By Derek Price
On the predictable side, the new Yukon follows the same big-SUV formula it’s stuck with for more than a decade: mounting a spacious, car-like cabin atop a stout, truck-like frame. Its ability to do car things and truck things in one comfortable vehicle continues to be its biggest selling point.
If you like surprises, though, look at the gas mileage rating it earned when fitted with an optional Diesel engine. The federal government rates it at 27 mpg on the highway and 21 in city driving.
The 4×4 version drops those numbers down by 1 mpg, but it’s still shocking to me that a vehicle this big can be that efficient. It gets better mileage ratings than some 1997 Honda Accords with a four-cylinder engine, according to FuelEconomy.gov. That blows my mind.
My test drive in the fancy Denali trim of a new Yukon XL showed technology marching forward in other ways, too. It has more digital real estate now, including a big, 10.2-inch touchscreen and an improved head-up display that can project all kinds of useful information onto the windshield.
Denali models also get, for the first time ever, their own unique interior treatment. The layout of the instrument panel, second row of seating and color choices are all exclusive to the Denali, helping it fight off an influx of new competitors, including the redesigned Lincoln Navigator and fresh-on-the-scene Grand Wagoneer from the people at Jeep.
After having spent time inside all of them, the Grand Wagoneer’s cabin strikes me as being the best of this very luxurious bunch. It has an Achilles heel that the Yukon can exploit, though.
Yes, it’s back to fuel economy again.
The most upscale Jeep is only available with one engine, and it happens to be a gas pig rated for 13 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway. A Yukon with the Diesel engine starts to look downright thrifty in comparison.
It’s not a bad powertrain, either. Coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission, it shifts and scoots with authority, moving the 6,088-pound vehicle around as if it’s much lighter.
I was surprised to see the turbocharged, 3.0-liter, six-cylinder Diesel in my Yukon XL tester only makes 277 horsepower. It feels like a whole lot more from the driver’s seat thanks to its brawny 460 pound-feet of torque.
It’s a beast of an engine for off-the-line acceleration, yet its Diesel clatter noise is kept to a reasonable level even under full throttle.
You can opt for insanely big, 22-inch wheels on the Yukon Denali that would look perfect in Drake’s next music video, but if you do I’d recommend getting the Air Ride suspension, too. Wheels that huge tend to wreck the smooth ride that makes vehicles like this feel so buttery on the highway.
Not only does the Air Ride suspension help smooth out the ride, but it also can lift the vehicle an extra 2 inches for off-road driving.
The new-generation Yukon also fixes one of its longstanding weak points. An independent rear suspension helps with comfort over uneven pavement and creates more space in the cabin, including a dramatically lower floor for loading cargo into the back. That alone is a huge improvement.
Pricing starts at $51,995 for the SLE with rear-wheel drive. Opting for the 4×4 system adds another $3,000.
The new Yukon AT4 trim, designed to mix serious off-roading with luxurious amenities, is priced at $66,095. The full-blown-luxury Denali models start just under $70,000.
All Yukon trims also are available in longer-wheelbase XL versions for more cabin space.
At A Glance
Wheelbase: 134.1 in.
Length: 225.2 in.
Width: 81 in.
Height: 76.5 in.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel (277 hp, 460 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 20 city, 26 highway
Why buy it?
It’s completely redesigned with today’s best technologies packed inside, including a surprisingly efficient Diesel engine option.