1. home
  2. news
  3. 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali: Independent Rear Suspension and an AT4 Model

2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali: Independent Rear Suspension and an AT4 Model

We also get a look at the Yukon XL.

Historically, when it's time for a new version of General Motors' full-size SUVs, the GMC Yukon has shown its face ahead of the Chevrolet Tahoe. This time around, the bowtie brand's full-size SUV pair broke cover first, leaving us in anticipation for over a month as we waited to find out what its professional-grade counterparts would entail. Now, GMC has pulled the wraps off the Yukon and Yukon XL in snowy Vail, Colorado. The new SUVs are bigger in every dimension over the previous generation, and are packed with more technology and upscale materials than ever before.

At the event, we got the opportunity to wheel camouflaged prototypes in the snow, and while we only had a few moments behind the wheel, it gave us an opportunity to check out some of the new tech and get a feel for the interior. The Yukon's wheelbase has grown to 120.9 inches, 4.9 inches longer than the outgoing miodel. Its total length is up to 210 inches, up 6.1 inches from before. For its part, the new Yukon XL is a whopping 224.3 inches long, with a 134.1-inch wheelbase. Interior room has also grown significantly: Maximum cargo room in the regular-length 2021 Yukon is 123 cubic feet, while the Yukon XL can swallow as much as 145 cubes of stuff—the respective outgoing models topped out at 95 and 121 cubic feet.

This time around, GMC is increasing unique content to differentiate its product from the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Yukon's corporate sibling. Perhaps the biggest point of separation is the Yukon's "Active Response" four-wheel drive. This system combines magnetic ride control, an electronic limited-slip differential, and an air suspension to provide optimized body control and ride comfort. Also helping refinement is the Yukon's shift to an independent rear suspension, finally, which puts it in line with competition like the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

The 2021 Yukon's adjustable air suspension is a first-in-class feature, according to GMC. Using this system, the vehicle can raise itself two inches for additional ride height when in 4WD LO mode. The eLSD also kicks in when 4WD LO is engaged and operates at locking torque, mitigating or preventing wheel spin in the event the driver takes their SUV off-road. At highway speeds, the air suspension allows the ride height to drop 0.75 inch in order to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The Yukon can also self-level for easier loading and unloading.

The air suspension seems to maintain good control over the body over rough surfaces; we didn't feel jostled when we were driving or riding as a passenger in the rear. The electronic limited slip diff put power down without fail, even when half the wheels were on ice.

We also ascended and descended a "metal mountain" with a steep 20 percent incline on both sides. The engineer riding shotgun instructed us to first put the vehicle in Neutral, then shift to 4WD LO mode, and then raise the ride height. From there, we gradually climbed up the ramp, stopping halfway in order to test out the hill-holding mode. Even if we were to exit the vehicle it would hold itself in place, which is pretty neat.

On the way back down, we used hill-descent control to manage speed, and the 2021 GMC Yukon shuffled down the slope without issue. After popping the car back into its automatic four-wheel-drive setting, we piloted it back under the metal mountain construction in its normal ride height to pass under a low hanging "obstacle."

The entire Yukon lineup receives an all-new interior to further mark it as unique. A "Power Sliding Center Console" is available on Denali, AT4, and SLT trim levels. This feature provides the occupants with a storage compartment behind a 10.0-inch motorized sliding door. There's another tier of storage underneath the floor of this area.

The Yukon Denali also gets its own unique interior—that's right, an interior that won't be shared with any other GM product. These Denali models will be outfitted with their own instrument cluster, seats, and color themes with corresponding materials. Given that GMC owes much of its contemporary relevance to the Denali sub-brand, it's only logical to give customers features that make their vehicles unique.

During our time in Yukon Denali prototypes, we poked around the cabin and found the leather to be soft to the touch and stitched together beautifully. A lot of the trim bits seem to be a step up over previous generation vehicles. A new pushbutton gear selector is fairly intuitive.

GMC also has outfitted the 2021 Yukon Denali trim level with a thorough suite of up-to-date technology, including a high-definition 360-degree camera system, 15.0-inch multicolor HUD, and rear pedestrian alert, on top of the previously mentioned magnetic ride control, a panoramic sunroof, air suspension, and the "Active Response 4WD" system. For those seeking a bit more style, 22-inch wheels are also available.

For the first time, the new Yukon is being offered with the AT4 trim level, which kits the SUV out with much of the equipment necessary for off-roading. Yukon AT4s receive a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch all-terrain tires, GMC's "Traction Select System" with off-road mode, hill-descent control, and underbody skid plates. This trim also bundles in some key luxury features as well, such as AT4-exclusive leather-appointed seats and stitching, a unique Jet Black interior color theme with Brandy accents, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row outboard seats. As far as other technology goes, there are a maximum of nine available camera views. We're going to bet folks are going to be most excited about the overhead view profile, which should make maneuvering the Yukon and Yukon XL into parking spaces a lot easier.

GMC says it offers the most powerful engine in a full-size SUV (that is, aside from the Chevy Tahoe): a version of GM's 6.2-liter V-8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. An all-new 5.3-liter V-8 that stumps up 355 horses and 383 lb-ft of torque serves as the standard offering. GM's 277-hp 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six, which matches the 6.2-liter's 460-lb-ft peak torque figure, is expected to serve as the most fuel-efficient choice for buyers.

All available powerplants are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. GMC offers optional Dynamic Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology, which is standard on the Denali trim level. Buyers will have to wait until this summer for the Yukon and Yukon XL to hit showrooms. While we don't have any information on how much its SUV will cost just yet, GMC says complete specifications and pricing will be released closer to production.