, acceleration slow and truck feels extremely heavy.
Made in: Arlington, Texas
Engine: 5.3-liter VVT V8, 355 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 5,545 lbs.
Wheelbase: 116 in.
Length: 203.9 in.
Cargo: 94.7 cu.ft. (max.)
Tow: 8,200 lbs.
MPG: 16/22 (EPA)
MPG: 18.7 (tested)
Base Price: $57,735
Dealer’s Price: $54,688 (includes delivery)
Sun & Entertainment package (sunroof, 9 mon. XM radio, audio/nav system 8-inch touchscreen, rear seat entertainment), $3,255
Polished alum. 20-inch wheels, $1,400
Max trailering package (3.42 ratio rear axle, trailer brake controller, 2-speed transfer case, suspension package), $650
2nd row power bucket seats, $590
Theft-deterrent system, $395
Package discount: $500
Test vehicle: $64,520
Sources: GMC, http://www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage