$33,009 - $48,156

2017 GMC Yukon Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 GMC Yukon was new.


Performance: 8.3

While power isn’t a problem in the 2017 GMC Yukon, the standard six-speed automatic transmission is reluctant to downshift, and throttle responses can be a tad slow. With the base engine and rear-wheel drive, fuel economy is better than other large SUVs. The Denali trim’s larger V8 engine delivers better acceleration and only uses slightly more fuel. Although the Yukon’s ride and handling is composed, it isn’t sporty by any means. Towing capacity is impressive, but it’s not the best in the class.

  • At a time when car-based crossovers have taken over the SUV market, the Yukon still boasts rugged, truck-based underpinnings that can handle heavy-duty tasks such as towing trailers and hitting the trails. Be prepared for trade-offs, however, as those same traits make the Yukon feel less refined on city streets." -- Edmunds
  • "If you're holding your breath anticipating that we'll tell you that the Yukon has precise handling and sporty moves, you should exhale now because no such review is coming. Considering the Yukon's weight of 5,500 pounds, tall ride height and massive length, however, GMC has done a remarkable job getting its body-on-frame behemoth to behave." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "Despite their size, all versions of these SUVs are surprisingly easy to drive." -- Motor Trend (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The Yukon’s standard engine is a 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 355 horsepower. It comes with a six-speed automatic that critics say hesitates to downshift. Making matters worse, the engine’s throttle response is also slow. Even when packed to the brim with passengers and cargo, the Yukon delivers solid power, though it can be slow to respond to driver input. Climbing hills is not a problem, and the engine isn’t loud when pushed.

With rear-wheel drive, this engine earns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, which is among the best in the class. These estimates are matched only by its siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban.

No other large SUV offers an alternative engine that provides more power than the Denali, which comes with a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This 65-horsepower increase comes at the expense of only 1 mpg, as the Denali earns 15/22 mpg city/highway.

  • The 2017 GMC Yukon's 5.3-liter V8 is certainly capable when it comes to hauling a full load of people and cargo. It can deliver strong acceleration, too, but the engine often feels lazy due to sluggish throttle response. To its credit, the 5.3-liter V8 is smooth and quiet, and contrary to what you might expect, this engine also has a slightly higher tow rating that (sic) the Denali versions with the larger 6.2-liter engine." -- Edmunds
  • "While driving around Lake Tahoe for three days, there was never a want or need for more power. All of the test vehicles handled the hills well, whether going up or down." -- Motor Trend (2015)
  • "The only fly in the ointment is that the 6-speed automatic transmission … occasionally exhibits some delay before downshifting when the throttle is stabbed while underway." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

Handling and Braking

The Yukon isn’t as poised as many crossover SUVs, which offer a ride and handling that feels more like driving a car than a truck. The Yukon can be hard to maneuver, which is a common complaint of large truck-based SUVs. Despite its large size and truck underpinnings, the Yukon handles securely, offering a reasonable level of steering feedback. It also has a composed ride. This is true of both the standard-wheelbase Yukon and the longer Yukon XL. Brakes provide great feedback as well. Rear-wheel drive comes standard and four-wheel drive is available.

  • "On the downside, the truck-based Yukon also drives much like a truck, so its handling, comfort and maneuverability are all compromised. Crossover SUVs, such as the GMC Acadia, are based on passenger cars, making them easier to drive and more fuel-efficient." -- Edmunds
  • As long as the Yukon is not confined like a large bear in a small cage, it's able to comfortably run, negotiating winding roads, delivering acceptable levels of steering feedback and braking, and returning highway fuel economy numbers breaking the 20-mpg barrier." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "Beyond cosmetic upgrades, GM's done superb work on handling. These are still very large vehicles, but they're a piece of cake to pilot. In particular, since we got to test both long- and shorter-wheelbase trucks over mountain passes and in rain and snow between Nevada City, Calif., and Napa, Calif., we'd call out GM's effort on chassis stiffness, ride control, and steering rigidity." -- Popular Mechanics (2015)


According to GMC, the Yukon can tow up to 8,500 pounds, and the extended-wheelbase Yukon XL can tow up to 8,300 pounds. Few mainstream vehicles with seats for up to nine have the capacity to move this much weight, making the Yukon great for family road trips with a trailer or boat hitched to the back. However, other large SUVs, like the Nissan Armada, can tow the same weight and have a cheaper price. The Ford Expedition leads the class with a towing capacity of up to 9,200 pounds.

  • "If you need an SUV that's as good at towing your boat as it is hauling your family, the 2017 GMC Yukon is the kind of vehicle you should consider." -- Edmunds
  • But with their recent updates, GM's big boxes combine the room and comfort of a luxury car with unmatched cargo space and towing capacity, making them a thoroughly justifiable entity in our broad automotive landscape." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

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