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Avg. Price Paid:$17,598 - $26,470
Original MSRP: $35,345 - $52,175
MPG: 14 City / 19 Hwy
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2008 GMC Yukon Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 GMC Yukon was new.

Test drivers report that the 2008 GMC Yukon offers good power and reasonable performance for an SUV of its size. Though not sporty, "the new Yukon offers plenty of refined power, a tight 39-foot turning radius and stunningly accurate handling at higher speeds," says Edmunds.

For many would-be Yukon buyers, a barrier has been fuel economy, but that's an issue for all large SUVs. In late 2007, GMC will release a Yukon Hybrid, based on the current Yukon platform. GMC advertises that the hybrid engine will reduce gasoline consumption by 25 percent.

Though there is some minor disagreement, most reviewers think that the GMC Yukon offers a good driving experience for a vehicle of its size. New Car Test Drive reports that during acceleration, "power comes on smoothly, with no surges or hiccups and accompanied by a pleasant, dual exhaust-like tone."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 GMC Yukon SLE and SLT come with a 4.8-liter V8 making 295 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can trade up to a 5.3-liter V8 with GM's Active Fuel Management system, which shuts off four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed (while coasting or cruising on the highway, for example). That engine makes 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. The same engine is also available as a Flex-Fuel engine, which gives it the ability to run on E85 fuel instead of gasoline. The 5.3-liter V8 is standard on Yukon XL models. The Yukon Denali comes standard with a 6.2 liter V8 engine making 380 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. It also has active fuel management technology. The regular Yukon engines are mated to four-speed automatic transmissions, while the Denali engine has an automatic six-speed transmission.

Despite its smaller size, the 4.8 liter engine gets similar fuel economy to the 5.3 liter engines. In 2008, the 4.8 liter V8 receives an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway. The 5.3 liter V8 has an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. The 5.3-liter flex fuel V8 gets the same gas mileage as the regular 5.3-liter when using gasoline; however, when using E85, gas mileage drops to 11 miles per gallon in the city and 15 on the highway. The 6.2-liter Denali engine gets an EPA-estimated 12 miles in the city and 18 on the highway. Buyers who want better economy can wait for GM's hybrid Yukon, which is expected in the coming months.

All Yukon engines received mixed reviews. Consumer Guide says that even with "extra horsepower, Denali's 6.2 feels only slightly stronger than 5.3 V8." Autobytel reports, "Despite the GMC Yukon Denali's size and weight, our test vehicle's 6.2-liter V8 had no problems pushing around the condo-sized SUV." However, Cars.com says the 6.0 liter "was sluggish in almost every passing situation I could simulate."

Edmunds says that "even a 4WD Yukon with the 5.3 V8 is fairly quick," but CNET thinks it "is about as responsive as a battleship when called into action to change lanes or merge with traffic." About.com, however, summarizes the view of a slight majority of reviewers. "Both engines are good -- the bigger engine is more fun."

Few reviewers like the automatic four-speed transmission that is mated to the regular Yukon engine. The six-speed that comes with the Denali is much more popular. "While the 4.8- and 5.3-liter engines remain saddled with last year’s four-speed automatic transmission, the 6.2-liter powertrain in the Denali includes a six-speed automatic that is technologically light-years ahead," says Forbes. Car and Driver reports, "In practice, it almost always serves up smooth shifts and is happy to kick down two or three ratios when prodded."

Handling and Braking

The 2008 GMC Yukon comes with a coil-over-shock front suspension and a five-link rear suspension. While most reviewers thought that was adequate, the optional Autoride suspension "is the star of the show," according to Edmunds. The Autoride system automatically adjusts the shocks for a smoother ride, depending on road conditions.

Automotive.com says the system "delivers a ride on the comfortable side, especially at city speeds." Autobytel adds that the Yukon is "a beast that drives easily … [with] nice handling, great acceleration and smooth overall performance."

 

There are a few reviewers who didn't like driving the Yukon. Cars.com says, "The ride itself could have been a bit cushier and quieter. Joints in the highway were extremely noticeable." CNET notes that "the Yukon is hard to miss and even harder to park," then goes on to add, "When turning corners or pulling to a stop, its excessive body-roll and dive made us feel like we were on a fishing trawler at high tide." Autobytel reports that "when it comes to handling, the Yukon wails like a toddler that isn't getting its way when pushed hard into corners. Understeer is the dominant characteristic in extreme conditions, and the 20-inch wheels and tires don't seem to help."

Edmunds sums up the view of a slim majority, however, saying, "Aimed for the horizon on an interstate, there aren't many better cruisers."

With a vehicle weight of more than 5,000 pounds, the Yukon comes with considerable stopping power. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brake system (ABS) work to stop the Yukon securely and stably, though the stopping distances can be long. "Brakes offer no-drama stopping power, solid pedal feel," for Consumer Guide. Cars.com says, "Braking was adequate, but with such a big machine I would have preferred more pinpoint control. The Denali was easy to slow at varying speeds in bumper-to-bumper traffic." Autobytel thinks "the Yukon's brakes perform admirably and provide excellent feedback to the driver." Improved equipment over previous models prompts Automotive.com to note "the improvements don't extend to the numbers --stopping in 150 feet from 60 MPH still ain't great -- but with 5,835 pounds on your side, that's the other guy's problem, right?"

Off-Roading

Despite its truck-based heritage, few reviewers took the Yukon far off-road. The Detroit News "couldn't resist a Sunday drive in rural Webster Township outside Ann Arbor, along a 'natural beauty road' that was a springtime mess. It was a good little test because two of the Yukon's wheels were on an icy strip that hadn't melted and the other two were in a rutted, muddy track. I have to say it performed beautifully. The wide track and low center of gravity make the Yukon feel stable."

Most Yukons come standard with rear-wheel drive, though Denali models come with all-wheel drive. Adding four-wheel drive adds to the Yukon's price. Without four-wheel drive, the Yukon isn't suited for off-road performance, and the Denali's all-wheel drive system is only suitable for tackling foul weather, not a rocky trail. Despite reviewers not testing many off-road options, the Yukon can be outfitted with locking differentials to improve off-road performance.

Towing

Those reviewers that looked at the Yukon's towing ability came away disappointed. Automotive.com says, "Big trucks with big motors should handle big towing loads, yet even with the most ludicrously large V8 in this class, the 6.2-liter Denali wimps out at 7,400 pounds." Other large SUVs, like the Nissan Armada and the Ford Expedition, can tow over 9,000 pounds. Edmunds says, however, "When towing a heavy trailer, the Yukon performs admirably. It's able to maintain speed up long grades, albeit with some gear hunting and rather loud exhaust noise." Yukon buyers who have basic towing needs should be fine, but those who regularly haul extremely heavy loads should consider other SUVs or trucks.

Performance Options

GMC Yukon SLE and SLT

The GMC Yukon SLE comes with a 4.8-liter V8 engine, a four-speed automatic transmission, a heavy-duty locking rear differential and StabiliTrak. Four-wheel drive is an available option.

GMC Yukon XL SLE and SLT

The GMC Yukon XL comes with a 5.3-liter V8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, heavy-duty locking rear differential, StabiliTrak and heavy-duty trailering equipment. Four-wheel drive is an available option.

GMC Yukon Denali and Denali XL

The GMC Yukon Denali comes with a 6.2-liter V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, autoride suspension and standard AWD. Four-wheel drive is an available option.

Review Last Updated: 3/10/09

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