GMC Yukon — At the forefront of safety

By David Finkelstein

Prior to General Motors officially launching the 2015 GMC Yukon full size SUV, there were lots of rumors from my Detroit-based colleagues that the vehicle would be a totally new product once introduced. Well, I'm happy to report that in fact the newest version certainly appears to have been redone from bumper-to-bumper.

Built just outside of Dallas at GM's truck assembly facility located in Arlington, Texas, this sport utility vehicle is manufactured along side many of General Motors other full size SUV's. With a five-star frontal and side crash safety rating, Yukon is a rolling steel safety cage for the driver and all occupants on board.

Safety is fairly high on the list of requirements for most SUV buyers. Yukon clearly meets that challenging criteria. This is especially the case if you frequently travel with a number of family members and love ones on-board. Other safety enhancements include numerous "well placed" air bags. For instance, you'll find nicely integrated overhead and side impact airbags. Your insurance provider will need to know about that in order to get you the most attractive rate!

A partial list of other safety features include electronic radar guided/forward collision alert warning, side blind zone and lane departure warning alert, computer controlled automatic stability safety feature with rollover mitigation technology, tire pressure monitoring system, rear cross traffic notification and their vibrating drivers seat safety warning system.

A similar vibrating seat system is also used on their Cadillacs as well plus its often found within the aviation industry. The back up camera function is a must have on a large SUV such as this, however while backing in the rain at night, the “in cabin” 8-inch center dash mounted screen image was very hard to interpret.

GMC also includes a courtesy, however temporary, subscription to the On-Star system with the purchase price of this vehicle.

Powering the Yukon which I test drove was a 5.3-V8 Ecotec3 engine. It produces some 355-horsepower and 383 lb.-ft of torque for towing and transporting heavy loads with ease. For comparison purposes, the vehicles tow capacity is rated at 8,200 lbs., with the four wheel drive option set up.

This engine is also used within a number of other General Motors vehicles in the product mix for the 2015 model year. It's engineered with an active fuel management system which shuts off gasoline on select cylinders, at certain predetermined speeds and is quite seamless overall. It also has variable valve timing and direct fuel injection. And with our thoughts focused on fuel mileage, GM and the EPA suggests that with this engine setup, Yukon reflects some 16-MPG with city driving, 22-MPG on the highway and the combined numbers come out to be around 18-MPG.

It is also important to note that the factory recommends regular grade fuel as this vehicle has a 26 gallon gas tank. However,it will also operate on E-85 blended pump fuel as well. With the use of E-85 on most fill-ups, your mileage may tailor off somewhat. Matched to the smooth operating V8 is their six speed computer controlled automatic transmission.

Not a bad powertrain set up, but it is believed that GM will likely use a revised automatic transmission with additional forward gears in due time. If that turns out to be the case, this too will help with fuel mileage numbers going forward.

With a fully automatic locking rear differential assembly, four wheeling on the model I drove was a breeze. The optional four wheeling function was governed by a rotary select knob placed on the left side of the instrument panel and easily accessible for the driver. Seating is very comfortable as this model has three row seating capacity and tri-zone heat and A/C system. The second and third row seating is configurable in order to achieve a fold flat cargo stowing advantage.

The dash is nicely laid out and the center storage compartment between the seats is large however it needs a lock for securing your personal goodies safely. Steering is enhanced with GM's electronic power steering system. The brakes were more than adequate. This vehicle is considered a "class above" and should have had an electronic power operated parking brake system in my opinion.

Yukon's exterior was developed to be more modern appearing, when placed up against the outgoing version. The front end, for instance, has a new crisp look about it that starts with the SUV's bright projector headlamps coupled with LED daytime running lights on the SLT trim level. The four side doors are now inlaid into the SUV's body assembly, raising the bar when it comes to aerodynamics and contributing to a quieter interior ride.

I also like the way they concealed the rear window wiper blade into the overhead wind spoiler. As expected, the 2015 GMC Yukon is offered with a number of trim levels and plenty of factory included extras for personalizing it to your exacting needs. The SLT version I drove had an MSRP of $64,520 including destination charge and a few option packages.