The brands Chevrolet and GMC are as close as any two siblings can be, at least in the truck world. So when Chevrolet launched the new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban in December, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL were sure to follow close behind.
About 36 days behind, in fact. GMC just revealed the all-new 2021 Yukon and Yukon XL — and while they may boast a lot in common with the Chevys, they also have plenty of traits all their own.
Both switch to an independent rear suspension, which improves on-road ride quality and permits a lot more space — an additional 28.2 cubic feet for cargo in the Yukon or Tahoe alike. in addition to the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s, both will offer GM’s 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine, which provides 460 lb-ft of torque and should deliver better fuel economy than the gas-powered eights
GMC didn’t specify pricing, but given the positioning of the vehicles, it seems likely the Yukon will end up costing a few thousand more than their equivalent Tahoe trims when the 2021 models go on sale later this year. Here are the key differences.
Premium Branding, Including the AT4 Off-Road Trim
The Yukon and Yukon XL are, effectively, the “premium” versions of the Suburban and Tahoe. Most Yukon buyers will opt for one of GMC’s even-more-premium subbrands. Denali is the highest luxury trim GMC offers, and currently accounts for more than 60 percent of Yukon sales.
For the 2021 model year, GMC is adding an AT4 trim, similar to the one for the Sierra truck. It’s a luxury off-roading package, combining elements from the Denali and the Tahoe’s Z71 trim. The Yukon’s adaptive air suspension, offering up to two inches added lift, comes standard on the AT4. It also has a distinctive front fascia that delivers a 32-degree approach angle. (GMC plans to add an AT4 trim to every model in its lineup.)
More Upscale Styling
The Yukons aim to be glitzier than the Tahoe and Suburban — and it’s noticeable.
Outside, it’s hard to look away from the Denali trim’s enormous Galvano Chrome grille, which claims to have 10,000 individual elements that can be illuminated. On the interior, you’re getting more sumptuous, expensive-feeling leather and open-pore wood trim. The Yukon Denali receives a unique interior, with the touchscreen incorporated into the dashboard rather than protruding up from it.
Active Response 4WD System
The GMC SUVs are available with a three-part Active Response 4WD system. This includes an adaptive air suspension and the Magnetic Ride Control dampers available on the Tahoe and Suburban; the Yukons can add an electronic limited-slip differential to the mix for better traction.
GMC allowed journalists to test this system on the Yukon on a closed parking lot during the vehicle’s launch in Vail. The e-LSD seemed to work smoothly on the icy surface, distributing power well. (Truth be told, however, the lot warmed up to nearly 50 degrees in the sun, and I’m not sure how much of the track was still solid ice by that point.)
Likewise, the adaptive suspension raised and lowered the vehicle as required without issue. That said, the process — touching the bottom half of a hard-to-see switch, reacting quickly enough to turn a knob before it switched back to a different function, then monitoring the progress on a small indicator — felt convoluted. We’ll have to spend a little more time with it in the real world to see if it’s the sort of thing we can get used to.
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