2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Review - Odd, Yet Familiar
2021 GMC Yukon 4WD AT4 Fast Facts
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 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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