NEW 2021 GMC Yukon XL
When it comes to large, three-row family-hauling, toy-towing muscle, the 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are hard to beat. Redesigned from the ground up for 2021, the new Yukon borrows mechanicals from the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, but goes its own way with unique looks and a few novel features. Three engines are offered—two gasoline V-8s and a turbo-diesel inline-six—all mated to a 10-speed automatic that’s operated via GMC’s signature push-button gear selector. The cabin is roomier and better equipped than last year’s model and cargo space has increased as well—all the better for family vacations, trips to Home Depot, and tailgating parties—which earned it an Editors’ Choice award.
What’s New for 2021?
An all-new Yukon bows for 2021 and it rides on a new platform shared with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, but wearing distinct styling. As with the Chevys, the 2021 GMC Yukon will come with an independent rear suspension, a first for the large GM SUVs.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Similar to the last-generation Yukon, two V-8 engines areoffered: a 355-hp 5.3-liter and a 420-hp 6.2-liter. In addition to those gasoline-burning engines, GMC also offers a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six that makes a whopping 460 lb-ft of torque and should be the choice for buyers who intend to tow heavy items. All models come with a 10-speed automatic transmission operated by a push-button panel on the dashboard and will offer either rear- or all-wheel drive. An off-road-oriented AT4 model joins the lineup for the first time in 2021 and features a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates, and an optional air suspension capable of offering up to two more inches of ground clearance. When we tested a loaded Denali model with the 6.2-liter V-8, we recorded a 6.0-second zero-to-60-mph time and noted significantly improved braking performance over the 2020 model.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
According to EPA estimates, the 2021 Yukon isn’t particularly fuel efficient, but it does slightly better in the city than the model it replaces. Yukons equipped with the smaller 5.3-liter V-8 are the most efficient gasoline-powered models and earned ratings of 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. The turbo-diesel engine is predictably more efficient, earning ratings of up to 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test route, our Denali test vehicle delivered 20 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Available in a variety of flavors—from base SLE spec to luxurious Denali—the Yukon and long-wheelbase Yukon XL promise seating for up to eight passengers, although ordering the popular second-row captain’s chairs will lower the total seating capacity to seven. Top-of-the-line Denali models offer a unique interior design with a wood-trimmed dashboard and hand-stitched leather upholstery. A novel power-sliding center console is available in SLT, AT4, and Denali models and allows the driver to motor the center console back and forth over a 10-inch track to make room for bulkier first-row cargo such as a purse or backpack and stash other smaller items out of sight in hidden cubbies. Cargo capacity is generous, especially in the larger XL model, which offers a whopping 145 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with all of its seats stowed. That’s more than its cross-town rival, the Ford Expedition Max (which has 121.5 cubic feet behind its front row of seats). The standard-length Yukon provided enough space for six carry-on cases behind its third row seats; with the third and second rows stowed, we fit 35.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Yukon models come with a large infotainment display with GMC’s latest IntelliLink interface and we’ve found the system easy to use. SLE, SLT, and AT4 models feature a display that stands tall in the center of the dashboard, but the Denali’s is surrounded by bright chrome and is embedded in the dashboard for a more sophisticated look. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are all be standard equipment; navigation and a Bose audio system are both optional features.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have released crash-test results for the 2021 Yukon or Yukon XL. GMC claims that driver-assistance features will be offered on more models and some will be standard equipment. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Available blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist