Full 2014 GMC Yukon Review
What's New for 2014
In the final model year before a new generation of GMC full-size SUVs is launched, the base 2014 Yukon SLE gets some added standard equipment, including a remote ignition, power-adjustable pedals, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors.
If you're shopping for a full-size SUV, you probably already know that the 2014 GMC Yukon effectively is the mechanical twin to the Chevrolet Tahoe. But there are differences, the most obvious being the Yukon's different front and rear sheet metal, additional standard equipment and more upscale interior appointments -- particularly if you go for the highfalutin Denali version.
Like its Chevy relative, GMC's Yukon is one of the dwindling choices for a traditional full-size SUV that rides on a beefy truck frame and has standard V8 power and available four-wheel drive. Those attributes orient the Yukon more for those who plan to tow a boat or camper, or load it up with heavy cargo on a regular basis.
Even with this focus on utility, GMC has made sure it keeps up with customers' expectations for refinement and everyday ease of use. Without question, the Yukon is a big, heavy vehicle that's more at home on rural roads than city streets, but thanks to its quiet interior and comfortable ride, it's quite pleasant to drive for the most part. Inside, there are good-quality materials, modern controls and a mostly up-to-date suite of electronics. One key gripe about the interior is the third-row seats' lack of fold-flat capability: You have to remove them and store them in your garage when you need more room.
If you are considering a SUV more for its people-hauling capacity, a lighter-duty crossover is likely to be a better choice. There are many crossovers with three rows of seats, just like the Yukon. One of our top picks for a full-size crossover is in the same showroom, in fact: the 2014 GMC Acadia. The Acadia seats up to eight and actually has more cargo volume than the Yukon.
If big-time towing (as much as 8,500 pounds) or off-road travel is on your list of requirements, though, the 2014 GMC Yukon is a fine choice. Its main rival is the Toyota Sequoia, which presents a very similar mix of ruggedness and refinement. Also, bear in mind that a redesigned GMC Yukon arrives for the 2015 model year, and among its many upgrades will be a more powerful and efficient V8 engine and a stow-away third-row seat. If you're set on buying a large, traditional SUV before then, though, the current Yukon remains an appealing option for consumers who need seating capacity and utility in large helpings.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 GMC Yukon is a full-size SUV with three rows of seats. Eight-passenger seating is standard, but optional seating configurations allow the Yukon to accommodate as many as nine occupants or as few as seven. There are three trim levels available: SLE, SLT and Denali. There is an extended-length version known as the Yukon XL covered in a separate review.
The SLE comes standard with 17-inch wheels, a locking rear differential, roof rails, automatic headlights, running boards, heated outside mirrors, a remote ignition, tri-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, six-way power front bucket seats (manual recline), a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, 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.
The SLT adds foglights, 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 and a navigation system (with traffic updates, 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. You can also swap out the standard second-row bench seat for optional captain's chairs, dropping seating capacity to seven.
The Denali includes all the above, except for the Off-Road package. It also comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded adaptive suspension (with load-leveling in the rear), unique styling cues, additional interior sound insulation, a blind-spot warning system and a 10-speaker surround-sound Bose audio system.
Some of the features on upper trims are available as options on the lower trims, while a sunroof and rear-seat entertainment system are optional for every Yukon. All trim levels come standard with a tow package; an integrated trailer brake controller is optional.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 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 is standard, and buyers have their choice of rear-wheel drive or a four-wheel-drive system that features a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing for driving off-road or in heavy snow.
In Edmunds testing, a 4WD Chevrolet Tahoe ? the 2014 Yukon's mechanical twin ? went from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Regardless of whether you choose rear- or four-wheel drive, EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg combined (15 mpg city/21 mpg highway). Depending on drivetrain and equipment, the Yukon can tow as much as 8,500 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. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The AWD system is not intended for serious off-road use, as it features only a single-speed transfer case.
In Edmunds testing, the mechanically similar Cadillac Escalade with the same engine went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2014 Yukon Denali is 15 mpg combined (13 city/18 highway). A properly equipped Yukon Denali can tow up to 8,300 pounds.
The 2014 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 standard on all Yukons, while a blind-spot warning system is standard on the Denali and optional on the SLT.
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.
In Edmunds brake testing of the similar Chevy Tahoe, the stop from 60 mph took 134 feet, an average distance for this type of vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 GMC Yukon has the high-quality cabin materials you'd expect in a premium-badged SUV, while the gauges are large and easy to read. The front seats and second-row captain's chairs are wide, comfortable and remarkably supportive. Just about everyone except for those in the rearmost seats will enjoy more than adequate space to stretch out, though as is often the case, adults aren't likely to be happy in the third row for very long.
You will notice that the Yukon's cabin is starting to feel dated in a few areas. The available navigation system is straightforward in its operation, but its display is smaller than in many newer GM vehicles. In addition, there's standard Bluetooth connectivity for your phone, but not for streaming music. And the Yukon's steering wheel doesn't telescope, which makes it hard to find your ideal driving position, though the standard power-adjustable pedals help somewhat.
The GMC's ability to handle up to nine occupants remains a rarity, even among full-size SUVs, but it's less impressive as a cargo hauler, because the third-row seats don't fold into the floor, as is the case in competitors. The only way to get the most out of the Yukon's commendable 109 cubic feet of cargo capacity is to remove the rather heavy third-row seats -- and then find a place to store them.
Apart from its obvious tough-duty capability, the 2014 GMC Yukon is an effortless and serene interstate hauler. Short of a luxury sedan, it's tough to find a quieter cabin, with noise from the V8 engine remote and muffled, even when accelerating.
The Yukon's suspension provides a supple ride and absorbs most of the bumps and ruts that come its way. At the same time, it controls body motions well enough to keep the big vehicle steady around turns. Bounding through traffic isn't one of the Yukon's strengths ? nor should you expect it to be ? mainly because its steering is on the slow side and not especially precise. However, with a 39-foot turning radius, parking the GMC isn't as difficult as you might expect.
For those who tow frequently, the Autoride adaptive suspension, which is standard on the Denali and optional on the SLT, comes highly recommended, as its load-leveling rear air suspension helps keep the back end of the vehicle from sagging when pulling heavy loads. Another good reason to make the move to the Denali trim, of course, is the extra grunt from the potent 6.2-liter V8.