2016 GMC Yukon Rental Review - In The Big City
“My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.”
— Walter Kirn
I quote Mr. Kirn to begin this review not only because his novel, Up In The Air, may as well be an unauthorized Bark M. biography, but because he’s right. Writers need to go to New York. More specifically, autowriters need to go to the New York International Auto Show. Detroit is the biggest. Geneva gets all the supercars. But to see and be seen? To network with fellow writers? To get your finger on the pulse of what’s shaking in the car biz?
There’s only one show that matters, and that’s New York.
That is why your friend Bark, and your other friend Bozi, found themselves standing at the National Emerald Aisle at LaGuardia Airport trying to pick a car. We had flown to New York’s dirtiest airport, sure, but we needed to get to New York. We needed a car for that task. And of the cars they had available, none seemed as cool, hip, or just downright gangster as the black 2016 GMC Yukon hiding in the corner.
We convinced the lot attendant that we were very important business customers who needed a free upgrade, and just like that, we headed toward our shared Airbnb brownstone in Brooklyn.
What a terrible — yet wonderful — choice we made.
Driving in New York is not like driving anywhere else in America. Yes, other cities are crowded. Yes, other cities have narrow lanes. Yes, other cities even have angry drivers. But there is something particularly unique about navigating the streets of New York’s the five boroughs. The environment and the absolute pressing need of every New Yorker to get everywhere as fast as fast as possible combines for a wildly stressful driving experience.
You might think that the vastness of the GMC Yukon’s luxuriously appointed cabin would be just the place to escape the turmoil of the city. You’d be mostly wrong.
As we drove into the Brooklyn, Bozi and I began to suspect that we had chosen … poorly.
The Yukon’s dimensions are proper in, say, Kentucky horse country, but it’s a virtual MechaGodzilla in New York. It just doesn’t fit anywhere. Not in parking spaces. Not on the ramps of parking garages. Not in the center lane of the West Side Highway. Nowhere. When you drive it, other people honk at you just because you’re offending their New York sensibilities. I can’t count the number of times I was just driving along, minding my own business, when somebody blared their horn at me.
But that’s not even the best sensory disturbance that being in the captain’s seat of the Yukon provides. That award is reserved for the damnable Enhanced Driver Alert System. In theory, it’s a great idea. If you’re driving the Yukon and you find yourself too close to other drivers, or perhaps veering ever-so-slightly out of your lane, the big GMC shakes your ass like you’re a dancer in a Luther Campbell video. Wonderful. However, in New York, it’s a goddamned nuisance. The lanes of the city are so narrow and the traffic is so close that the Yukon is convinced you’re always about to hit something. I have sat in massage chairs that vibrated less. If somebody here knows how to turn it off, please contact me at email@example.com or call me an idiot on Twitter, because I navigated through every menu option on the damn thing and couldn’t figure it out.
Bozi thought it was funny to take video of my constant vibration. He was right.
All that aside, there’s a lot to like about the Yukon.
The Yukon feels solid. Everything about it has the sense of a product that’s been manufactured in some variation for the last bajillion years, because it has been. Our SLT trim rental included every creature comfort imaginable: heated and cooled leather seats, power folding second and third row seating, automatic liftgate, 8-inch IntelliLink screen, as well as a 4.5-inch screen for the driver, and 4G LTE wireless data services. And for all of those devices that will be using that glorious data, there are enough power outlets to light up Times Square at night.
Passenger and cargo space is best described as “infinite.” Seating is quite comfortable, and passengers have access to their own power outlets and climate controls. In fact, Bozi preferred sitting in the back. He tried to give me a black suit and a cap to wear, but that’s where I drew the line.
On the rare occasions that I drove the Yukon at more than 5 miles per hour, I found it delightful. There’s more than enough grunt generated by the 5.3-liter Ecotec V8 to tell even the most aggressive of cab drivers that you mean business when you switch lanes. Its 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque are available at the ready even in the lowest rev ranges. The six-speed automatic transmission worked smoothly enough for my purposes, providing the right gear at the right time in most circumstances.
