2021 GMC Yukon Preview

Christian Wardlaw | Mar 02, 2020
FAST FACTS
  • Redesigned full-size SUV
  • Standard- and extended-length body styles
  • Significant improvement in passenger and cargo space
  • Optional turbodiesel 6-cylinder engine
  • New Yukon AT4 off-road model
  • Yukon Denali moves further upscale
  • On sale in the summer of 2020

Introduction

Addressing complaints about interior passenger and cargo room, the redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon gets a big bump in space for people and their belongings.

It returns in both standard- and extended-length body styles, the latter known as the 2021 Yukon XL. GMC is, however, firmly positioning the all-new 2021 Yukon as a premium vehicle that bridges the gap between the similar Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade.

2021 GMC Yukon Denali and Yukon AT4 front view

There will, of course, be some overlap between the Chevy, GMC, and Cadillac. As far as 2021 Yukon trim levels are concerned, the SUV comes in SLE, SLT, new AT4, and Denali configurations. And here’s a fun fact: GMC says that 60% of Yukon buyers choose the pricey Denali trim.

Exterior Features

Of the two versions of the 2021 Yukon, it is the standard-length model that sees the most significant growth spurt.

According to GMC, the new Yukon’s wheelbase stretches by nearly 5 inches, and the SUV is over 6 inches longer than it was before. Meanwhile, the Yukon XL’s wheelbase is 4.1 inches longer and its overall length expands by less than an inch.

Despite these dimensional changes, you’ll recognize the new Yukon at only a glance. It looks similar to the previous model, but with a bigger grille, bolder lighting, and greater sculpturing.

As was true before, the Yukon Denali’s face features a special chrome-dipped grille, which GMC claims has over 10,000 individual reflective surfaces in its pattern. The Yukon Denali also gets special “light blade” LED running lights, and LED illumination for the headlights, taillights, fog lights, and other exterior lighting.

Interior Features

Some of the most significant changes to the 2021 Yukon pertain to the interior.

Everyone will be more comfortable, thanks to major gains in second-row and third-row legroom and comfort. The second-row seats now slide forward and back to make extra room for people or cargo, and this functionality also makes it much easier to load people into the third-row seat.

Once passengers enter the third-row, they will be significantly happier than they were in the previous Yukon. Legroom increases 10.1 inches in the standard-length version of the SUV, which GMC claims is a 41% increase. The change isn’t as dramatic in the Yukon XL, which gains 2.2 inches of third-row legroom.

Furthermore, because GMC now uses an independent rear suspension under the Yukon, the SUV’s floor is lower, which means both rear rows of seats supply much better thigh support than they did before. They also fold flat for easier loading and maximization of cargo space.

Again, the standard-length Yukon is the big winner on the cargo front. Behind the third-row seat, it boasts a 66% improvement in space to 25.5 cubic-feet. The expansion is not as great in the Yukon XL, which grows from 39.3 cu.-ft. to 41.5.

Thanks to the lower vehicle floor and the fold-flat rear seats, maximum cargo volumes rise for both models. In the standard Yukon, the figure skyrockets from 94.7 cu.-ft. to 122.9. Meanwhile, the Yukon XL expands from 121.7 cu.-ft. to 144.7. That’s finally as much as a minivan can hold.

Optional Features

When GMC introduced the new 2021 Yukons, it did not define the differences between all four trim levels. However, based on the available information, we know that leather, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel are available.

Options for the 2021 GMC Yukon also include 22-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, an Air Ride suspension, and an Active Response 4-wheel-drive system. GMC also offers a new power sliding center console with a lid that slides back 10 inches to reveal more room and a hidden, secured storage drawer.

With the Denali trim level accounting for the bulk of Yukon sales, GMC moves it upscale for 2021. Equipped with an exclusive interior design, the 2021 Yukon Denali has a different instrument panel and the cabin comes in four exclusive color themes with unique seat designs, premium leather, special stitching, and authentic wood trim. Denalis also have a head-up display, a high-definition surround-view camera, a rear pedestrian alert system, and a next-generation Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension.

Under the Hood

Three different engines are available in the new GMC Yukon. The standard powerplant is a 5.3-liter V8, and while GMC did not release specifications for it, this engine generates 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6.2-liter V8 is available for the Yukon, making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft.

Both gasoline-fueled V8s have automatic engine stop/start and Dynamic Fuel Management cylinder deactivation systems. A 10-speed automatic transmission powers the rear wheels, unless the SUV has 4WD.

The third engine choice is a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder engine. Again, GMC does not share official specifications, but this engine generates 277 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque in the new Tahoe and Suburban.

Diesel power is big news, but so is the 2021 Yukon’s new independent rear suspension. It’s responsible for the SUV’s lower cargo and passenger floor and also helps to improve the Yukon’s ride and handling qualities.

A next-generation Magnetic Ride Control adaptive damping suspension further reduces bounce, roll, and vibration over the standard specification, and the Yukon also offers a new Four-Corner Air Ride adaptive suspension with self-leveling capability. When the 4WD system is in 4-Lo, the driver can raise the air suspension two inches to add ground clearance. It also lowers a little on the highway to improve aerodynamics and fuel economy, and the driver can drop it two inches for easier passenger entry and exit.

An available Active Response 4WD system transfers power to the wheel or wheels with the best grip and includes an electronic limited-slip differential to further aid traction. It is standard in the Yukon AT4, a new version of the SUV built specifically for off-roading.

You can identify the 2021 Yukon AT4 by its reworked front styling. It features an approach angle measuring nearly 32 degrees, a front skid plate, red exposed tow hooks, and 20-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires. Inside, the AT4 features a Jet Black interior with Brandy accents. Underneath, skid plates protect this special version of the Yukon, and it also has an Off-road traction control setting, a hill descent control system, and a 2-speed transfer case.

Safety

Aside from confirming that automatic emergency braking is standard on every 2021 Yukon, and that the available blind-spot warning system includes trailer coverage when you’re towing one, GMC is tight-lipped on the new Yukon’s safety technologies.

Based on what Chevy offers in the Tahoe and Suburban, the Yukon twins also feature standard forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, while upgrades include rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and rear pedestrian detection.

You’ll also have access to features like automatic crash notification and SOS emergency calling with a subscription to the OnStar services feature that’s included with the infotainment system.

Technology

GMC has not detailed the new Yukon’s infotainment features, other than to say the SUV’s digital platform is both secure and offers five times the processing power of the previous-generation Yukon.

Nevertheless, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to assume the Yukon’s infotainment system mirrors that of the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban. That means you’ll get a 10-inch touchscreen display, along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a short free trial to 4G LTE Wi-Fi service. No doubt, both wireless smartphone charging and a premium sound system are also planned for the new Yukon.

Expect a major upgrade to the optional rear-seat entertainment system, too, along with multiple cameras that power the high-definition surround-view camera system, the Rear Camera Mirror, and the GMC ProGrade trailering cameras.

GMC confirms that a 15-inch color head-up display is available for the new Yukon, and that it includes an inclinometer function in the Yukon AT4.

GMC is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of February 25, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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