By on December 20, 2021

Tim Healey/TTAC

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.

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.

Tim Healey/TTAC

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.

Tim Healey/TTAC

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.

GMC

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.

GMC

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]

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31 Comments on “2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Review – Odd, Yet Familiar...”


  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I categorically hate SUVs, but I love the Yukon. I rented one for three days and I’d gladly rent one again, these are the right tool for the job when the job is driving 1,000km across the prairies on partly gravel roads.

    • 0 avatar
      PotLizard

      I had a somewhat similar experience with a previous-generation Suburban that I rented for a long road-trip. My impression was that while it was fantastic for the long-haul mission I rented it for, the size would make it horrible to live with as a daily driver on a permanent basis.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I agree -I rented a Nissan Armada for a family vacation in the Colorado mountains a few years back, and it was great. Handled the hills effortlessly, and even returned 18 mpg for the trip.

      No way I’d ever buy one of these, but I see why they’re appealing.

  • avatar
    gasser

    There are two big things about these land boats that I don’t understand: How do people afford these prices? How do people afford to fill the gas tanks??

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “How do people afford these prices? How do people afford to fill the gas tanks??”

      1) Seven year loans and leasing.
      2) If you can afford the 84-month note or lease payment, you can presumably afford the gas.

    • 0 avatar

      Fuel is relative, most of these aren’t horrible on gas, My friends 5.3 Suburban does better then my old Durango and only about 20% worse then my Honda pilot (around town on the high way the pilot does much better). On affordability I question that too, but about 6% (about 7 millon households) of the country has income over 200k, which based on my experience is about the household income you start seeing these. You also have the strange trade up effect. I know a lot of people who have effectively used high resale on trucks to keep driving things way out of their price range. I have a couple coworkers with sub 100K incomes that drive 60k+ trucks, they trade in every few years and they basically constantly have 400 a month in payments (many have been doing this for 15-20 years).

  • avatar

    That front end is gopping and absolutely awful.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Repeatedly describing a big truck that can reach 60 in 7.5 seconds and hit 89 mph in the quarter mile as “slow” is peak autojourno brain.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Not to speak for Tim, and I haven’t driven the newest generation of Tahoe/Yukon, but the previous 5.3 did feel pretty sluggish and reluctant to downshift in normal driving. Yeah you could beat on it and it would get up and go, but the throttle mapping and transmission programming seemed designed to upsell you into the 6.2L.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfwagen

        Every time I rent a Uhaul pick up with the 5.3 (and I checked every time)it feels like a slug. My Company 2018 Ram with the 3.6 Pentastar V6 Felt more powerful.
        I don’t find the interior offensive but yes the infotainment screen looks tacked on but that is pretty much the trend these days (why they can’t make that area behind the screen a storage bin/cubby is beyond me)

        The exterior ugh Right now GM has some of the worst-looking front ends on trucks. IF they just made the stack of three lights into one unit, I think it would not be as bad. At least it doesn’t have the front end of the Chevy 2500 series

      • 0 avatar

        I have to agree, it’s not actually slow but I think GM tunes it for MPG and the throttle response is always annoying on these. I have driven a 4.3 and 5.3 back to back, in daily driving they feel the same thanks to throttle mapping. Floor it and that changes. So not slow but feels sluggish would be a better way to describe it.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Throttle mapping can be disorienting the first time you step into a new vehicle—which I guess the journos are doing all the time—but I think you get used to it pretty quickly. Honestly I’d rather have mapping that’s too conservative than Subaru-style jerky tip-in, because that makes it easier to drive smoothly.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Objectively, this isn’t a slow vehicle, but being that far off the ground probably makes it feel slower than it is.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      It felt slow to me in the real world, which for me is merging, passing, and the occasional stoplight-to-stoplight run. I’m fully aware these vehicles are much faster than they were when I was younger, and the numbers you quote aren’t bad. But most folks do their driving in the real world, and the Yukon felt heavy and slow to me in real-world urban driving.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The numbers are from C&D’s test of the Tahoe Z71, which has more or less the same gingerbread as your AT4.

        I suspect that with another week of driving you would have got used to the throttle mapping and everything would have been fine. (Well, at least for the “slow” part—a three-ton vehicle will always feel heavy.)

  • avatar
    agcg

    I agree that these are not appealing to look at, but the biggest turn-off for me isn’t sheet metal or plastic- it’s the new IRS hanging way down low. Most people probably don’t take their Tahoes, Yukons, and Escalades off the beaten path with any regularity, but part of the appeal, at least to me, is that you *can* if you want to. In addition to the practical benefits for camping and whatnot, off road ability offers a bit of a “cool” factor missing from the average minivan.

    On the current models, the lowest points of the rear lower control arms don’t look like they could be more than 5 inches off the ground. They seem like they’d dig right into snow or mud and catch on raised rocks you might not see fording a shallow stream. Without the benefits (practical or otherwise) of an off-road capable vehicle, the only reason to get one of these over a decidedly uncool minivan seems to be their moderate towing capacity.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Did using “sport” or “tow/haul” modes help the responsiveness at all?

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Has anyone noticed the lack of clearance on the lower control arms on the new IRS design? It appears to be like 5″. That’s pushing much snow, hitting many rocks on a trail (they call it an AT4) and road hazards. Fail! If an all wheel drive Nissan Rouge can have an IRS with flat body pan suspension level components, can not GM’s big SUVs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m glad someone else agrees that this thing looks bad. And to my eyes, the Escalade looks even worse – it’s almost as if Cadillac decided to just affix a Caddy grille to a barn door, and slap it on the front end. Looks like a roadgoing locomotive. Not my jam, as my kid would say.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    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

  • avatar
    FORDSHO

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      FORDSHO: Your narrative about sums up what most Americans stereotype South East Floridians. I could never own a Range Rover, I need to trust my life with my car. I do commend you on paying cash for two of the most rapidly depreciating vehicles on the planet. But Hey… “They are Flashy”

      • 0 avatar
        wjtinfwb

        Pretty condescending and judgmental for a guy with the screen name “CaddyDaddy”… unless you happen to work at a Golf course.

      • 0 avatar
        FORDSHO

        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. :)

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