Full 2009 GMC Yukon Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 GMC Yukon sports a number of upgrades. An XFE package debuts with aerodynamic enhancements and lightweight aluminum components that improve fuel economy. A third-row three-passenger 50/50-split bench seat and new aluminum wheels are standard on all models. Bluetooth phone connectivity becomes available, as does a rearview camera system that doesn't require the optional navigation system. This year's navigation system now has real-time traffic capability. Below deck, a new six-speed automatic is paired with both the 5.3- and 6.2-liter V8 engines, the latter of which gains 23 horsepower for 2009. Lastly, a heavy-duty trailering package and separate integrated brake controller are now available.
Redesigned three years ago, the GMC Yukon continues its strong appeal for 2009. Growing families and other serious truck shoppers who require a roomy and comfortable full-size SUV that can also pull or haul most anything they'd require will find much to like in the Yukon. Unlike lighter-duty car-based crossover utilities intended primarily for transporting passengers, GMC's Yukon (as well as its siblings, the Chevy Tahoe and extra-long Yukon XL variant) features a full truck frame ideally suited for towing heavy loads and hauling up to nine occupants and their stuff wherever road or trail beckons.
Since its overhaul, the GMC Yukon (and its Chevy Tahoe twin) has successfully addressed a previous shortcoming with dramatically improved cabin design, fit and finish. GM's standard full-size SUVs now compare favorably in terms of interior quality with rivals such as Ford's Expedition and Nissan's Armada.
Revisions for 2009 consist of a few features upgrades and several economy-related enhancements. All models feature a standard third-row seat, and a more flexible six-speed automatic transmission is now paired with the 5.3-liter V8 engine. A fuel-economy-minded XFE package debuts, as does a heavy-duty trailering package with integrated brake controller.
For those who want to stay connected and informed, there's the latest OnStar system with Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio with real-time traffic alerts. Safety advances include an available blind spot alert system on Denali models that uses radar sensors to signal traffic in your blind zones. There is also a new rearview camera system (available separately from the navigation system combination of the past) that uses a 3.5-inch screen inside the rearview mirror. The luxurious Denali model moves further upscale with premium amenities like a power-adjustable steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, and a more powerful 6.2-liter V8 with more than 400 horsepower and E85 FlexFuel capability.
If you truly need the versatility to haul around a large group or tow 8,000 pounds, it doesn't get much better than the nicely finished and versatile 2009 GMC Yukon. While not exactly nimble, it has reasonable maneuverability while providing all the space, comfort and capability that shoppers of large sport-utilities could hope for. But unless you need this workhorse's massive towing and hauling capabilities, you'd probably be better served by a more fuel-efficient and carlike large crossover, such as GMC's own Acadia or the Mazda CX-9.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The full-size 2009 GMC Yukon SUV offers seating arrangements for five to nine passengers, and is available in three primary trim levels: basic SLE, upscale SLT and the ultra-luxurious Denali. The base SLE1 is well outfitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated power outside mirrors, a three-passenger 40/20/40-split bench front seat with built-in storage compartments, three-passenger second- and third-row seats, custom cloth trim, power driver seat, dual-zone air-conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, OnStar communications, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio and MP3-compatible CD player. The SLE2 adds foglamps, a luggage rack, front bucket seats with power adjusters, floor console, auxiliary power outlets and rear audio controls.
For significantly more luxury, there is the SLT trim level: the SLT1 adds leather seating, triple-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starter, rear parking assist, universal home remote, a six-disc CD changer with premium Bose sound and "Turn-by-Turn" navigation for the OnStar system. Even more convenience and comfort is found on the SLT2 with its power-folding turn signal mirrors, 10-way power/heated front seats and heated second-row captain's chairs. If you want all this plus more distinctive styling and amenities, the top-of-the-line Yukon Denali also features a unique grille and trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension with rear load-leveling, heated and cooled seats and a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel.
New for 2009 is the XFE package for 2WD SLE and SLT models with the 5.3-liter V8. The XFE sports aerodynamic enhancements, taller gearing and lightweight aluminum components that improve fuel economy by 1 mpg. Other option highlights include a navigation system with real-time traffic, rearview camera system (now available with or without navigation), power-folding second-row seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, power-retractable side steps, power rear liftgate, power sunroof, a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheels, heavy-duty trailering equipment and an integrated trailer brake controller.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 GMC Yukon uses three different V8 engines. Base two-wheel-drive Yukon SLEs are equipped with a 4.8-liter V8 with 295 hp and 305 pound-feet of torque. All other SLE and SLT models boast a 5.3-liter V8 with 320 horses and 335 lb-ft of torque, which is optional on the base model. This engine is fitted with GM's displacement-on-demand cylinder deactivation technology plus a fuel-saving standard 3.08 axle ratio. The base 4.8-liter V8 is backed by a four-speed automatic, while the other engines transmit power through a six-speed unit. Buyers can choose between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions, and the 4WD system includes low-range gearing to enhance off-road capabilities.
The GMC Yukon Denali features a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with tap-up/tap-down shifting. Denali owners can choose between 2WD and AWD drivetrains.
Thanks partially to the availability of the XFE package for 2WD SLE and SLT models with the 5.3-liter V8, fuel economy is slightly above average for a full-size SUV. Overall estimates range from 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway for the XFE-equipped Yukons down to about 12 mpg city and 18-19 mpg highway with the Denali's larger V8. A properly equipped Yukon can tow from 8,200 to 8,500 pounds depending on model and engine specs.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, OnStar communications, front-seat side impact airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with rollover sensor are standard on all Yukons. A side blind zone alert warning system and rain-sensing wipers are available. In government crash tests, the 2009 GMC Yukon earned perfect five-star ratings in both frontal and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The latest GMC Yukon boasts an attractive cabin whose high-quality materials and tight build tolerances place it among the class leaders. The control layout is simple and straightforward, and the available navigation system is also easy to use. Yukons can carry up to nine passengers, making it one of the most versatile utility vehicles in that regard.
At 109 cubic feet, the Yukon's maximum cargo capacity rivals that of the Ford Expedition and bests most other competitors. To take advantage of all that room, however, the bulky and heavy third-row seats must still be removed manually and stored outside the vehicle.
The 2009 GMC Yukon's ride is notably quiet, and it excels at highway cruising with a suspension calibration that smoothes bumps and rough pavement without feeling sloppy when pointed through corners. Its relatively compact 39-foot turning circle also makes it reasonably maneuverable in town. Still, the Yukon doesn't feel particularly nimble in traffic and also exhibits some vagueness in its steering. It feels right at home when towing a trailer, however, cruising effortlessly and easily maintaining speed up long grades.