The new 2021 GMC Yukon is the sister to the Chevy Tahoe – which we just recently reviewed. Of course, most of their architectural features are common; however, the Yukon has its own fans mostly because of the Denali trim package that historically has accounted for more than 50% of its total sales. GMC is very aware of this buying trend and has worked hard to set Denali apart, so as to make it special. In addition, this time around, they have also added an AT4 package to the lineup. We’ll have a look at both, but first a brief recap of the new SUV highlights.

For 2021 the Yukon becomes larger, more capable and also more connected. The key change to the Yukon’s architecture is a new independent rear suspension. This addition also creates a whole new interior space. By dumping the solid rear axle, they have achieved a fully flat floor in the rear. Along with a stretched body these two changes net an increase of 10-inches of additional third-row legroom as well as 66% more cargo space behind that third-row seat. This much usable third-row space is a big deal.

GM has also added Magnetic Ride Control to this new suspension. This system “reads” the road and changes the damping of the shocks as needed – in milli-seconds. Also new is Air Ride Adaptive Suspension. With air suspension you get the benefits of an off-road lift (2-inches) at the touch of a button – and – because it constantly seeks to maintain a level attitude when you hook up a trailer it will automatically auto-level the tongue weight.

Electronics and being connected is a priority today and GM put in the overtime to make sure that this new Yukon is the most connected ever. It has features like a standard 10-inch centre mounted touchscreen and an 8-inch diagonal instrument cluster display. The Head-Up display is larger, covering 15-inches on the projected windshield image. In addition, dual 12.6-inch screens are available for the second-row passengers, fixed to the rear of the first-row headrests. Throughout the truck outlets, (12V, 110V, USB) are smartly placed to give access to powered devices in all three rows. Of course, the Yukon features 4G Wi-Fi that can have as many as 10 devices on-line at the same time. Also available on the Yukon is a nine-camera system that includes Hi-Def Surround Vision, a rear camera mirror and GMC’s ProGrade trailering system.

The standard powertrain for the new Yukon is the 5.3L V8 that makes 355hp. However, the 6.2L V8, rated at 420hp, is optional on other trims. Both these engines feature GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management technology that can switch through 12 different modes of cylinder deactivation for the best fuel efficiency under any condition, including when towing a trailer. Both engines also feature automatic stop/start function and they are both paired with GM’s 10-speed automatic transmission. The third powertrain to join this stable is Duramax’s new 3L inline-6 diesel engine. This small diesel is rated at 277hp and offers 460 lb-ft of torque; most of which is available at very low rpms. This diesel is a late availability – most likely coming in December of this year. Note* not every engine is available in every trim package – check with the dealer.

GM interiors have been lacking for a few years now; but for 2021 in the Yukon that is no longer the case. Materials, design and accents have all been improved for a much more modern, comfortable interior.

Now – back to Denali. As I already said more than 50% of Yukon sales are Denalis. People love them – but their greatest complaint in the past was that there was not enough differentiation between Denali and lower trim levels in the Yukon line-up. That’s now fixed.

For the first time, Denali models have an exclusive interior – a completely new instrument panel, unique seats and a choice of four unique colour themes, each with its own personality – outfitted with premium, authentic materials. Each of these themes includes authentic wood trim, with a natural look and texture. Leather surfaces are cut and stitched by hand in a unique Denali pattern. On the outside, Denali has always had unique accents – now there is more. Denali’s trademark Galvano chrome grille is larger and more detailed with over 10,000 individual reflective surfaces. Advanced lighting technology on Denali shows off a C-shaped front lighting signature. Called a “light blade” it delivers LED illumination for the daytime running lamps. LEDs are also used for the headlamps, taillamps, fog lamps and other illuminative elements. The overall effect is unique – no one will mistake a Denali for another Yukon trim package.

The other major change this time around is GM’s move to offer an off-road version of the Yukon that is more than just a paint scheme. The first-ever Yukon AT4 features a unique front fascia that gives it a rugged all-terrain look and supports off-road capability. Specifically, the cut, swept back bumper is unique to AT4 and serves a practical off-road purpose. A pair of red recovery hooks and the obvious skid plate also make this package unique. If you get the available four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, the AT4 can raise itself an additional 2 inches (50 mm). When at this height, the Yukon AT4 offers a nearly 32-degree approach angle for added off-road capability. AT4 provides a contrast to Denali’s chrome-oriented look with body colour or dark accents.

Key features of the AT4 include:

  • Two-speed transfer case
  • 20-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires
  • Traction Select System with off-road mode
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Skid plates on the underbody
  • AT4-exclusive seats and stitching
  • Unique Jet-Black interior colour theme with Brandy accents
  • Heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row outboard seats

The GMC Yukon, in all its variations, is on sale at dealers now.

Images courtesy of GMC.

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