Overview (Overall Grade After 8 Categories: B)
Remember when gas prices dipped to $1.99 a gallon and below?
You did? And you enjoyed it, right?
This gave us an open opportunity to get any vehicle that was deemed too expensive to fill up with gasoline when it was scaling through $3.00 or more a gallon. Full-sized pickups and SUVs, in particular, saw that golden opportunity for a sale - or a few thousand.
This is the kind of opportunity that the new 2015 GMC Yukon enjoys. This is the kind of vehicle that tells its owners to "fill ‘er up" with no shame.
But, let us step back for a moment. Large SUVs serve a purpose - carrying people and their lives with optimum comfort and utility. They are designed to pull thousands of pounds at the trailer hitch. Plus, they can go anywhere you point it to - even deep into the woods.
Yet, the GMC Yukon offers a different kind of experience - near-luxury. It provides a level of premium style and comfort that has one foot in the Chevrolet Tahoe's foothold and the other in the Cadillac Escalade's - both siblings to the Yukon. This is reflected by a style that is "professional Grade" with a dash of class.
Before the gas prices dropped through the floor, I drove a 2015 GMC Yukon SLT with four-wheel drive to find out whether this big SUV is worth the buying even as gas prices are starting to rise again.
What We Loved about the 2015 GMC Yukon
- Large cabin - even in the "short" length model
- Bold, expressive styling for 2015
- Better suspension set up for a smooth, absorbent ride
What We Didn't Love about the 2015 GMC Yukon
- Problem using IntelliLink for radio presets.
- Not very quick on lane changes and other hard accelerator maneuvers.
Exterior View (9 out of 10)
One might consider the Yukon as having an enormous presence. That is one fact you cannot ignore. For 2015, General Motors redesigned the big SUVs to combine "presence" with usefulness. To further accomplish this, they made each brand's version different - at least up front. GMC's new "upscale professional grade" look is present with a huge grille and nicely shaped headlamps. From some angles, it appeared that the roof has been lowered - if not completely flattened and squared, while keeping the flanks somewhat flat through the rear. The taillights are GMC's, but the tailgate is a shared design across all three big SUVs for GM.
The SLT grade is split down the middle between the humble SLE model and the luxurious Denali. It is a balanced look when deciphering the details. Twenty-inch chromed wheels set the Onyx Black exterior apart from anything in the parking lot - unless there are more than a few of its kind. This is actually a popular specification for the Yukon SLT.
Interior Comfort, Quality and Overall Ease of Use (9 out of 10)
The biggest complaint on GM's big SUVs has been interior quality. This has been addressed with a better instrument panel design, improved ergonomics and materials. You might say that it almost feels like a passenger car than a truck - despite having most of the dashboard shared with GM's full-sized pickups. The most important shared piece with the pickups is the instrument cluster. Surrounded by a comprehensive series of gauges and dials is a customizable TFT screen providing vehicle, trip and fuel economy readings.
With three rows of seating, a Yukon could be ordered to accommodate up to eight people. This tester was made for seven, with "captain's chairs" for the middle row. Front seats are pretty big, but feel firm for the driver. Third row access uses a fold-and-tumble method, which is more suited for children than adults. The center console up front is large and deep to stow everything, including the wireless headphones for the rear seat entertainment system. In all, it is a quiet cabin - thanks to triple-sealed doors.
Technology (9 out of 10)
Our tester featured the IntelliLink infotainment system found on all GMCs. As a concept it is good. However, there were faults with the system, especially the lack of ease in setting radio presets and the lag in selecting radio stations through the steering wheel's buttons. Bose offered up nine speakers - including a subwoofer and a surround sound setting- to emit sound throughout the cabin.
Not on our tester was the optional OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. This option would be a desirable addition for the family on the go needed full connectivity onward to their destination.
Fuel Economy (7 out of 10)
The GMC Yukon advertises that it will get 18MPG on average with the EcoTec3 V8, we got better than that. The fuel consumption average under our care came to 18.7MPG with a high of 23.9MPG on the highway.
Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Ratings (8 out of 10)
Reliability data is not available for this brand new model. However, J.D. Power awarded last year's model as its top Large SUV in its Initial Quality Survey. Also, GMC Yukons were rated good for predicted reliability by J.D. Power.
Safety (9 of out 10)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Yukon a five-star rating for frontal and side-impact crash testing. However, it received three stars on rollover protection.
This Yukon SLT came with a few active safety features, such as front and rear park assist, blind sport alert and rear cross alert. OnStar is perhaps the best connected service around, providing live accident alert and assistance when the Yukon gets into trouble.
Performance (8 out of 10)
This Yukon SLT has the 5.3liter EcoTec3 V8 under the hood. With 355 horsepower, it pulls the Yukon smoothly. A six-speed automatic sends power onward to all four wheels. This combination is happier when it is cruising, but will become sluggish if it is asked to accelerate for any reason. It also does not help when this driveline is asked to pull 5,545 pounds of large SUV. It is also rated to pull up to 8,200 pounds from the trailer hitch.
The Yukon is happier as a highway cruiser. It rides smooth and absorbs bumps and cracks on the road. Though it is a chassis-on-frame design, a lot of work was done on the suspension to ensure a smooth ride for everyone on board. However, if you through the Yukon into a curve, you will find that it will lean, roll and respond on the soft side. In all, the Yukon felt much in control of any situation.
Steering effort is somewhat hampered by a large wheel. It does turn with less lock-to-lock turns and responds well, the large diameter steering wheel makes things a little less easy for most drivers to work the wheel confidently. The result is a large turning radius, making tight maneuvers difficult. Braking is fine, though expect longer stopping distances in either normal and panic situations.
Pricing and Value for The Money (7 out of 10)
If you are interested in a Yukon, a basic SLE with two-wheel drive will start you off at $46,990. This SLE tester came out to $64,520. There is the luxurious Denali to consider - with the starting price of $63,770.
"The Final Numbers" and the Competition (66 points out of 80: 82.5%)
The GMC Yukon has only a few competitors that match up with it - including Chevrolet's own Tahoe, Nissan Armada and Ford Expedition. Other competitors resident mostly in the luxury end of the market - including the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruise, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
The Yukon is a large SUV that is popular in several sectors - ranging from families that need that capacity to more upscale clientele. It serves a purpose to transport people and their things in style. While it works in suburban communities, there is a question whether it would be suitable in more densely populated areas.
The only answer to the latter is whether you own a livery service and use Yukons as your primary vehicle.
Nonetheless, the Yukon serves a larger purpose. It makes use of its size and makes no apologies about its fuel economy and its overall image. It is simply big.