What is it?
GMC’s full-size SUV, available for the first time in AT4 trim — the marque’s upscale off-road-focused sub-brand, meant to help boost sales and average transaction prices alike much the way the Denali sub-brand has done for GMC.
Is it new?
Yes indeed. Like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade that it shares its bones with, the Yukon is all-new for the 2021 model year, replete with updated technology and a roomier interior (brought to you in part by a new rear suspension that takes up less space in back and offers a smoother on-road ride). The Yukon also arguably benefits from the most attractive front end of GM’s phalanx of new full-size SUVs, though that’s a matter of taste.
What makes it special?
Unlike, say, the clear differences between an Escalade and a Suburban, defining what makes a GMC distinct from a Chevy is a little harder to pin down. Both the Tahoe and Yukon start at almost the same price, and offer effectively the same features. (The Tahoe, for example, now offers a Z71 trim that’s effectively the Chevy version of the AT4.)
The difference, really, is a matter of style and taste: Chevrolet is meant to be the mainstream brand, GMC the alternative choice for those less interested in going along with the crowd. In the end, pick whichever one you think looks better.
How does it drive?
Pleasantly enough in the real world. The AT4’s 5.3-liter V8 doesn’t have quite as much poke as the 6.2-liter engine in the Tahoe High Country I tested shortly before this, but you’d never know it in day-to-day driving; there’s plenty of power there to hustle three-plus tons of SUV and payload around, helped in no small part by the well-programmed 10-speed automatic.
The giant off-road tires also provided a bit of a ride quality advantage on the rough roads of New York City, where tire-shredding, suspension-smacking potholes are always just a turn away. (The Tahoe High Country’s 22-inch wheels, in contrast, transmitted more vibration up to the cabin than I’d have liked for such a massive, expensive vehicle.)
While I didn't have a chance to take it off-road, the changes needed to turn a regular Yukon into an AT4 certainly seem, on paper, to upgrade the SUV's game past where the pavement ends; in addition to the aforementioned tires, there's a new front fascia that provides a 32-degree angle of approach, a skid plate, the very noticeable red tow hooks and an available air suspension that can raise the rig up for more ground clearance.
What’s it like inside?
Roomy. Even in an era when it feels like SUVs have redefined how spacious the average car is, the Tahoe/Suburban/Yukon/Escalade remind you just how big a passenger vehicle can be.
With the second and third row folded flat, I was able to move several chairs, a couple large bags, a floor lamp and bunch of other odds and ends from one apartment to another — and this without even trying very hard. Play a little 3-D Tetris, and you could probably fit an entire apartment worth of flat-pack Ikea furniture in there. Or, perhaps just as usefully, you could easily fit four adults and all the luggage they’d need for a month-long vacation inside.
Otherwise, it's largely identical to the new Tahoe: an improvement over the previous model (and better than the Silverado and Sierra, though they'll likely follow the SUVs' lead soon), with a touch more hard-touch materials than you'd expect but a bevy of storage spaces and handy control layouts that make up for such small shortcomings. (If you really want a nicer interior, spring for the Yukon Denali.)
What’s it cost?
The GMC Yukon AT4 starts at $66,095 including destination charge. Tick every option on the list, and you’ll be looking at a $78,635 GMC.