2019 GMC Yukon: A Towing Champion

Today, there’s still very much a place in the market for full-size, truck-based SUVs that are built on a ladder-frame instead of being a unibody construction. They might not drive as car-like as a crossover, but they can tow more and are often better off-road.

The 2019 GMC Yukon is one of these SUVs. Closely related to the Chevy Tahoe, the Yukon could be the better option to choose for a new full-size SUV. Here’s why.

Exterior Styling

If you’re looking for a bitesize explanation of what makes the 2019 GMC Yukon different from the Chevy Tahoe, here it is. The Yukon is the more upscale version of the two vehicles. Now, you can argue about how premium the GMC brand is compared to Chevy, but the front fascia of the Yukon is a good place to start seeing the difference.

While the Tahoe has a slightly dated, blue-collar look at the front, the GMC Yukon is more stylish, more modern, and undeniably more upscale. The overall shape of the Yukon is basically the same as the Chevy. But at the front, there’s definitely more presence, gravitas, and desirability with the GMC.

Of course, the most premium the Yukon can be is in its range-topping Denali trim level, which seriously looks the part with tons of chrome trim. It might be a little too ostentatious for some, but GMC says almost 75 percent of all Yukons sold are Denalis.

Powertrains

If you like the look of the Yukon on the outside, you’re going to love what’s going on underneath. The standard engine is a 5.3-liter V-8 putting out 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more than adequate power, which is sent to the rear or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission may seem a little dated, but a vehicle like this is far better off with a six-speed that works really well.

However, you can have a ten-speed auto if you want it in the Yukon. But it also means you’ll have to upgrade to the more powerful engine option. The only problem with that is the extra cost – the engine itself is superb. The unit in question is a 6.2-liter V-8, which puts 420 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque at the Yukon’s disposal.

Both engines are capable of saving a little fuel by running on just four cylinders at higher cruising speeds, but don’t expect this to make the big GMC frugal on gas.

Interior

Anyone who tries to tell you GMC isn’t a premium brand needs to get inside the 2019 Yukon. There’s a high-end feel to the interior, which is full of quality trim and materials.

There’s plenty of room in the front two rows, and cargo is well catered for throughout the cabin. The third-row is cramped, to say the least, but GMC has a solution for that: the Yukon XL. The Yukon XL is a longer wheelbase version of the Yukon, just as the Suburban is the longer wheelbase version of the Tahoe. While the front and second-row legroom is almost identical in the Yukon and Yukon XL, the XL offers 34.5 inches of legroom in the third row. That’s compared to just 24.8 inches in the standard Yukon.

If you’re going to be using the third row on a regular basis, the Yukon XL is the way to go. Just make sure to check whether your garage is deep enough first, as the Yukon XL is a seriously big vehicle.

Features and Equipment

Most Yukons sold may be the high-end Denali models, but you don’t have to go to those lengths or that expense to get a Yukon that’s seriously well-equipped.

The base SLE trim is the only model with cloth upholstery, but it does come standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, a Bose audio system, automatic wipers, and automatic tri-zone climate control.

The SLT trim looks like the best value. It adds leather upholstery, heated front and second-row seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless ignition, and power-folding second and third rows to the SLE’s already impressive list of standard equipment. The only options you might want to upgrade to the SLT are full-speed automatic emergency braking, a rear-seat entertainment system, navigation, and a moonroof – but then you’re getting into Denali territory.

Along with lots of exterior chrome trim, the Denali gets an upgraded Bose audio system with active noise canceling, 20-inch alloy wheels, and magnetic suspension. Perhaps a little surprising, considering the cost of the Denali, features like power side steps, 22-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and a moonroof are still additional options.

Fuel Economy

Although the Yukon is no fuel-sipper, you still might be surprised at the mileage ratings this mighty vehicle delivers. Rear-drive models with the 5.3-liter engine are rated by the EPA at 16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined. Adding all-wheel-drive sees those numbers drop a little to 16/22/18 mpg.

The worst numbers are naturally for the all-wheel-drive Yukon XL Denali, but at 14/21/16 mpg they’re still perhaps not as bad as some might have expected.

The Good

  • Luxurious interior
  • A towing champion
  • Upscale, chiseled design
  • Ample power

The Not-So-Good

  • Cabin not as spacious as you might expect
  • Limited cargo area

The Last Word

If you’re looking for the utility, flexibility and capability of a large, truck-based SUV, there are plenty available. However, if you want all that capability and an extra dose of style and presence, the 2019 GMC Yukon is the natural choice.

Darren Brode / Shutterstock

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