General Motors’ GMC division is best known for commercial vehicles and work trucks, but the 2023 Yukon is one of the most accommodating and luxurious passenger vehicles in the brand’s history. This large family SUV offers spacious accommodations across three rows of seats and is even offered with a longer wheelbase—called Yukon XL—that opens up even more space for cargo. Most models are powered by a V-8—either of a 5.3- or a 6.2-liter variety—but a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six is also available, a novelty in this segment. Towing capacity and acceleration are both strong with any of the available engines, but the V-8s aren’t particularly fuel efficient. The base SLE trim is hardly spartan, with a host of convenience and technology features offered as standard, but the upscale Denali trims luxe things up to compete with premium entrants such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. The Yukon’s biggest competitor, however, comes from sister brand Chevrolet in the form of the Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, both of which are mechanically identical and offer similar accoutrements for slightly less money.
What’s New for 2023?
A new range-topping Denali Ultimate trim joins the Yukon lineup for 2023 and features fancier Alpine Umber leather upholstery, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with massage, open pore wood trim, and an 18-speaker Bose stereo system, among other niceties. The Denali Ultimate wears darkened chrome trim on its grille and other exterior panels and rolls on unique 22-inch wheels. GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving highway driving mode is available as an option.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While the rough-and-tumble AT4—with its butch looks and off-road equipment—and the luxurious Denali—with its hand-stitched leather interior—seem the most compelling, the one to go for is actually the well-equipped and more affordable SLT. This mid-range model comes with features that most buyers are looking for, including leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch wheels, a power liftgate, and driver-assistance features.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Similar to the last-generation Yukon, two V-8 engines are offered: a 355-hp 5.3-liter and a 420-hp 6.2-liter. In addition to those gasoline-burning engines, GMC also offers a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six that makes a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque and is the choice for buyers who intend to tow heavy items. All models come with a 10-speed automatic transmission operated by buttons on the dashboard and offer either rear- or all-wheel drive. An off-road-oriented AT4 model is also available and features a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates, and an optional air suspension capable of offering up to two more inches of ground clearance. When we tested a loaded Denali model with the 6.2-liter V-8, we recorded a 6.0-second zero-to-60-mph time and noted significantly improved braking performance over the last generation model.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Yukon isn’t particularly fuel efficient, but it does slightly better in the city than the last generation model. Yukons equipped with the smaller 5.3-liter V-8 are the most efficient gasoline-powered models and earned ratings of 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. The turbo-diesel engine is predictably more efficient, earning ratings of up to 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test route, our Denali test vehicle delivered 20 mpg. For more information about the Yukon’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Available in a variety of flavors—from base SLE spec to luxurious Denali Ultimate—the Yukon and long-wheelbase Yukon XL promise seating for up to eight passengers, although ordering the popular second-row captain’s chairs will lower the total seating capacity to seven. Denali models offer a unique interior design with a wood-trimmed dashboard and hand-stitched leather upholstery. A novel power-sliding center console is available in SLT and AT4 models (it’s standard on the Denali) and allows the driver to motor the center console back and forth over a 10-inch track to make room for bulkier first-row cargo such as a purse or backpack and stash other smaller items out of sight in hidden cubbies. Cargo capacity is generous, especially in the larger XL model, which offers a whopping 145 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with all of its seats stowed. That’s more than its cross-town rival, the Ford Expedition Max (which has 122 cubic feet behind its front row of seats). The standard-length Yukon provided enough space for six carry-on cases behind its third-row seats. With the third and second rows stowed, we fit 35.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Yukon models come with a large infotainment display with GMC’s latest infotainment interface and we’ve found the system easy to use. SLE, SLT, and AT4 models feature a display that stands tall in the center of the dashboard, but the Denali’s is surrounded by bright chrome and is embedded in the dashboard for a more sophisticated look. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, and a Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard equipment; navigation and a Bose audio system are both optional features.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
A host of driver-assistance features are offered, but GMC only offers basic tech as standard, forcing buyers to pay extra for more advanced ones. For more information about the Yukon’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control with hands-free driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
GMC offers a warranty that’s competitive with other rivals in the full-size SUV class but doesn’t stand out in any meaningful way. The first maintenance visit is provided free of charge, but the Toyota Sequoia offers maintenance for a full two years or 25,000 miles.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance covers one visit in the first year
2021 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD
front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$83,795 (base price: $72,695)
pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
376 in3, 6162 cm3
420 hp @ 5600 rpm
460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Suspension (F/R): control arms/trailing arms
Brakes (F/R): vented disc/vented disc
Tires: Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02, 275/50R-22 111H M+S TPC SPEC 3156MS
Wheelbase: 120.9 in
Length: 210.0 in
Width: 81.0 in
Height: 76.5 in
Passenger volume: 178 ft3
Cargo volume: 26 ft3
Curb weight: 6007 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.0 sec
100 mph: 15.4 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.4 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.1 sec
1/4 mile: 14.5 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 112 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 183 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.73 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.4 sec.
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 14 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 20 mpg
Highway range: 480 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 16/14/19 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specs