Like its Tahoe and Suburban cousins at Chevy, the 2015 GMC Yukon and longer-wheelbase Yukon XL benefit from a full makeover, as do their even more upscale 2015 Yukon Denali/Denali XL siblings. Although GMC has not released all of the details on any these full-size SUVs, the initial brief shows they'll all roll onto the scene early in 2014 with smarter styling, enhanced technology and greater levels of comfort/convenience/safety plus more refined handling and improved fuel economy.
Remaining true to the GMC styling philosophy, the tasteful recasting of the 2015 Yukon family brings a new level of visual sophistication to the mix as well as greater aerodynamic efficiency. No sheetmetal is shared with the all-new 2014 GMC Sierra pickup, and while some body panels are common with the 2015 Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, the GMC vehicles all feature brand-specific grille, headlamp, fascia, hood and fender treatments to set them apart with the Denali duo sporting even more distinctive details, HID headlamps and extra exterior brightwork. Some of the additional sleekness comes from implementing wind-cheating details originally introduced on the now-departed GMC Yukon Hybrid as well as adopting new inlaid doors and trimming body-panel gaps. Laminated windshield and front door glass helps reduce ambient noise levels, and both the hood and 2-piece power-activated rear liftgate on these GMC offerings are made from aluminum to help save weight. The latter also features an integrated spoiler that now houses the rear wiper.
Unique cosmetics aside, the 2015 GMC Yukon and Denali clan do share all of their basic underpinnings with the new-for-2014 GMC Sierra pickup. In addition to a far greater percentage of high-strength steel, hardware highlights include a more rigid frame with fully boxed rails, redesigned front/rear suspension, new electric variable-assist power steering, a 1.0-inch wider rear track dimension and a new 4-wheel disc brake system with better feel and longer-lasting rotors. Standard wheels on the Yukon SLE and SLT variants are new 18-inchers while the Denali comes with a 20-inch fitment. A 22-inch upgrade also will be available. The primo Denali/Denali XL models also feature the latest generation Magnetic Ride Control damping systems.
Whether rear-drive or 4-wheel drive, the standard engine in all 2015 Yukon and Yukon XL SLE/SLT models will be GM’s new 5.3-liter EcoTec3 direct-injected V8 that features variable valve timing and cylinder-deactivating Active Fuel Management. As in the Sierra, it will crank out 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of peak torque,notably more of each output unit than the current 5.3-liter, and also deliver better EPA numbers (While GMC has not given out any final figures, the engine is rated at 16/23 mpg in the rear-drive Sierra and 16/22 mpg in 4WD models). The Denali and Denali XL will come with the more potent 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 that makes 420 horses and 450 lb-ft of peak twist. Both the 5.3L and 6.2L engines will be backed by a 6-speed Hydra-Matic transmission with TapShift control, Tow/Haul mode and Auto Grade Braking. Maximum towing capability remains close to 2014 levels with the 2015 RWD/4WD Yukon/Denali rated at 8,500/8,300 pounds and their long-wheelbase XL counterparts carrying 8,300/8,000-pound comparative numbers. Officially, those stats reflect a 100-pound gain for the 4WD standard-wheelbase duo and a 200-pound increase for the rear-drive XLs.
While sharing many basic design themes with the Sierra, the fully redesigned passenger compartments of the Yukon -- and especially the Denali -- are even more impressively turned out. Soft touch surfaces abound, and all versions come with Bose audio, a large covered center console that can swallow a laptop computer, a bevy of SD slots/USB/power ports, keyless entry/push button start, Bluetooth hands free audio and calling, and an available 8-inch color touchscreen radio with GMC MyMedia connectivity to oversee various standard and available infotainment/navigation elements. Denali models step up the creature comforts with an 8-inch reconfigurable digital instrument cluster/driver display, upgraded Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system, unique seats with upgraded leather upholstery and an active noise cancellation system. These range-topping models also will be available with a new head-up display. All 2015 GMC Yukon/Denali variants come with OnStar and offer a new rear-seat entertainment system (dual-screen in the XL models) and Blu-ray DVD player.
Like their Chevy counterparts, total cargo space in both the 2015 Yukon and Yukon XL is down from the 2014 models but each offers significantly enhanced passenger accommodations regardless of the seating configuration selected. Redesigned front buckets provide greater comfort -- especially in the Denali -- and second-row occupants can savor nearly two more inches of legroom while entering/exiting any spot in the aft quarters is now easier. Arguably the most welcome upgrade is the new flat folding second- and third-row seats. In addition to creating a more accommodating load floor, it means owners will no longer have to yank the third-row perches when stocking up at Costco takes priority over carrying people. A power-fold third-row option (standard in the Denalis) and a new cargo management system also join the mix for 2015.
A less obvious but no less critical aspect of the Yukon/YukonXL redesign was the fitment of several new active and passive safety/security systems. Topping the list of standard/available features are forward collision alert, collision mitigation, front park assist, lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and full speed range adaptive cruise control as well as GMC's Safety Alert Seat and the segment's only front-seat center airbag on models equipped with bucket seats.
The 2015 GMC Yukon/Yukon XL and 2015 Yukon Denali/Denali XL will arrive in showrooms during the first quarter of 2014. Pricing and EPA numbers will be released closer to their official on-sale date.
Here's a deeper look inside the new Yukon, plus more highlights from a highly informed individual. (No video below? Click here.)
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