2009 GMC Yukon 4WD: Full-size SUV provides power and spaciousness
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The GMC Yukon is a full-size body-on-frame SUV manufactured in Arlington, Texas, that is Texas big, while sporting a rugged Canadian name. The second-generation sports-ute is built on the third-generation GMT900 platform, with 65 percent of its parts coming from the United States and Canada and 27 percent of Mexican derivation.
The Yukon story began in 1992, when it supplanted the GMC Jimmy. Its current clones include the Holden Suburban (in Australia and New Zealand) and the Chevrolet Blazer (in Brazil). Respected for its power and reliability in severe weather and conditions, the Yukon and its American twin sister, the Chevrolet Tahoe, are sometimes used as police vehicles, predominantly when 4-wheel drive and off-road capabilities are necessary.
Its construction as a truck-based SUV is obvious at first glance and more apparent when behind the wheel. It genuinely drives and feels as though it were a GMC Sierra, with a short bed and covered rear seats and box.
My shiny, Onyx Black test Yukon weighed in at 5301 lbs., and came with a tow rating of 8400 lbs. Fitting the full-size criteria, Yukon had an overall length of 202 inches, width of 79 inches and height of 76.9 inches on a 116-inch wheelbase. My test 4-wheel-driveYukon was off-road worthy with a minimum ground clearance of 8.9 inches and a step-in height of 21.7 inches.
Power comes from a 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 engine with GM’s fuel-saving Active Fuel Management technology. Aligned to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the plant puts out 310hp and 325 lbs.-ft. of torque on regular unleaded fuel, but it is also E85 capable. The Yukon is EPA estimated at 14 mpg in city driving and 20mpg on the highway, and my week of travels and testing through light-to-moderate snow, frigid Clipper Express air and some dry conditions throughout Central Pennsylvania and much of Western Maryland yielded an average of 17.1 mpg.
With enough highway strength to pass slower-mowing traffic with ease, the Yukon rumbled down a quarter-mile in a steady 16.9 seconds, after a zero to 60mph run of 9 seconds flat. At speed, the 5.3 is responsive, however, quick acceleration does speed up your fuel consumption.
All-speed traction control, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and independent front suspension with coil over shocks and Autoride real-time damping, assisted by a five-link rear suspension with coil springs made for a smooth, attentive ride that handled inclement weather and slippery road conditions without flinching. Off-road tests showed the Yukon to be a genuine article that can power over and through most obstacles, with little concern for ability except that the high center of gravity makes the driver wary of rollover in uneven incline/decline situations.
Safety-wise, the Yukon earned a five-star rating from the NHTSA in front and rear seat frontal and side crash tests, but the high center of gravity hindered Yukon there as well, and it was only granted three stars out of five in rollover tests.
Standard safety items include dual frontal air bags, head curtain side air bags for all seating rows, passenger sensing system, one year of Onstar with turn-by-turn navigation, antilock brake system with 4-wheel discs, Stabilitrak stability control with traction control, remote vehicle start, driver lock-out prevention, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitor system, theft deterrent system and ultrasonic rear parking assist.
Outside, the Yukon showcases its signature GMC horizontal-stripe grille, muscular architecture, wraparound front and rear fascias, styled mirrors and integrated assist steps. Tight fit and finish reduce noise, add to aerodynamics and increase its upscale demeanor. An under-body mounted spare tire, rear window defogger, power-accessed rear liftgate and power-heated outside mirrors add to Yukon’s driver-friendly capabilities.
Inside the cabin, Yukon is a very spacious ride, with seating for as many as nine (three in each row), though six is a much more roomy fit. The Yuke offers headroom of 41.1 inches in front, 39.2 in row two and 37.9 in row three; legroom of 41.3, 39.0 and 25.6; shoulder room of 65.3, 65.2 and 61.7 and hip room of 64.4, 60.6 and 49.1 inches. Row three is easy to get to and will fold flat (as will row two seats) for additional cargo.
The refined cabin is accented by leather appointments and soft, low-gloss materials for the instrument panel and other trim pieces. It is filled with upscale electronics in a premium, user-friendly atmosphere. Its Ebony color scheme was accessorized by 6-way power driver seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity for hands-free calls, XM Satellite Radio, rear sound audio system controls, Bose premium sound system, AM/FM stereo with 6-disc DC changer, tri-zone climate controls and auto-dimming inside rearview mirror.
The 2009 Yukon 4WD SLT1is base priced at $45,500, and my test sports-ute finished up with a total vehicle price of $50,735, after a few add-ons.
Decked out with 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, the SUV’s priced went up by $1995. Other options included a rear seat entertainment system ($1295) and power sliding sunroof ($995). An additional $950 was tacked on for destination and delivery charges.
The GMC Yukon provides secure road feel and interior lavishness. It delivers what is expected from a full-size SUV along with E85 capabilities.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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