Full 2008 GMC Yukon Review
What's New for 2008
After last year's redesign, the 2008 GMC Yukon sees minimal changes. The 40/20/40-split front bench seat gets built-in storage compartments, side-curtain airbags are made standard across the board and OnStar turn-by-turn navigation becomes standard on the SLT trim.
For families who need a spacious, comfortable and rugged full-size SUV, GMC's entries have long been the go-to vehicles. With their stout, truck-based underpinnings, these sport-utilities are ideal for towing and off-roading duties. But until recently their interiors were seriously lacking in terms of build and materials quality compared to most rivals. That all changed with last year's redesign, which brought rave reviews thanks chiefly to the handsome, well-tailored new cabin design that was more in line with the GMC Yukon's price tag, particularly in high-end Denali form. For 2008, the well-respected Yukon sees only a few detail changes.
This SUV should meet just about any full-size SUV buyer's needs. It can seat up to nine passengers, can tow about 8,000 pounds and offers enough features to keep the most demanding families happy. And although it's not exactly nimble, the Yukon is a couple of feet shorter than its otherwise similar Yukon XL big brother, and hence easier to handle in the cities and suburbs.
Arguably, the Yukon's closest rival is the Ford Expedition. Certainly, both are capable and spacious and each offers a few advantages over the other. The GMC has a nicer interior, for instance, but the Ford features a fold-flat third seat while the Yukon's must be muscled out and stored in the garage. One could also consider the Nissan Armada, which has been updated this year, or even GMC's new large crossover SUV, the Acadia, if seating flexibility and fuel economy are bigger priorities than towing and off-road capability. Meanwhile, the ritzy and powerful Yukon Denali arguably surpasses the more expensive Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX56 for out-and-out luxury and performance. Obviously it's important to assess your priorities carefully. Thanks to its long list of attributes, though, the 2008 GMC Yukon (and its Chevy twin, the Tahoe) is a strong candidate if you require, or simply crave, the abilities of a traditional full-size SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV that's available in two main trim levels: base SLE and ultra-plush Denali. Seating configurations range from five to nine passengers. The SLE is far from bare-bones, as it comes with 17-inch alloy wheels; foglamps; full power accessories; front bucket seats with a console; OnStar telematics; keyless entry; a six-way power driver seat; dual-zone air-conditioning; a trip computer; and an eight-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack and rear-seat controls. If you prefer a 40/20/40-split front bench seat (with built-in storage compartments) and can do without a few features such as foglamps and rear audio controls, the de-contented SLE with the 3SA package will save you some green versus the standard SLE.
If you want more luxury, however, consider either of the SLT option packages: SLT1 and SLT2. Choose SLT1 and the following are added: leather seating, triple-zone automatic climate control, a six-disc CD changer, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle start, rear parking assist and the "Turn-by-Turn" navigation feature for the OnStar system. The SLT2 adds a premium Bose sound system, 12-way (versus six-way) power/heated front seats, power-folding mirrors with turn signals, and a 50/50-split third-row seat. The high-line Yukon Denali features all of the above plus a unique grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension (with a rear load-leveling feature), a power liftgate and heated second-row captain's chairs.
Many of the Denali's extra features are optional on the Yukon SLE. Options for both trims include a navigation system, power-folding second-row seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a rearview camera and 20-inch wheels. A heated steering wheel is an exclusive option for the Yukon Denali.
Powertrains and Performance
Three V8s are employed in the Yukon line. Two-wheel-drive Yukon SLEs with the 3SA package get a 4.8-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. All other Yukon SLE models pack a 5.3-liter V8 (320 hp and 340 lb-ft); it's optional on the 2WD SLE 3SA. (A flexible-fuel version of the 5.3 capable of running on E85 fuel is also available.) With either of those engines, the transmission is a four-speed automatic. Buyers have a choice of two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive, and the 4WD system includes low-range gearing. Equipped with the 5.3-liter V8 and 4WD, the Yukon is fairly quick, getting to 60 mph in just 8.6 seconds.
The GMC Yukon Denali boasts a 6.2-liter V8 (380 hp and 415 lb-ft) matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. All Denalis are equipped with all-wheel drive and do not have low-range gearing.
The 5.3 V8 is the most popular engine in the GMC Yukon line, and it's fitted with GM's cylinder deactivation technology to improve fuel economy. It earns EPA ratings of 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway (4WD) for 2008. These are hardly spectacular numbers, but they're a bit above average for a large, traditional SUV. Properly equipped, a Yukon SLE can tow up to 8,200 pounds. The Denali tops out at 7,900 pounds.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and full-length side curtain airbags (with a rollover sensor) are standard on all Yukons. Front-seat side airbags are not available. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal crash testing, the Yukon scored a perfect five stars for the driver and front passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
In contrast to past GMC trucks, the newest Yukon boasts attractive, high-quality materials and tight build quality. The control layout is simple and even the navigation system is easy to use. Depending on how you equip your Yukon, up to nine passengers can be transported, making it a class leader in that respect.
At 109 cubic feet, the Yukon's maximum cargo capacity bests that of the Nissan Armada and Dodge Durango, and is about the same as a Ford Expedition. Although the Yukon's second row is available with a power folding feature, the third-row seats must still be removed manually. We've tried it, and trust us, those seats are a bear to remove or install.
Aimed for the horizon on an interstate, there aren't many better cruisers. The 2008 GMC Yukon's ride is notably quiet, with a suspension that smothers bumps without feeling sloppy when the turns come up. The price paid is a somewhat rubbery quality to the steering and handling. Although the Yukon doesn't feel particularly nimble around corners, its relatively compact 39-foot turning circle makes it fairly maneuverable in the city. When towing a heavy trailer, the Yukon performs admirably. It's able to maintain speed up long grades, albeit with some gear hunting and rather loud exhaust noise.