2021 GMC Yukon AT4

INDIANAPOLIS — One of my favorite car magazines essentially called GM’s all-new full-size SUVs losers because they’re apparently not that great on the skid pad.  In other words, their grip when being driven like a race car is not good.  Well, newsflash, full-size SUVs weighing 5,677 lbs. and packing the underpinnings to rise up and bound over rough trails are rarely very good at autocrossing.  Climb aboard the completely redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 and I suspect you won’t care.

I like what designers did with the new body.  It’s a little longer to add third-row seat and cargo space, but it’s also sportier than the previous generation that looked ready for black car service.  It’s especially fetching in AT4 trim with dark grill, red tow hoods, 20” wheels shod in off-road tires, and stacked LED headlamps.  There’s more flair in the upsweep of the rear window line, but retractable running boards and LED taillamps keep it clean.
Yukons fit between the Chevy Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade in GM’s full-size SUV line-up, which means the interior feels about right — especially with upscale details fitted to our AT4.  Perforated dash materials with tan stitching accompany soft leather seats with brown inserts for that “almost Escalade” aura.  A push button gear selector, deep console, and widescreen head up display add convenience.  Both rows of rear seats now accommodate proper adults.  Upscale amenities go further with heated front seats, heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, dual-pane sunroof, and rear heated thrones.  An in-dash trailer brake controller helps tote the load.
I also appreciate how the Yukon has all of the latest tech, but in accessible packaging.  A wide infotainment screen with swipe and voice controls couldn’t be easier to access audio, navigation, and phone controls.  Connect devices through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and 4G Wi-Fi.  A wireless charging pad keeps them humming.  Smooth Bose audio and second row media screens keep everybody entertained on trips.  My daughter was a backseat navigator as she conjured directions to our favorite restaurant.  A full suite of safety gear includes forward crash mitigation, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, and trailer blind zone alert.
Other Yukons are available with a 6.2-liter V8 or 3.0-liter turbo-diesel, but our AT4 comes standard with a 5.3-liter V8 delivering 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed through a smooth shifting 10-speed automatic transmission.  Proving Yukons can do serious work, this one is rated to tow up to 8,200 lbs.  I could do without auto stop/start that pauses the engine at rest, but it contributes to a still-thirsty 16/20-MPG city/highway.

Previous generation Yukons rode smooth enough and were capable off-road, but keeping pace with segment leaders required more than a solid rear axle.  For 2021, the Yukon finally gets a fully independent rear suspension for better handling and road isolation.  Our AT4 adds Magnetic Ride Control and an air system that can rise up to handle more extreme trails.  That does nothing to improve skid pad numbers, but that’s clearly not the point.  

Owning a GMC Yukon has never been about out-handling Corvettes.  The big SUVs are often driven by wealthy owners who could just as easily choose a six-figure European competitor, but like the no hassle ownership GMC provides.  With a roomier interior, enhanced infotainment, and independent air suspension, GMC rose to meet its drivers.  Yukons start at $50,700, but AT4s cost $64,800.  Our very well equipped edition came to a lofty $75,455.  Competitors include the Ford Expedition, Mercedes GLS, Range Rover, Infiniti QX80, and upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

— Casey Williams