Review: 2005 GMC Yukon

GM made StabiliTrak electronic stability control standard equipment on all Yukons for 2005. Through an array of sensors, the system monitors the difference between the vehicle's actual path and the driver's desired path. If the difference is sufficient enough, the system will apply brake force to the appropriate wheel, returning the SUV to its intended course. StabiliTrak works with the four-wheel ABS to help keep the truck under control in any road condition--a big improvement in safety. Other safety features include standard tire-pressure monitoring and optional side-impact airbags for the driver and front passenger to complement the standard front airbags. Also standard on all models, OnStar receives upgraded hardware for 2005, improving coverage area and voice-recognition technology.

Four different gasoline V-8s are available to power the Yukon. The base engine for rear-wheel drive is a 4.8-liter unit, making 285 horsepower. Upgrade to four-wheel drive and a 5.3-liter engine comes standard. The improvement in horsepower is modest, up by 10, but torque production grows to 335 lb-ft, up 40 lb-ft over the base engine. Denali models get a 6.0-liter V-8 with even more power and torque, supplying markedly better acceleration. The half-ton Yukon XL gets the Vortec 5300 (except pricey Denali XLs), so requiring a step up to the 3/4-ton to get the 6.0-liter unit.

If that's not enough, an 8.1-liter V-8 makes a whopping 440 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 12,000 pounds. No matter the engine choice, the Yukon provides excellent towing capability--even the base Yukon can haul up to 7,700 pounds. Each V-8 is hooked up to a four-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode. QuadraSteer, a revolutionary four-wheel steering system formerly available on the Yukon, is no longer offered for lack of customer interest.

There's no disguising the fact that the Yukon is a big truck. Its body-on-frame structure, borrowed from GM's full-size pickups, provides lots of tough, pull-anything ability, but it has ride-quality limitations. At least the softly sprung Yukon rides better than a pickup when soaking up choppy pavement, and it behaves well at highway speeds with less float than expected for a vehicle that weighs anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. Off-road, the Yukon has enough capability to handle whatever most users will throw at it, but it falls short in sheer mountain-climbing ability to competitors like Toyota's full-size Land Cruiser--the Yukon is just too massive to keep up. The brakes provide merely adequate stopping power, and the transmission delivers smooth but slow shifts. A five-speed auto, which is unavailable, would improve both acceleration and fuel economy.

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