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2021 GMC Yukon Performance

#4 out of 6 in Large SUVs

U.S. News Best Price Program

2021 GMC Yukon Performance Review


Performance: 7.3

The 2021 GMC Yukon has powerful engines, and it gets decent gas mileage for a huge V8-powered SUV. It isn't the most agile vehicle on the road by any stretch, but it has poised handling and a comfortable ride.

  • "How did it drive? Just as you would expect, the large Yukon rode exceptionally well on the highway." -- Truck Trend
  • "The Yukon still feels like the big truck that it is from behind the wheel, but everything about its character feels more refined than the previous model. Our tester's adaptive air suspension glides over all but the roughest road textures, with none of the rear jitters we've come to expect of body-on-frame SUVs. It also gives the Yukon surprising handling characteristics. Nobody will confuse it with a Porsche Cayenne or even a Mercedes-Benz GLS, but the Yukon doesn't trip over itself when confronted with a set of switchbacks." -- Edmunds
  • "The 6.2-liter [engine] is beefy and strong with a suitably muscular sound, and the transmission is absolutely transparent in operation." -- Automobile Magazine

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engines:
    • 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque (Denali)
    • 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six diesel with 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque (late availability)
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic

The standard V8 engine provides enough power for just about any driving situation, and it delivers decent acceleration. The upgraded V8 found under the Denali's hood is more muscular, with significantly better pickup. The 10-speed automatic transmission pairs well with both engines, and it shifts smoothly and without hesitation.

When properly equipped, the Yukon can tow up to 8,400 pounds. That's in line with the maximum towing capacities of many other large SUVs. You can also add a hitch camera to make it easier when hooking up a trailer.

  • "It features the best of GM's full-size SUV powertrain and chassis selection: the 6.2-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque that offers significantly better acceleration than the standard 5.3-liter engine. Cruising up on-ramps is comfortable, and the engine itself is smooth and emits a gentle growl. The 10-speed automatic paired with it is also similarly smooth and unnoticeable." -- Autoblog
  • "Underway, this new Yukon's performance is excellent. My tester's 6.2-liter V8 is silken and plenty potent, though I do wish it had a bit of exhaust rumble, because it sounds like, well, pretty much nothing. As for the transmission, it's just as delightful, shifting smartly and seamlessly. But it's kind of funny, with so many gears it sometimes feels like a continuously variable transmission because the RPM drop following each upshift is miniscule." -- CNET
  • "Like a teacher's pet, the 10-speed always has the right answer (and gear) for the task at hand. The Yukon AT4's powertrain even handles a trailer well, with a decent amount of passing power on tap and exceptional shift behavior from the transmission when dragging along approximately 4,000 pounds' worth of Airstream camper. That was about half of the AT4's 8,200-pound towing capacity." -- Motor Trend

MPG Estimates

The Yukon gets typical fuel economy ratings for a large SUV. Ratings get slightly worse with the larger V8 engine, but the numbers are pretty similar between the standard Yukon and the XL models. Fuel economy ratings for the diesel engine have not yet been released.

  • 355-horsepower V8, RWD: 16/20 mpg city/highway
  • 355-horsepower V8, 4WD: 16/20 mpg
  • 420-horsepower V8, RWD: 15/20 mpg
  • 420-horsepower V8, 4WD: 14/19 mpg
  • 355-horsepower V8 (XL), RWD: 16/20 mpg
  • 355-horsepower V8 (XL), 4WD: 15/19 mpg
  • 420-horsepower V8 (XL), RWD: 14/20 mpg
  • 420-horsepower V8 (XL), 4WD: 14/19 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Yukon is gigantic, but it doesn't always drive like it. Make no mistake, this isn't a vehicle that lets you go careening down winding roads, but it's poised and easier to maneuver in tight quarters than you'd expect. The real strength, however, is the Yukon's ride. It's smooth and supple, though the Denali's larger wheels don't soak up road imperfections quite as easily. An adaptive air suspension is available, which further improves ride quality.

The AT4 trim is new to the lineup this year, and it adds features to help you go adventuring, such as a two-speed transfer case and skid plates. It's also available with a limited-slip differential. This is the Yukon trim you want if you plan to do much off-roading.

  • "Being the size of a Navy destroyer and weighing more than 5,800 pounds in four-wheel-drive Denali trim, you can't expect this SUV to have cat-like reflexes. It's undeniably big and heavy, but it doesn't feel quite as enormous as it actually is." -- CNET
  • "The ride quality is phenomenal, eliminating bumps and keeping the body very well controlled. It even helps eliminate a lot of the shudders and shakes that come from the body-on-frame construction. … It also keeps body roll limited and complements the accurate, well-weighted steering. There are different drive modes, including a normal and sport function, but there's little difference between the two. The sport mode has heavier steering and slightly firmer suspension. But regardless of setting, the Denali almost feels sporty, though its weight and height reign it in." -- Autoblog
  • "When it comes to ride quality, the Yukon AT4 gets the slight edge on its big brother, while the Denali scores points back for handling. Both Air Ride-equipped Yukons are prone to transmitting more impact harshness into the cabin than expected, but aided by its smaller 20-inch wheels and cushier tire sidewalls, the AT4 dispatches the rough stuff a bit better. The Denali, riding on optional 22-inch wheels, has a tendency to find bumps and rough patches the AT4 doesn't notice. Although its off-road-oriented tires help improve the Yukon AT4's ride quality, the taller rubber also hurt its steering feel, which is direct but numb. The Denali, on the other hand, is pleasantly competent on a good road when in Sport mode, with quick, progressive steering, good feedback, and minimal body roll." -- Motor Trend
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2021 GMC Yukon

MSRP: $50,700 - $74,100

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