2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Review - Odd, Yet Familiar

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2021 GMC Yukon 4WD AT4 Fast Facts

5.3-liter V8 (355 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm, 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm)
10-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
16 city / 20 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
14.8 city / 11.8 highway / 13.5 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$64,800 (U.S) / $76,148 (Canada)
As Tested
$75,455 (U.S.) / $88,698 (Canada)
Prices include $1,295 destination charge in the United States and $2,050 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2021 gmc yukon at4 review odd yet familiar

The GMC Yukon formula is familiar. Big and comfortable with a powerful engine getting things motivated. It’s a winning formula, too – the Yukon is quite popular, as you know.

Underneath, the formula remains the same. Stylistically, though, chances were taken. And that roll of the dice doesn’t pay off quite as well.

GMC had the sense not to mess with the powertrain, but the attempt to keep the styling current is a bit of a messy miss in this application.

Underhood in my tester was the smaller of two available V8s. This 5.3-liter V8 still makes plenty of power on paper – 335 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque – but the Yukon is heavy enough that it feels predictably slow. You do get enough twist for putzing around town, but those who want/need more guts will need to buy either the larger 6.2-liter V8 or the available diesel, both of which put out 460 lb-ft of torque.

At least the 5.3 is relatively smooth. Not as buttery smooth as the venerable 6.2, but still silky enough in operation to make life more comfortable. On the other hand, the push-button shifter that manages the 10-speed automatic is a bit annoying. Not because it is push-button, but because it feels a bit unnatural to use. I suspect owners may get used to it, though.

The Yukon’s familiarity and predictability extend beyond acceleration. You’d expect handling to be ponderous, if not cumbersome, and ride to be nice and comfy, and you’d be correct to do so. Some things don’t change.

What does change is the styling, at least a little bit. The overall shape remains familiar, but GMC has tried to dude things up with weird angles and angular circles and other odd shapes, especially on the inside. The exterior styling is familiar enough that this passes muster, but the interior looks are off-putting. The materials feel nice, which is important at this price point, but the look is a mish-mash of odd shapes. It’s a cohesive look, at least, but cohesively unattractive is still ugly.

Oh, and my old nemesis, the tacked-on infotainment screen, is present here.

It may look funky, but it’s still a Yukon, so it still coddles. My test unit didn’t just ride smoothly, thanks in part to magnetic ride control and the optional adaptive air suspension, but it also came with plenty of creature comforts. Bose audio, 20-inch wheels, front skid plate, wireless device charging, keyless entry and starting, tri-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, LED lighting (including fog lamps), a power liftgate, and recovery hooks are all standard for $64,800.

So, too, are these driver aids: Lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, automatic braking assist, front pedestrian braking, forward-collision assist, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear park assist, following-distance indicator, automatic high beams, safety-alert seat, and an anti-theft system.

The AT4 Premium Plus package cost $9,145 and added a power dual-pane sunroof, retractable running boards with ground lighting, electronic limited-slip differential, the aforementioned adaptive air suspension, a radiator with upgraded cooling, GMC’s ProGrade trailering system (includes trailer blind-zone assist, an app, trailer-brake controller, and hitch guidance), rear-pedestrian alert, touchscreen infotainment with navigation, Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and voice recognition; and a rear-seat media system. The Satin Steel Metallic paint added $495, and second-row heated seats cost another $370. Finally, power-release second-row seats and a center console with a power-sliding drawer costs $350. With all this, the sticker was $76,455 – and an AT4 Premium Package savings knocked a grand off that price.

The total package is pure Yukon in terms of driving dynamics – heavy, slow, comfortable (in terms of both ride and creature features), smooth, powerful, and quiet. But – and I say this knowing styling is subjective – the package comes in an ugly box.

If you can stomach the looks – or if you have different taste than I – the Yukon AT4 does what Yukons have always done. That is, it delivers luxury in a large SUV format – one that can also tow your boat to the lake house with ease. Despite the punishment at the fuel pump (mpg numbers of 16/20/18, and I got around 11 mpg in about 63 miles of mostly urban driving), this setup works for a lot of people who have the cash on hand.

Quibbles with design might be a “me” problem – again, styling is subjective. Putting aside beauty, or lack thereof, the Yukon AT4 remains a luxurious beast.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC, GMC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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5 of 31 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Dec 21, 2021

    The 5.3 feels unresponsive if you use a light throttle foot but livens up considerably when prodded a little more. The Suburban with the 5.3 and 3.08 rear gears is the worst of the bunch but still manages to give decent power if you give it some throttle. The new model uses the 10 speed and 3.23 gears with 3.42's optional. They do feel a bit livelier and time out quicker but this engine lacks the near instant off the line torque of Ford's 3.5 EB as used in the Expedition/Navigator so that may be where some of the comparisons are coming from. As for styling the sheer amount of these I see driving around tells me that most don't agree with your styling assessment, myself included. It's not perfect but hardly ugly. I find the goofy looking backward C headlights of the F-150 to be ugly when viewed coming head on so they all have something that could be improved on

  • FORDSHO FORDSHO on Dec 21, 2021

    I always have to laugh at these comments. Don’t assume that just because you can’t afford it (yet) that everyone is in the same boat. Not everyone is a poser with an 84 month loan. 35 year old here in Florida. Drive a 2019 Escalade Platinum. Paid cash for it after working my ass off for 12 years at a corporate job and working my way up the ladder to $220k a year plus bonus. Got laid off with a $100k severance and used that to start an eCommerce company. Now, take frequent trips up and down the coast for meetings in Miami, Naples, and Atlanta. Needed something reliable but wanted something flashy. (hey, I worked hard for it). It only takes about $75 bucks to fill up from completely empty. The 6.2 is surprising frugal on the highway ((avg 19-21 mpg, about 15 around town though) in a sweet ride that has room for 7, massaging seats, and every other feature under the sun. 2nd car is a full size 2012 Range Rover 5.0 supercharged (also paid off). There ARE people out there with a disposable income that actually enjoy these vehicles.

    • See 2 previous
    • FORDSHO FORDSHO on Dec 22, 2021

      @CaddyDaddy After you’ve actually owned one, you’ll realize like most things, the internet has way overblown the narrative around Range Rover reliability. Also, when you finally reach financial independence, you’ll realize it’s worthless to take internet finance advice around depreciating assets from some rando named CaddyDaddy. :)

  • Pco65752756 Why is this not on the High Mile Cars List?
  • SCE to AUX "But we can all go pound sand in North America, unfortunately"In reality, that would be about 1000 people who can go pound sand, which is why this isn't coming to North America.
  • MaintenanceCosts You could probably make this thing satisfy US emissions standards, although it wouldn't right now, but there is no way on God's green earth you could make it satisfy US safety standards.
  • MrIcky Haven't these been out for a while? Is the news just that Japan gets them now too?
  • JTiberius1701 Jaguar Contour....