Full 2012 GMC Yukon Review
What's New for 2012
For the 2012 GMC Yukon, the optional navigation system is now hard-drive based, providing quicker responses and digital music storage capability. On upper trims, a heated steering wheel is now standard.
As even the most casual observer would note, the 2012 GMC Yukon is essentially an identical twin to its Chevy Tahoe relative. Sure, minor styling differences of the front and rear ends lend some distinction, but otherwise these two full-size SUVs share the same strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, there are much more of the former than the latter.
Sporting standard V8 power, a burly frame, up to nine-passenger capacity and the ability to tow up to 8,400 pounds, the Yukon remains one of the best choices in the dwindling class of truck-based SUVs. Additional strengths include reasonably composed ride and handling and a handsome cabin with high-quality materials.
As rugged, tow-ready vehicles go, the 2012 GMC Yukon (or its Tahoe sibling) remains one of the best. The Ford Expedition could also be considered; it isn't as powerful but does offer a fold-away third-row seat. The Toyota Sequoia is likely the Yukon's most serious competitor, as it provides a similar mix of performance and utility.
But unless you need those prodigious abilities, a large crossover SUV will likely be a better choice. The GMC Acadia, for example, drives more comfortably, gets higher fuel economy and has a third-row seat that's roomier, easier to reach and conveniently folds down into the cargo floor. The Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer are two other top models to consider.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV with three rows of seats that can accommodate 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; both are both covered in separate reviews.
The SLE comes standard with 17-inch wheels, roof rails, automatic headlights, running boards, heated outside 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 front 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, 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, ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs and a navigation system (with real-time traffic, music storage and an auto-dimming rearview mirror). The SLT-2 Equipment package adds a power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats and a second-row power seat release.
The Denali includes the above (less the Off-Road package) plus 20-inch alloy wheels, an automatic damping suspension, unique styling cues, additional interior sound insulation, a blind-spot warning system and a 10-speaker surround-sound Bose audio system.
Some of the upper trims' features are available as options on the lower trims, while a sunroof and rear-seat entertainment system are optional for every Yukon.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 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 with 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 for low-traction situations.
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, the mechanically similar Cadillac Escalade 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 2012 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 government crash testing, the Yukon earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with five stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. Its three-star rollover rating resulted in its lower overall score.
In Edmunds brake testing of the related Tahoe, the Yukon came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, an average distance for this type of vehicle.
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) and includes digital music storage. 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 2012 GMC Yukon excels at highway cruising. The cabin is quiet and the suspension smoothes the bumps without making handling in the corners feel sloppy. The Yukon's relatively compact 39-foot turning circle also makes this big SUV 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.