The 2016 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV with room for as many as eight. It is the twin to the Chevrolet Tahoe. The stretched wheelbase Yukon XL is marketed separately and corresponds with the Chevrolet Suburban. Rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is available. The Yukon offers robust payload and towing capabilities, as well as the premium features.
The Yukon is the second largest model in GMC’s SUV lineup. It is based on the same architecture underpinning the full-size GMC Sierra pickup truck and is available in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali.
Several updates have come to the 2016 GMC Yukon. Besides expanded exterior color choices, a hands-free tailgate is now standard on the Yukon SLT. The GMC IntelliLink infotainment system now includes Apple CarPlay, and the available Driver Alert package adds lane keeping assist and automatic high-beam control.
The GMC Yukon’s commonality with General Motors’ large pickup trucks is evident in its silhouette, but there are some important distinctions. Those differences are largely found between the roof pillars where the SUV’s massive greenhouse comprises the bulk of the body.
All models are marked by a massive grille that’s honed in by oversized headlamp assemblies. A narrow lower grille opening is flanked by fog lamps. A sculpted and broad hood amplifies this SUV’s muscular front end with strong shoulders completing the expression.
Along the profile, a long and straight roofline and beltline serve to emphasize this SUV’s large proportions. Upper and lower character lines, body sculpting and oversized wheel wells are on hand. All models are outfitted with a discreet rear spoiler. A pair of sentry-like combination lamps bring up the rear and are found on both sides of the liftgate.
Denali models add chrome or chrome-like embellishments in various places. All Denali models have a specific mesh grille that’s swathed and surrounded in chrome. Chrome surrounds the fog lights, encircles the greenhouse and is found on the trim, including the roof rails and the side steps. Additional chrome touches accentuate the liftgate and rear fascia. Oversized alloy wheels are standard across the model line.
Access to the GMC Yukon’s interior comes via keyless entry, with push-button start launching the ignition. The Yukon is spacious and offers room for eight – or for seven if you substitute the second-row bench seat for a pair of captain’s chairs. The latter arrangement provides additional room to maneuver and stretch for both the second- and third-row passengers.
The dashboard is neatly organized with an instrument panel hood present and separate layers for the top and middle sections. In the Yukon Denali, leather is used nearly everywhere with wood trim splitting the dashboard and covering the door inlays.
The instrument panel is composed of six analog displays with the two largest ones representing the tachometer and speedometer. A digital driver’s information center is located beneath the four smallest displays. In four-wheel drive models, off-road and trailer controls are located on the lower dashboard to the left of the steering column. To the right is a start/stop button.
The center console is punctuated by an 8-inch color display with switches and knobs beneath for managing the audio and climate control systems. At the base of the stack are switches for seat heating and cooling, as well as a covered storage compartment and two bottle holders.
Splitting the front seats is a gargantuan armrest/storage compartment with a section for housing (and wirelessly charging) a smartphone. Within the compartment are USB and audio input connections, as well as sufficient room to hold file folders or a purse. Numerous storage compartments are found throughout the cabin of the Yukon, which you will find at the base of the center console, in each door, in the rear facing center console and in the rear cargo area.
All models are equipped with power accessories, multi-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose audio system. Yukon Denali models bring in a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, power adjustable pedals, power-folding seats and a cargo management system behind the third row. Denali editions also benefit from extra measures to quiet the cabin, including triple-sealed doors, acoustic laminating for the windshield and front windows, and active noise cancellation.
The 2016 GMC Yukon offers two engine choices. A 5.3-liter V8 making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque is standard and comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. This model is EPA-rated at up to 16/23 mpg city/highway.
All GMC Yukon Denali models are outfitted with a 6.2-liter V8 engine making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The EPA rates the Yukon Denali at up to 15/22 mpg city/highway.
The model tested was a Yukon Denali. Its engine is derived from the much-heralded Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, although it is also tuned to deliver 30 fewer horses than in the sports car. Nevertheless, the updated engine and eight-speed automatic transmission are a solid match for this big SUV.
