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2021 GMC Yukon Denali and AT4 001.jpg GM
2021 GMC Yukon Denali and Yukon AT4.

2021 Yukon Gets New Engines, Interior, Tech to Take on Rivals

GMC’s large SUV grows bigger and more upscale and adds an off-road addition in a bid to shift out of its perennial No.3 position in the segment.

With an all-new makeover for the ’21 model year, the GMC Yukon hopes to gain ground on its General Motors twin and segment leader the Chevy Tahoe and close the sales gap on the No.2 Ford Expedition.  

To help achieve this goal, the ’21 Yukon gets new engines, an updated interior, available four-corner air suspension and nine exterior cameras and a revised all-wheel-drive system. 

To lure luxury SUV buyers, the ‘21 Yukon lineup features a more upscale Denali with an interior that includes unique seats and color schemes, hand-stitched leather surfaces and a standard power sliding center console that retracts up to 10 ins. (25 cm).  

On the outside, the flagship Denali retains its trademark “Galvano” chrome grille that’s been enlarged and encompasses over 10,000 individual reflective surfaces, and GMC’s signature C-shaped front lighting is updated with what the brand calls a “light blade” for consistent LED illumination from the daytime running lights. 

The ’21 Yukon adds a new off-road-ready AT4 trim to the lineup and to the Sierra AT4 and Acadia AT4 family, and GMC intends to spread the AT4 sub-brand across its product lines by the end of 2020.  

The Yukon AT4 gets a unique front fascia with a pair of red recovery hooks, as on the Sierra AT4, and body-color trim with dark accents. An available four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension gives the AT4 trim an additional 2 ins. (5 cm) of ground clearance and an almost 32-degree approach angle, while standard skid plates safeguard vital underbody areas. 

The ’21 Yukon and Yukon XL can be outfitted with the three engines that all debuted in the most recent GMC Sierra. An all-new version of the legacy 6.2L V-8 produces 420 hp and 460 lb.-ft. (623 Nm) of torque, which GM says is the most power in the category.  

GM2021 GMC Yukon XL Denali interior.jpg

2021 GMC Yukon XL Denali interior.

Standard on the ’21 Yukon is a 5.3L V-8 that delivers 355 hp and 383 lb.-ft. (519 Nm) of torque, while a 3.0L turbodiesel I-6 is good for 277 hp and 460 lb.-ft. (623 Nm) of torque.  

All three engines mate to a 10-speed automatic transmission accessed through GMC’s Electronic Precision Shift push-button gear selector. 

A new Yukon chassis with an almost 5-in. (12-cm) longer wheelbase and 6.1-in. (15-cm) increase in overall length compared to the current model yields 41% more third-row legroom and 66% more cargo volume behind the third row, while maximum cargo room increases 30%.  

The Yukon XL gets a more modest 4.1-in. (10-cm) increase in wheelbase and less than 1% change in overall length, but both versions now have a lower and flatter cargo floor for easier loading and unloading. 

The new Active Response all-wheel-drive system includes an auto two-speed transfer case, Traction Select, chassis controls and a new electronic limited slip differential. This combines with the new multilink independent rear suspension, while the available Air Ride Adaptive Suspension offers ride-height adjustments of up to 4 ins. (10 cm) and an automatic self-leveling feature. 

The air-suspension system also allows raising the vehicle up to 2 ins. (5 cm) for additional ground clearance while driving off-road. At highway speeds, the system automatically lowers ride height .075 in. (2 cm) to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, while a selectable setting drops the vehicle 2 ins. to ease occupant entry and exit. 

All ’21 Yukon models have standard automatic emergency braking, while rear pedestrian alert, an HD surround-vision camera and 15-in. (38-cm)-diagonal color head-up display mirror are also available.  

New trailering features include trailer profiles, trailer tire pressure/temperature monitoring and trailer-side blindspot alert. To support its enhanced electronics, the ’21 Yukon incorporates a new secure digital vehicle platform that GMC says has five times the processing power of the previous OS and allows for over-the-air software updates. 

Pricing hasn’t been announced for the ’21 Yukon and Yukon XL, which go on sale this summer. The ’21 Yukon will be built at GM’s Arlington, TX, assembly facility and more details and complete specifications will be released closer to production. 

GM2021 GMC Yukon AT4 013.jpg

All-new Yukon AT4.

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