The premium Bose nine-speaker audio system, combined with Apple’s superb CarPlay, allowed us to thump out the most Brooklyn-worthy beats as we cruised up to the Park Slope neighborhood to get our (well, Bozi’s) necessary daily coffee. Perhaps the most surprising thing about having a Yukon in Brooklyn was the relative ease with which I could find parking spaces. I never had to circle our block at 22nd and 4th more than once or twice to find a good spot at any time of day.
In Manhattan? Well … I had to navigate some pretty tricky parking ramps. I think my FitBit Charge HR registered a heart rate in excess of 100 bpm a few times as I tried to park the big beast in the Battery Park parking garage. I don’t mind admitting that the Super Driver Safety Techno Pack was quite helpful when it came to figuring out exactly where the hell the nose of the Yukon was as I went up the ramp. It was the least Drift King method possible for driving into a garage.
Gas mileage wasn’t abysmal, either. We observed about 15.4 miles per gallon with nearly all of our driving done in start/stop conditions. In four days of driving, including a few trips back and forth to LGA and JFK to pick up and drop off fellow credentialed writers, we only had to stop for gas once. Not bad.
What all the GM bashers (myself included, at times) tend to forget when we bemoan the lack of refinement in some of the General’s cars is that this truck — this truck, right here — is what GM does better than anybody. It’s not cheap by any means. Our rental would have stickered out at $58,195 with all the included currently available offers. But it’s just so good. It often seemed as though there was no task I could ask of it that it couldn’t do. Maybe it’ll do those things with the grace of a hippopotamus from Fantasia, but it gets the job done. If I could somehow afford to have one of these as a kid-carrying, race-car towing, grocery-hauler in the Bluegrass, I’d jump all over it.
In the city? Well … there is something to be said for being big enough and powerful enough that everybody on the street can see you. Nobody dared mess with the Yukon (except for the Nissan Rogue-driving woman who not only cut me off, but also a school bus in the process of making her right-hand turn from the left-hand lane heading into the Battery tunnel). It also proved to be quite helpful in taking large quantities of autowriters from one salacious party to the next.
In reality, the only competition for the Yukon comes from its stablemate, the Chevrolet Tahoe, which isn’t any cheaper, and might even cost you more when you pick the features you want. Whereas the Tahoe can fade into the background nearly anywhere, like Nuke Laloosh, the Yukon announces its presence with authority.
As we went to return the Yukon to our rental car company, we noticed a few large scrapes on the bumper collected by the GMC as it sat parked overnight outside our brownstone. Luckily, we had insurance, so we didn’t stress it too much. It seems as though nobody leaves the city the same as they were when they enter it, not even the Yukon. Even with the scrapes, I’m willing to guess that our 2016 GMC Yukon rental probably looked a little less beaten up than Bozi and I did after our time in the city.
If only I could have taken it home with me to Kentucky, where it could live out a life of fall Keeneland meets and soccer team transportation. Somehow, though, I think our Yukon will be able to take on the city again just fine.
[Images: © 2016 Bark M. and Bozi Tatarevic/The Truth About Cars]
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I'm not going to argue that the Tahoe is a good car for NYC. It's not. But this article would have readers think that they don't exist here and nothing could be farther from the truth. The city streets (even in Manhattan) are full of Tahoes, Yukons and Escalades. They are a favorite for limo companies, Uber, etc. Large groups and families are driven all over town in these things. We all know that all would be better off if these trucks were replaced by minivans but it just doesn't happen.
Ya know, as stupid as they are for most people who own them, I freakin' love these beasts. There just isn't anything else like driving one of these. I'm a Ford boy through-and-through but I love me a Tahoe/Yukon/Suburban/Yukon XL. I ought to drive an Expedition.. I just like these big things. Nothin' else like it.