GMC Yukon Pros and Cons 2021

A little more than a Chevy, not quite a Caddy. And that’s not a good thing.

Pros - Good looks ,Fantastic 10-speed auto/5.3L V-8 combo Great ride quality

Cons - Poor value ,Underwhelming interior -You can buy a Tahoe

Long squeezed from the top by Cadillac and the bottom by Chevrolet, GMC seemingly has very little breathing room to thrive. Yet the 2021 GMC Yukon tries harder than any GMC effort in recent years to distinguish itself from its Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban stablemates.

To some measure, GMC succeeds in differentiating itself. The fifth-gen Yukon is more conservatively styled than either the Tahoe/Suburban or the Escalade, allowing it to stand apart on its own. The Yukon AT4 and Denali are better-looking still. "Styling is why I would consider the GMC over a Chevy," Buyer's Guide director Zach Gale said.

View Other 2021 SUV Of The Year Contenders And Finalists Here

Under the skin, the Yukon is much the same as the Tahoe. The big news is the new unibody-on-frame platform. This new structure allows the Yukon to offer trucklike towing performance (up to 8,400 pounds when properly equipped) yet also provide crossover levels of body rigidity with room for up to eight passengers and some of their stuff—the latter a trait previously limited to just the Yukon XL.

The other major change for 2021 is GM's new Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, which combines GM's magnetic shocks with air springs in an effort to improve ride quality, provide load leveling when towing or hauling, and increase ground clearance off-road. The suspension system, standard on models like the Yukon AT4, certainly works as advertised. "The Yukon has a commanding, if not imperious, ride quality," senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said. "You feel as if everything is less than you are. It just feels good."

Although its platform and chassis are new, the Yukon's powertrains are largely unchanged. The base engine is still a 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. It's paired to a new-for-2021 10-speed automatic, relegating the old six-speed slushbox to the dumpster (and the base GMC Sierra). The 10-speed auto breathes new life into the V-8, which has long been a weak point in the Yukon line. "I always thought the 5.3-liter engine was kind of soggy," features editor Scott Evans said, "but it turns out the problem was the transmission. With this new 10-speed, it feels great."

The Denali's carryover 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed auto combo rounds out the Yukon's engine lineup for 2021 (plus a new Duramax 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6, which wasn't available for testing). Rear drive is standard on all but the Yukon AT4, with all- and four-wheel drive optional.

Although it's a dramatic improvement from Yukons of yesteryear, when we start looking at the Yukon against our criteria, it stops looking so rosy. First, there's Advancement in Design: The sheetmetal has obviously been loved, but the cabin has been neglected. Buttons seem haphazardly placed throughout. The sliding center console and tailgate switches are on the ceiling; drive modes, drivetrain, suspension, and lighting switches are to the left of the steering column. There's little rhyme or reason.

We also took issue with the cabin's design itself; although the Yukon Denali has a design of its own, the rest of the Yukon lineup shares its cabin design (and materials) with the cheaper Chevrolets. At $75,155 as tested, the Yukon interior quality, fit, and finish aren't up to par—especially considering what that money would get you from Mercedes-Benz or other luxury automakers. And with that, we've stumbled into our Value criteria; ignoring any vehicle outside of GM's ecosystem, an identically equipped (save for the sheetmetal) Chevy Tahoe Z71 can be had for $4,320 less.

The new Yukon is a more convincing effort from GMC than we've seen in years, but ultimately the only compelling reason to consider a Yukon over a Tahoe, Suburban, or Escalade is exterior styling. Maybe the midcycle update in a few years will fix that. Maybe not.

GMC Yukon Pros and Cons 2021

2021 GMC Yukon AT4
Base Price/As tested$66,095/$75,155
Power (SAE net)355 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque (SAE net)383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph7.2 sec
Quarter-mile15.5 sec @ 90.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph129 ft
Lateral Acceleration0.66 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight30.6 sec @ 0.51 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb16/20/18 mpg
Vehicle LayoutFront-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine/Transmission5.3L OHV 16-valve V-8/10-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist)5,912 lb (51/49%)
Wheelbase120.9 in
Length x Width x Height210.0 x 81.0 x 76.5 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy211/169 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb1.10 lb/mile