DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Few would argue this 2015 GMC Yukon (and it's Chevrolet Tahoe sibling) is the most luxurious, best-trimmed full-size SUV General Motors has ever conceived. Building on the exceptional Sierra platform, the Yukon gets additional rigidity thanks to its full body -- versus a flexy bed structure -- that makes it even quieter, smoother and better controlled than its benchmark pickup truck brother.
Optioned as our tester was, a leather-trimmed interior boasting nearly every conceivable luxury greets the driver and passengers; heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, power everything, trailer brake controller, adjustable pedals … try to think of something and chances are this particular Yukon offers it. At $65,000, it darn well should, at least until one considers the competitors in the class include the outstanding but equally pricey Mercedes-Benz GL, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
Among the long list of electronic goodies -- blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, collision warning, etc. -- GMC's latest version of Intellilink (aka Chevy MyLink) is outstanding. Not only are the basic on-screen icons minimized to only show main tasks, but tasks like pairing a phone, choosing a Sirius/XM station and entering navigation information are straightforward and reliable. Things just work. Also, there are knobs for volume and tuning as God intended…
Spoiler alert: The Yukon is big -- that's not a problem in and of itself -- but it also drives big. The 5.3-liter V8, the only engine offered in standard-wheelbase Yukons, just doesn't feel like it's enough for this thing even with a light load aboard. You have to mash the throttle to get any kind of acceleration -- it'll jump if you prod it, but you have to prod it every time. Part of the issue is Active Fuel Management, which drops the V8 into V4 mode whenever it can; thing is, the net result (in mostly city driving) still left me with an indicated average of 13.5 mpg. I can't imagine what a slug it would be with 5,000 pounds on the trailer hitch.
The experience really makes me curious to drive the EcoBoost-equipped Expedition due from Ford: That engine delivers 40 more lb-ft of torque 1,500 rpm lower in the rev range, which might be precisely what an SUV of this size needs. Actually, it needs a diesel -- our Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec long-termer feels downright sprightly next to the Yukon, mainly due to its massive torque at a barely off-idle 1,500 rpm. Yes, the Benz is also 300 pounds lighter, but the driving difference is night and day.
All that said, the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe have tons of fans, and deservedly so. This redesign will give them more of what they love in these big brutes -- namely luxury, interior comfort and acres of space -- while lessening the downsides like fuel economy and maneuverability. It's hard not to play what-if, though -- what if there was a torquey small diesel under the hood that could give 26 or so mpg on the highway…or a turbo six. That change would make it hard to find fault with this new full-size GM SUV lineup.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: If you find the thought of driving a Chevrolet just too vulgar, here's your ride. The new sheetmetal (on both the Chevy and GMC) is handsome -- a bit boxier and lower, and there's enough differentiation so the GMC and Chevrolet won't be confused. The interior is a huge leap forward from the outgoing Yukon, all soft materials, comfortable seats, and -- if you've driven the new pickups -- easy to decipher controls. And finally the rearmost seats fold flat into the floor.
The truck does indeed feel tighter than the old one. The pickup's benefits -- smoothness and quiet operation -- apply here as well. No, you won't ever think you're in a sports sedan, but the big fella reacts well to steering inputs, the ride is smooth, and body control is better than I expected. The stiffer chassis helps here no doubt, and I admire GM for sticking with the body on frame construction. I like old school. Arguably the biggest improvement is cutting wind noise -- there isn't any. A rattly passenger-side second-row captain chair in this particular truck ruined an otherwise ultra-quiet drive. I flipped it forward and put it back into position with a fair amount of gusto, hoping to get back into position. That fixed it for a little while, and then it came loose and starting rattling again. Annoying.
GM's latest big SUV raises the proverbial bar in every area I can think of and personally I do not find the idea of driving a Chevrolet uncouth, so I look forward to trying the Tahoe.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: There was a time when it seemed like everyone, or at least everyone in metropolitan Detroit (employee discounts, baby!) was driving a Chevy Suburban, a Ford Explorer or -- if you were truly shameless -- a Ford Excursion. I guess this was the peak of the SUV craze, post-minivan but pre-crossover, and a lot of people were convinced that these relatively crude body-on-frame trucks were central to their suburban lifestyles.
It's all different now, of course. The Excursion is dead, the Explorer became a crossover, Jeep is convinced the Renegade is a good idea… and yet the Yukon remains, conceptually at least, unchanged. It's truck-based, not car-based with thirsty V8s that would have seemed powerful 15 years ago. The body lines don't seem to have bent too much to the demands of the wind tunnel.
But though the fundamentals are going to look familiar to anyone who went SUV shopping in the 1990s, GM has definitely made some improvements. You'll first notice that style has improved noticeably; the Yukon is attractive inside and -- especially -- outside. It looks the part of a truck with long, straight lines emphasizing its boxiness. It's mature. It's done a better job defying aerodynamic-driven design and staying true to its roots than its peers (Explorer, Range Rover Sport, etc.), but it still looks clean and modern.
The interior is rugged, but well-appointed and apparently well-constructed. The center console does occupy the space where my arm would, ideally, rest, but that's the only ergonomic quibble I have. Moving the seat further forward seems to help, but narrowing the center console would help more.
I wouldn't mind having more than 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque on tap, but the vehicle never had trouble getting up to speed. Or staying there. Would a diesel make sense here? It certainly does in our long-term Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec, to which this Yukon is already a credible contender.
Yes, it rides like a truck, not a car, because it is a truck. That's the point. If you're going to base a three-row passenger vehicle on a pickup, you might as well start with a good pickup. The Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierracertainly fits the bill.
I appreciate and enjoy that the Yukon and its corporate siblings have continued to refine the classic SUV formula rather throwing it out the window and going the unibody route. The result isn't for everyone -- you can get a lot of faux-truck for $65K -- but for those who need the capability, it's great to know that you have a pleasant option in the Yukon.
2015 GMC Yukon SLT
Base Price: $58,730
As-Tested Price: $64,520
Drivetrain: 5.3-liter V8; 4WD, six-speed automatic
Output: 355 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,707 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/22/18 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 15.6 mpg
Options: Sun and entertainment package including power sunroof, additional nine months of XM radio, audio system including an 8-inch diagonal color touch screen, navigation, Intellilink, rear seat entertainment system ($3,255); 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1,400); max trailering package including 3.42 ratio rear axle, trailer brake controller, two-speed transfer case, suspension package ($650); second-row power seats ($590); theft-deterrent package including self-powered horn, vehicle inclination sensor, interior vehicle movement sensor ($395)
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