In spite of the huge popularity of crossover SUVs -- those car-platform-based, stylish and sometimes even fuel-efficient family wagons -- there is still a place for traditional, truck-based SUVs. Yes, the latter are thirstier and typically aren't as nimble or space-efficient as a crossover. But strange as it may seem, some SUV owners actually do venture off-road (the soccer field doesn't count) and occasionally pull things -- large, heavy things -- behind their vehicles. For them, the 2010 GMC Yukon makes perfect sense.
Redesigned three years ago, the GMC Yukon (and its twin, the Chevrolet Tahoe) is the quintessential traditional full-size SUV. A robust, full-truck frame, rear-wheel or four-wheel drive with available low-range gearing, a beefy V8 engine, seating for up to nine passengers and plenty of cargo capacity are all part of the deal. Although the previous generations of the GMC Yukon (and Tahoe) were soundly criticized for their lackluster cabin materials and build quality, such is certainly not the case with the latest version, which compares favorably with competitors such as the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.
If your vehicular needs are more Clydesdale than quarter horse, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better steed than the versatile 2010 GMC Yukon. While not exactly nimble, it has reasonable maneuverability while providing all the space, comfort and capability anyone considering a large SUV could want. However, it does come with all the unwanted baggage of a traditional SUV. Unless you truly need this workhorse's massive towing and hauling capabilities, you'd probably be better served by a more fuel-efficient, roomier and better-handling large crossover, such as GMC's own Acadia or the Ford Flex.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The full-size 2010 GMC Yukon SUV offers seating arrangements for five to nine passengers, and is available in three trim levels: basic SLE, upscale SLT and the ultra-luxurious Denali.
The base SLE is well equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a three-passenger 40/20/40-split bench front seat (with built-in storage compartments), a power driver seat, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, OnStar communications, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system (with satellite radio, a USB port and a CD/MP3 player).
For significantly more luxury, there is the SLT trim level, which adds leather seating, tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a power passenger seat, a remote vehicle starter, rear parking assist (with rearview camera), a premium Bose sound system and "Turn-by-Turn" navigation for the OnStar system.
Stepping up to the Denali means you'll also enjoy unique styling touches (that include lower body cladding and a unique grille), 20-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, heated/ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs with a power fold feature, a larger display for the rearview camera and a navigation system.
Some of the standard features found on the upper trim levels can be added to the lower ones as optional equipment. Other options (depending on trim) include 20- and 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, a navigation system, a blind-spot warning system and a rear-seat entertainment system. Options for the Denali include a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheel styles, a sunroof, an additional third-row screen for the rear-seat entertainment system and a heated steering wheel.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2010 GMC Yukon uses a pair of V8 engines. All but the Denali boast a 5.3-liter V8 with 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. This engine features GM's displacement-on-demand cylinder-deactivation technology and sends its power through a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions; this year, the base 4WD system has a single-speed transfer case, with the more traditional two-speed case (with low-range gearing) being an option.
The GMC Yukon Denali features a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capability. Denali owners can choose between rear- and all-wheel drive, and a properly equipped Yukon can tow up to 8,400 pounds, depending on model and engine specs.
Fuel mileage estimates range from 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for a 2WD Yukon SLE or SLT down to 12/19/14 for the AWD Denali.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, OnStar communications, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags (with rollover sensor) are standard on all Yukons. A side blind zone alert warning system is available.
In government crash testing, the Yukon received a perfect five stars for front crash protection. It has yet to be tested with its new front seat side airbags, but prior to their addition, the Tahoe still managed a five-star side crash performance. In our brake testing of the related Tahoe, we recorded a 60-0-mph stopping distance of 134 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The GMC Yukon boasts an attractive cabin whose high-quality materials and tight build tolerances place it among the class leaders. The control layout is simple and straightforward, and the available navigation system is also easy to use. The Yukon can carry up to nine passengers, making it one of the most versatile utility vehicles in that regard.
At 109 cubic feet, the Yukon's maximum cargo capacity rivals that of the Ford Expedition and bests most other competitors. To take advantage of all that room, however, the bulky and heavy third-row seats must still be removed manually and stored outside the vehicle.
The 2010 GMC Yukon's ride is notably quiet, and it excels at highway cruising with a suspension calibration that smoothes bumps and rough pavement without feeling sloppy when pointed through corners. Its relatively compact 39-foot turning circle also makes it reasonably maneuverable in town. Still, the Yukon doesn't feel particularly nimble in traffic and also exhibits some vagueness in its steering. It feels right at home when towing a trailer, however, cruising effortlessly and easily maintaining speed up long grades.