After spending a week with the 2007 GMC Yukon, we wonder how much better this brawny sport-utility vehicle can get. With everyone’s eye on the pump and truck sales slowing, some observers are predicting the end of the American SUV. But the Yukon is GM’s latest and slickest weapon in the war to save the American truck, and we are here to tell you that it is a big gun indeed.
The new Yukon has big-time road presence thanks to its massive size and slab-sided design. However, it forgoes the Mad Max styling of its sister truck, the Chevy Tahoe, in favor of a more restrained look. The headlights are taller than the plain black grill, making the Yukon look more like a decaffeinated version of GM’s own Cadillac Escalade than anything else. From the rear, the Yukon still carries the DNA of past big GMC trucks, with its blacked-out D-pillar and taillights that run all the way from the bumper up to the rear glass. Down to the last detail, the Yukon’s styling is quite clean, with very little clutter and no silly adornments.
True to American form, the Yukon’s powertrain was the first thing that grabbed our attention once we turned the key. Ours came with the top-of-the-line motor, a 5.3-liter V8 with 320 horsepower and 340 lb.-feet of torque. The 4-speed automatic’s ratios are well matched to a vehicle of this size, so the Yukon is never caught flat-footed, and the 3.73 rear end probably doesn’t hurt either. The sound from this evolution of GM’s trusty corporate V8 is throatier and meaner than in their previous big SUVs, so we spent a lot of time mashing the throttle and grinning like a bunch of teenagers.
Despite its muscular motor, the Yukon is innovative in the area of gasoline consumption. The optional 5.3L V8 in our tester has “Flex-fuel capability” – which means the truck will run on E85, an environmentally friendly mix of ethanol and gasoline. E85 is the subject of a new push by automakers – most of all GM with its “Think Green, Go Yellow” ad campaign – to put E85 on the map. At 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, it burns much cleaner than regular pump gas, and is an easily sustainable fuel with less geopolitical guilt than petroleum. Our Yukon also came with “Active Fuel Management,” GM’s cylinder deactivation technology. Four of the V8’s cylinders shut down whenever they’re not needed, which increases the Yukon’s fuel efficiency considerably, especially on the highway.
All of this will give potential buyers a little wiggle room with the neighborhood Green Police or an environmentally conscious spouse. Using E85 may not improve your mileage over standard gasoline, but since it is rated at 106 octane, engine performance will be better. We’re willing to bet that government subsidies and tax breaks for alternative fuels will make E85 even more attractive. Our hat goes off to GM for thinking green on a large vehicle that could be vulnerable to criticism on the subject of environmental friendliness.
American ingenuity abounds in the rest of the Yukon as well, and is demonstrated most ably by the truck’s cupholders. The ones in the center console in particular are incredible, offering a level of versatility that no focus group could have thought up. They can be moved, removed, or backed up by adding more. It’s a fantastic execution of the cup holder, and we’re sure there will be legions of copycat systems from across the Pacific soon enough.
Sure, Detroit practically invented the cup holder and the roaring V8, but how does the rest of the Yukon stack up against its Japanese competitors? For starters, the interior is stunning. SUV interiors have been gradually catching up with their luxury-car stablemates, thanks to the influence of luxo-utes like the Lincoln Navigator and GM’s own Cadillac Escalade, the true daddy of luxury trucks. That Escalade is now in its third generation, and GM’s expertise in outfitting it has fully trickled down to the rest of the company’s SUVs. The Yukon’s interior is plush and has shed the cheap touches that drew criticism for years until this redesign. We at Roadfly predict that those gripes will cease definitively when the automotive press really gets their paws on this refined, evolved SUV.
Our Yukon tester had the “SLT-2 Décor” package, a $4500 option that gives you leather seats, as well as a third row of seats that will seat two. We recommend this package for those buyers looking for a little extra luxury, as it bumps the level of creature comforts up substantially. Heated seats with 12-way adjustability and memory, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a remote starter are just a few of the options included in the SLT-2 package. For those buyers with children and long-distance needs, we think it’s well worth the extra coin.
On that note, our Yukon also had its entertainment system kicked up a few notches. It came with a CD/DVD/MP3-capable head unit, and one of the best navigation systems we’ve tested, ever. We give it an A+ for ease of use, and thanked the sultans in Detroit for not copying iDrive type systems. Having a killer entertainment system in a car is pointless if the driver is not able to use it safely and efficiently, and GM deserves major bonus points for taking that into account. It was a $2,145 option, which may make the decision difficult for some. However, having had the experience with the upgraded system, we’d certainly spring for it, even on a motor-journalist’s paycheck. Our Yukon also came with the rear-seat entertainment system, a $1,295 option and a worthwhile upgrade for parents.
GMC didn’t exactly send us their bargain-basement Yukon. In addition to almost $3500 in entertainment and electronics upgrades, our tester was shod with 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. These rims give the truck a healthy dose of curb appeal, and for the paltry sum of $1,795, you too can roll on 20s just like your local NBA star. We also got a power, sliding sunroof, but for $995 we would have liked it to be a bit larger. Our tester also came with some other convenience upgrades, like a power release for the second row of seating ($425), and a power liftgate ($350) that can also be operated manually without any fuss. Neat stuff, to be sure, but our Yukon’s final tab came to $50,425. That’s hardly chump change, but if you want to pinch pennies you will be looking elsewhere anyway.
Our gripes with the Yukon are few, since we have already mentioned the smallish sunroof. Given this SUV’s large dimensions, rear-seat legroom could be better. We hear that GM will be redesigning the Yukon’s rear suspension soon, which will improve high-speed stability and handling characteristics. Emergency lane changes were not as confident as we would have liked. All in all, though, this is a great SUV, easily the best Yukon yet. Time (and gas prices) will determine the future of this class of vehicles, but GM has pulled out all the stops here. The 2007 Yukon deserves a long, hard look from anyone looking to buy a full-size SUV.