Cars

Richer Denali, tougher AT4, and more space inside

For the 2021 Yukon, mile high isn’t high enough.

The 2021 GMC Yukon unveiled Tuesday in Vail, Colorado, represents the biggest change for the family-size SUV in more than a decade.

The seven-seat SUV is bigger than before, with more luxury fittings inside and underneath, and its top-shelf Yukon Denali trim scrubs the old-look SUV for a richer interior that’s custom to the high-dollar hauler. Also new for 2021: A Yukon AT4 off-road-leaning version that adds chunky tires, skid plates, and a low-range transfer case—if any Yukons dare to leave the road.  

Mechanically similar to the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban, the GMC Yukon will be powered by a choice of two V-8s or an optional 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6. GMC didn’t detail its 5.3-liter V-8 or turbodiesel, but said the 6.2-liter V-8 at the top of the heap will pile on 420 horsepower.

Like the outgoing model, the SUV is available in standard or long wheelbase configurations, the latter called Yukon XL. All engines pair to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive is standard, although automatic four-wheel drive will be a popular upgrade.

2021 GMC Yukon AT4

The 2021 Yukon rides atop a frame that uses a four-wheel independent suspension for the first time. The front and rear suspensions can be supplemented by an optional air suspension, which can raise or lower the SUV by 4 inches to clear tricky terrain or settle into a long lope up to the ski chalet. GMC’s adaptive dampers are meant to quell any rutted roads and work with the four-wheel-drive system, air suspension, and available electronic limited-slip differential at the rear to help deliver a smoother ride.  

, Richer Denali, tougher AT4, and more space inside

2021 GMC Yukon Denali

The 2021 Yukon Denali, which represents more than half of all Yukons on the road, is perhaps the biggest change for Yukon this time around. According to GMC boss Duncan Aldred, 57% of Yukons sold are Denalis, and although no prices were made available, it’s clear the Denali will soar past the 2019 Yukon Denali’s entry price of nearly $70,000.

Compared to the rest of the lineup, the Denali offers a different, more upright dashboard and instrument cluster with an integrated touchscreen for infotainment. The Denali gets unique seat upholstery, wood trim accents, and a 15-inch head-up display inside. An available power sliding center console can travel 10 inches between the first and second row to shuttle snacks between front and rear occupants—or physically separate warring teenagers. The Denali is powered by the 6.2-liter V-8 or the 3.0-liter turbodiesel that will arrive later in the year.

, Richer Denali, tougher AT4, and more space inside

2021 GMC Yukon Denali

ON the outside, the Denali adds LED headlights and taillights and a big, wide, upright chrome grille that’s as subtle as a four-finger ring and gold teeth.

The AT4 subs out the chrome grille for black and matte black, complemented with red tow hooks up front and a skid plate that works the with Yukon AT4’s 32-degree approach angle to make off-roading easier. The AT4 has standard four-wheel drive, Goodyear A/T tires on 20-inch wheels, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel.

, Richer Denali, tougher AT4, and more space inside

2021 GMC Yukon AT4

Compared to the outgoing version, the new Yukon is nearly 6 inches longer with a wheelbase nearly 5 inches longer. The biggest change is for riders in the third row who get nearly 35 inches of leg room, up more than 10 inches on the outgoing version. The Yukon’s cargo capacity gorws too, with all three rows of seats in place the Yukon holds 25.5 cubic feet of gear or 122.9 cubes with the second and third rows stowed.

The Yukon XL is also bigger. It rides atop a wheelbase longer by more than 4 inches, and third-row riders get nearly 37 inches of leg room. With rows two and three in place, the Yukon XL holds 41.1 cubic feet of cargo, or 144.7 cubes with the rows out of the way.

Access to the third rows in every Yukon is made easier by a second row that can slide 5.5 inches forward.

The 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL will go on sale this summer.

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