2013 GMC Yukon Walk Around

The GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali feature clean lines with quiet, calm surface planes that minimize the sheer bulk. Likewise, the smooth, gently contoured flanks and arrow-straight beltline visually lower the height. Tight tolerances between body panels and a thud closing a door invite comparison with other SUVs.

The one-piece front end presents a friendly, welcoming face but without forfeiting the Yukon's presence. Large headlight housings are vertically oriented rather than the Tahoe's horizontal layout. The trademark grille with ruby-red logo and lower air intake ensure plenty of engine cooling. SLE and SLT share a horizontal-bar grille, Denali is distinguished by fine mesh.

Door handles bridging deep recesses make for easy gripping in all seasons. Squared-off wheel wells carry forward a Yukon signature styling cue. They suggest trimming up with the available 20-inch wheels and tires, though that's not our choice from a driving and towing perspective.

At the rear, a broad, mostly flat, almost vertical tailgate resides between tall, narrow taillights. The independently hinged rear window is a nice touch (except Hybrids), permitting easy loading of grocery bags and such.

The Yukon Hybrid has several styling cues that distinguish it from the other models. To counter added weight (the Hybrid is roughly 250 pounds heavier than a standard Yukon) and drag, the front end features an aluminum hood and bumper beam, and a more prominent air dam you might scrape on steep driveways, never mind off-road travel. The upper grille is expanded while the lower is smaller and openings that would house fog lights and tow hooks are blocked off. Along the sides, the running boards are reshaped for improved aerodynamics and the wheel flares are slightly reshaped. At the back, the rear pillars, spoiler and center high-mounted stoplight have a unique shape, the tailgate is made of aluminum and has fixed glass, and LED taillights replace the standard bulbs. The wheels are more aero efficient and the tires have lower rolling resistance. The spare tire and jack have been replaced by a tire inflation kit; a spare is optional. The result is a slightly better coefficient of drag to help improve fuel economy, if only by small amounts.

Visually, the Denali Hybrid is linked more closely to the standard Denali than to the standard Hybrid. Head-on, the Denalis are twins. Denali Hybrids can be spotted by their enormous eight-spoke, 22-inch chrome rims.

Interior

The Yukon interior design is clean and uncluttered. Leather surfaces feel expensive, if not luxurious. The fit between panels and coverings is impressive, with tight tolerances. Less impressive is the finish of some of the hard plastic surfaces, which look better than they feel; lighter-color interiors convey the lux look much better than the dark colors. The headliner is a woven fabric that looks and feels like mouse fur.

Elegantly simple, the instrument panel and center stack look right at home in a luxury SUV. The Denali is richer still, with a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel and darker wood trim than the other models. The gauge cluster is informative, reporting via secondary analog gauges powertrain data others leave to warning lights or bury in scrollable information displays.

The Hybrid model has a unique gauge cluster with a special tachometer and an economy gauge. The economy gauge can be used for more efficient driving (as can be the mpg data on most models' info display in the tachometer). Note that economy is best with the gauge pointed in the left-to-straight-up range that translates on other gauges to cold engine, low oil pressure, and low fuel level. The tachometer has an Auto Stop reading to indicate when the gasoline engine is shut off. No Yukon tachometer has a marked redline because the scale ends at the engine's maximum speed.

The Hybrid comes standard with HDD navigation system and its 7-inch touch-screen display. The screen also shows if the power is coming from the electric motors, the gasoline engine, or both, plus when regenerative braking is charging the batteries. The system also shows if the vehicle is in two- or four-wheel-drive mode. It's fun for passengers to monitor these readouts; they help you learn about how the hybrid system works and show when it is being used for the best fuel economy, but care must be taken by the driver to not be distracted by them.

The design of the Yukon's dash gives the driver an expansive view out the windshield, adding to the feeling of being above it all. Visibility is good all around, though the imposing right side C-pillar (the post between the rear side door and the rear quarter panel) does nothing to reduce the large side mirrors' blind spot. Along the same lines, the third-row seat blocks the lower third of the rear window; folding the third row down eliminates this.

The front seats are refreshingly comfortable and easy to adjust; most models have electric seat cushion adjustment but manual recline adjustment. They offer good thigh support, which is sometimes lacking in GM vehicles. Adjustable pedals on some models take the place of a telescoping steering column, and the tilt wheel is angled slightly away from the centerline of the car.

The available second-row captain's chairs offer good thigh support as well. We're disappointed with the folding armrests, however; they have one setting, which won't fit every occupant. The Hybrid model has thinner front seats that reduce weight and open up more than an inch in second-row knee room. We found them to be just as comfortable as the standard seats.

Room for people is respectable and competitive with other full-size SUVs. In front room measurements, the GMC Yukon equals of betters the Ford Expedition, and Toyota Sequoia but all have plenty of space. Trying them on will show which ergonomic setup and volume suits you best.

In the second row, the Yukon trails the Expedition in headroom and legroom and betters it in hiproom, but by less than an inch in all regards; it also slightly trails the Sequoia in second-row headroom, but has slightly more hiproom and considerably more legroom. In other words, all large SUVs have a lot of second-row space and the Yukon is no exception. As for second-row access, the Yukon suffers from small-feet syndrome, where the clearance between the base of the second row seat and the doorframe is so cramped, it's often impossible to step in or out without turning your foot sideways.

Since the third-row seats sit on the cargo floor third-row legroom is limited in the Yukon, with little space for adult feet and knees up at chest level. The Expedition and Sequoia offer considerably more legroom for third-row passengers; the Expedition has more than a foot more third-row legroom and is very close in all other respects. On the upside, it's surprisingly easy to climb in and out of the Yukon's rearmost seat, the walk-through opening notably larger than entering the second row. The second-row seat folds up out of the way with the release of a lever on the outboard pivot, or optionally, at the press of a button with the optional power-fold feature. Unfolding the seat is done manually, however. Make sure it's securely latched.

Cargo space behind the third row is limited, with just 17 cubic feet, less than any of the major competitors. With the second- and third-row seats out of the way, the Yukon offers comparable cargo space for the class, squeaking by the Expedition, but losing to the Sequoia by almost 12 cubic feet. Of course, the extended wheelbase Yukon XL (and Expedition XL/Navigator L) make up for any of the space deficiencies versus the Armada and Sequoia.

One area where the Yukon stumbles is the ease with which cargo room can be optimized. Both the Sequoia and Expedition offer a power-folding third row that folds flat into the floor. For optimum cargo room in the Yukon, the third-row seats must be removed, and they are heavy, bulky and you need someplace to store them.

Cubby storage includes a compact glove box, fixed map pockets with molded-in bottle holders on the front doors, and pouches on the backs of the front seatbacks. A large bin with removable double cup holder is provided between the front seats. In the Yukon Denali, this feature is separated into a storage bin and twin cup holders, both with hinged covers and surrounded in wood trim. Ordering the front bench seat for three-across seating eliminates the center console, of course.

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