The eight-speed automatic boasts a wider gear ratio spread than found in the previous six-speed automatic. As a result, the Yukon Denali benefits from more power when starting off, which is ideal when carrying heavy loads or towing. A corresponding benefit is lower engine rpm on the highway for improved efficiency.
Step on the accelerator and the transmission begins to click through the gears while sending power to the wheels. Stomp on the pedal and explosive power is delivered, moving this three-ton beast forward with confidence. All the while the transmission is working seamlessly in the background, partnering with the engine to find the right gear for the moment.
The Denali also has one benefit other Yukon models don’t offer: Magnetic Ride Control. The system is available on several Cadillac models as well as the Corvette and Camaro SS. It automatically adjusts the shocks with each corner taken or bump in the road encountered. Chassis poise is maintained as ride quality is advanced, delivering a more precise driving experience. The result is an SUV that handles much more like a car despite its high profile.
Technology and the GMC Yukon go together, especially in the Yukon Denali. All models are equipped with a rearview camera system and automatic windshield wipers.
Keyless entry and push-button start are standard on the SLT edition on up. Wireless charging is also included, except on the base model. All models are equipped with a 110-volt, 3-prong household style outlet found in the second-row rear facing console.
Every model is equipped with a 4.2-inch driver information center in the instrument panel. The center stack is punctuated by an 8-inch screen for the GMC IntelliLink display. This writer has found GMC’s infotainment system to be of the better ones out there, offering large icons to control various functions, including audio, smartphone and navigation settings. The navigation system provides accurate and clear turn-by-turn instructions, especially in developed areas. In rural areas, however, private roads are sometimes added incorrectly.
Only the Yukon Denali offers head-up display and that’s an optional feature. The Denali also brings in Magnetic Ride Control and an upgraded Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system.
On a scale of five stars, with five representing the highest score, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assigned the 2016 GMC Yukon with an overall score of four stars. The Yukon received five stars in frontal crash and side crash testing, but three stars in the rollover category.
All Yukon models come equipped with a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and a suite of air bags, including the segment’s first front center air bag, which is found on front bucket seat models only.
Standard safety technologies included with the SLT and Denali edition are forward collision alert with lane keeping assist, a safety alert driver seat and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2016 GMC Yukon is priced from $49,510 for the base SLE edition and $58,195 for the SLT model. Add $3,000 to obtain four-wheel drive. The SLT edition replaces the standard cloth seats with leather and brings in power-folding second- and third-row seats, as well as heated second-row seats.
Dozens of available options allow Yukon shoppers to personalize their vehicles. These options include nine wheel choices, a no-cost rear axle upgrade, chrome embellishments, a power sunroof ($995), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($2,095) and navigation ($495).
GMC provides a separate price and build configurator for the Yukon Denali. This model is priced from $65,325 and is outfitted with all the chrome embellishments offered separately elsewhere and then some. A programmable power liftgate, navigation, OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot, standard wireless charging and magnetic ride control are included. All safety features offered elsewhere are part of the Denali package too.
The four-wheel drive Yukon Denali we tested added an Open Road package ($2,760), bringing in a power sunroof and a rear seat entertainment system. It also included 22-inch aluminum wheels ($1,995) and a theft-deterrent system. The whole package came in at about $75,000.
Buyers shopping for the Yukon might consider the SLE edition and choose select entertainment and safety packages. A well-equipped four-wheel drive model will still retail for about $65,000, but without the many glitzy embellishments offered in the Denali.
The GMC Yukon operates in a niche segment and competes against the Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada. For Yukon Denali shoppers, the Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80 and even the Cadillac Escalade might be considered.
SUVs like the 2016 GMC Yukon are suitable for meeting the needs of large families and provide upwards of 8,500 pounds of towing capacity, which is as about as much as you’ll find in any gas-powered SUV.