The 2011 GMC Yukon is a comfortable, affordable, large SUV with upscale interior overtones at higher trims, good off-road talents, and acceptable towing sensibilities on the base model. While not as flashy as the Cadillac Escalade, or quite as well-priced as the Tahoe, the Yukon offers a roomy interior paired with strong performance and fuel economy. It seats nine, and sells in an MSRP range of $38,945 to $59,000. (Average fuel economy is 15 mpg city and 21 highway, but will vary by configuration.)
If you’re shopping for a large SUV, but don’t need to be able to tow or go off-road, don’t rule out a large crossover. The GMC Acadia has three rows and a well-finished, comfortable interior, with better fuel economy and easier handling. And the Ford Expedition is worth a test drive, especially if you foresee heavy third-row usage. The Expedition offers much better comfort all the way in the back, and the third row folds down. (The Yukon’s seats have to be taken out to increase cargo space.) Another plus is that the Ford is $1,500 cheaper.
The Yukon hasn’t seen a design refresh since 2007. There’s an XL trim with a longer wheelbase, which makes the vehicle more like a Chevrolet Suburban. The regular length trims are the SLE, SLT, and Denali. Both two and four-wheel drive is available. On the SLE and SLT trims, there’s a 5.3-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management under the hood. (The system shuts off four cylinders when they’re not needed for cruising or coasting.) The same engine is found on the XL, while the Denali offers a 6.2-liter V8. All are paired to a six-speed automatic.
The Yukon uses coil-over-shock front suspension and a five-link rear suspension with an optional Autoride suspension, which will adjust the shocks to smooth the ride on varying road conditions. The Yukon can tow up to 8,500 lbs, which drops to 8,100 on the XL 1500, but jumps to 9,600 on the XL 2500. (It’s worth noting that other large SUVs like the Ford Expedition and the Nissan Armada can pull 9,000 lbs. and more.) With the third row seats in place, the Yukon offers 16.9 cubic feet of cargo; take them out and you get 60.3; fold the second row and there’s 180.9. (And frankly? It’s a pain to have to remove the third row seats rather than just fold them down.)
At the base level, the interior is comfortable, but comes off as a little cheap. In the front row, drivers can opt for captain’s chairs over a bench; ditto for the second row. The third row seat is universally slammed by reviewers as comfortable for kids only. (If you are going to be hauling children, be kind to yourself and go with the optional DVD player for the rear seats.) Beyond that, the gauges are large and well-placed, but the markings can be difficult to read in some lights. Interestingly enough, the upgrade to the Bose sound system really isn’t worth it; the sound is only adequate at best.
In terms of safety, the 2011 Yukon performs very well, earning five stars from the federal government in frontal and side crash tests, but only three in rollovers. Standard safety systems include StabiliTrak traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, tire pressure monitoring, and dual front air bags with a passenger sensing system as well as advanced side-curtain units in all models.
Basically, the 2011 GMC Yukon is a reasonably comfortable, solidly performing, off-road worthy large SUV. In terms of towing, it comes in a bit under the competition, and the third-row removable seats are unanimously disliked. Still, there’s a great deal of value for the money here. You should certainly test drive a Yukon if you need to carry up to nine, but test drive the competition as well. In the end, this will likely come down to a matter of personal taste.