Coming to an upper-middle-class neighborhood near you: The 2021 GMC Yukon is richer and bigger, with details and a price tag to match. The 2021 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV from the truckmaker and its biggest to date. Available in Yukon and long-body Yukon XL form, it’s a rival for the related Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, and the Cadillac Escalade.
It’s new for the 2021 model year and its changes represent the largest shift for the brute ‘ute in more than a decade. It’s larger, has a more sophisticated suspension in pricey versions, gets an optional turbodiesel engine, and sports more cameras and forward gears than ever. With the Yukon, GMC has another high-dollar hauler to add to its arsenal and one with more trims than before. It’s blessed with excellent powertrains, copious interior room for people and their baggage, a long roster of standard safety and luxury features, and a face we prefer to the one on the Tahoe/Suburban, by a slight margin.
How do we get there? We start with the snapped chalk lines that frame the Yukon body. It’s big and bluff, with a massive grille that sits chest-high to 6-footers. Its C-shaped lighting corners the body like photos in an album, and the slight forward kick of its C-pillar gives the Yukon some visual motion when it’s parked. Inside it’s low-key lavish in Denali trim, with wood layered between metallic trim and leather; all versions get a big 10.2-inch touchscreen dovetailed neatly into the dash.
GMC taps a 355-horsepower V-8 for the most popular Yukons; Denali makes an inline-6 turbodiesel with 460 lb-ft of torque standard, while the larger 420-hp V-8 is optional. All team with a 10-speed automatic for mostly invisible power transfers to the rear or all four wheels. GMC’s traction systems get assists from available electronic limited-slip differentials, wheels sized from 18 to 22 inches, and newly available adaptive dampers and air springs. In its most mechanically complex form, the GMC Yukon knits it all together for seamless power, a remarkable ride, firmly controlled steering, and sad-face fuel economy.
The Yukon’s fitted with up to eight seats and cargo room for multiple roll-on bags or a full Welsh dresser, depending on which seats are folded. The seat comfort’s high in the front and second rows, but even row three can fit 6-foot-tall adults for crosstown treks. In Denali trim, the Yukon wears the low sheen of modern luxury like low-heel boots.
Crash-test scores aren’t in yet, but the 2021 Yukon gets standard automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and towing and surround-view camera systems can be ordered. The Yukon’s gorgeous 10.2-inch touchscreen wields wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as in-car wi-fi; Denalis upgrade the basics with a power sunroof, power-folding third-row seats, leather upholstery, and wireless smartphone charging.
The Yukon’s richly appointed, especially in Denali trim and come with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. We recommend the most expensive one, but even the $53,290 Yukon SLE will have great feature content. It comes with power features, cruise control, a 10.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 18-inch wheels. Four-wheel drive is a $4,000 option (but only $3,000 on the similar Chevy Tahoe); the XL body is $2,700.
The $60,390 Yukon SLT adds 20-inch wheels, nine-speaker Bose audio, wireless smartphone charging, leather upholstery, and heated and cooled front seats. The $67,390 Yukon AT4 could be great because it comes with hill descent control, 20-inch off-road tires, skid plates, and recovery hooks. If cost is no object, we’d spend up into the $71,290 Yukon Denali, which gets the adaptive suspension, four-wheel drive, the bigger V-8, 14-speaker sound, wood trim, heated second-row seats, a power-fold third-row seat, blind-spot monitors, and a surround-view camera system. Options include a rear-seat entertainment system, a power sunroof, 22-inch wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, an air suspension, active cruise control, a rear camera mirror, and a trailering package with hitch-view camera and trailer blind-spot monitors.
The GMC Yukon has always been a contender in the large SUV class. GMC’s refinements for 2021, especially with the new rear suspension and improved driving manners, only solidify that position in a very competitive market. The 2021 GMC Yukon is a formidable contender and deserves a place on your shopping list.