Full 2011 GMC Yukon Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 GMC Yukon is unchanged other than the updating of its OnStar system.
The 2011 GMC Yukon is related to GM's full-size pickups and shares virtually everything but styling details with the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe. As such, this large, V8-powered SUV is capable of transporting up to nine people and towing upwards of 8,400 pounds. Though now entering its fifth year since a complete redesign, the Yukon remains one of the best choices in its dwindling class of truck-based SUVs. Highlights include a ride that's far more comfortable and handling that's far more composed than you'd expect from a truck. Its cabin is also well built, now featuring much higher quality than you might remember from GM's past big SUVs.
As capable as the Yukon is in the role of family hauler, it's worth pointing out that a large crossover SUV will likely be a better choice for most people. The 2011 GMC Acadia, for instance, drives more comfortably, gets better fuel economy and has a third-row seat that's roomier, easier to reach and more convenient to fold into the cargo floor. The Yukon's third row must be physically removed from the truck in order for you to utilize an otherwise sizable cargo hold.
Should a more rugged, tow-ready vehicle be needed, the 2011 GMC Yukon (including its high-lux Denali trim) is certainly one of the best vehicles available. Its Tahoe sibling is another. The 2011 Ford Expedition offers a fold-away third-row seat but isn't as powerful as the Yukon. The 2011 Toyota Sequoia is probably the Yukon's most serious competitor; it offers a similar mix of performance and utility. But if you don't expect to have anything beyond modest towing needs, we suggest checking out large crossovers like the GMC Acadia (and related Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse), 2011 Ford Flex and Mazda CX-9.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV with three rows of seats that are capable of accommodating as many as nine people. There are three trim levels available: SLE, SLT and Denali. There is a Hybrid model and an extended-length version known as the Yukon XL discussed in separate reviews.
The SLE comes standard with 17-inch wheels, roof rails, automatic headlights, running boards, heated mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, six-way power front bucket seats (manual recline), a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth, OnStar and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio, iPod/USB interface, auxiliary audio jack, CD player and rear seat headphone jacks. The SLE can be optioned with a 40/20/40-split three-person bench seat that raises seating capacity from eight to nine people. A Convenience package adds rear parking sensors, remote engine start, a rearview camera (with mirror display) and power-adjustable pedals.
The SLT adds foglamps (optional SLE), leather upholstery, the Convenience package and the expanded availability of optional content. Options include an Off-Road Suspension package, heated eight-way power front seats with driver memory and power-adjustable lumbar, ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs and a navigation system with real-time traffic and auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SLT-2 Equipment package adds a power tailgate, power-folding mirrors, heated second-row seats and a second-row power seat release.
The Denali adds all the SLT's above optional equipment plus 20-inch alloy wheels, special Denali styling cues, additional interior sound insulation, a heated steering wheel and a 10-speaker surround-sound Bose audio system.
A sunroof and rear-seat entertainment system are optional for every Yukon. A blind-spot warning system is optional on the SLT-2 and Denali.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 GMC Yukon SLE and SLT are powered by a 5.3-liter V8 good for 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive is standard. There are two four-wheel-drive systems available: a single-speed transfer case and a more traditional two-speed case with low-range gearing. The Yukon's Tahoe sibling with four-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined with rear- or four-wheel drive. Depending on drivetrain and equipment, the Yukon can tow as much as 8,400 pounds.
The GMC Yukon Denali gets a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift capability is standard. In Edmunds testing, a Cadillac Escalade powered by the same V8 as the Yukon Denali went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.5 seconds. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13/18/15.
The 2011 GMC Yukon comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and OnStar emergency telematics. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available on all Yukons, while the SLT-2 and Denali can be had with a blind-spot warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing of the related Tahoe, the SUV came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, an average distance for this class of vehicle. In government crash testing, the Yukon received the top five-star rating for both frontal and side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The GMC Yukon boasts an attractive cabin with high-quality materials. The control layout is simple and straightforward, and the available navigation system is also easy to use despite a smaller screen than newer GM models have. The front seats are comfortable, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel might be a drawback for some drivers. The Yukon can carry up to nine passengers, making it one of the most versatile utility vehicles in that regard. However, those in the rearmost row will find limited legroom due to a low-mounted seat cushion.
That third-row seat also poses problems for cargo capacity, as it doesn't fold away into the floor. You must either fold the seatback down and place your stuff on top or physically remove the heavy seat from the truck. Once you do, 109 cubic feet of cargo space are available.
The 2011 GMC Yukon excels at highway cruising with a quiet cabin and a suspension that smoothes bumps and rough pavement without feeling sloppy when pointed through corners. Its relatively compact 39-foot turning circle also makes this GMC reasonably maneuverable in town. Still, the Yukon doesn't feel particularly agile 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. The Denali shares the Escalade's potent 6.2-liter V8 and is thus notably quick for such a sizable vehicle.