On Valentine’s Day 1998, less than a month into my new gig as a car critic for the local CBS affiliate, I was testing my first GMC Yukon and with my girlfriend in the passenger seat I thought I’d show off a little bit by driving us down an unplowed, seasonal-use road that was knee deep in snow.
About 4 hours, 2 tow trucks and a bruised ego later we were back home watching the NBA all-star game. And that makes me wonder: if AT4 was around back then would that’ve ever happened?
I’ll cut to the chase; it probably would have because I was a noob to off-roading back then but I imagine I would have had a better chance of not rolling it on its side because the AT4’s got stuff to help plow through winter.
Denali is to the city as AT4 is to the wilderness. It’s another GMC sub brand that is being spread throughout their entire lineup and here on the Yukon includes all-terrain tires, skid plates, a more off-road friendly front fascia, an off-road driving mode, hill decent control and of course 4-wheel drive with an auto setting and low range.
Couple those attributes with the optional air suspension with an extra 2” of lift and a limited slip differential and the Yukon cuts through deep snow like a hot knife through butter.
I really like the unique, more rugged look of this Yukon which is also available in XL if your young ones need more 3rd row legroom and an extra 15 cubic feet of sports gear space. So why choose AT4 over the other trims? Well, you either want the all-terrain look or you actually desire all of these features that’ll bring some added confidence when adventure calls.
I’ve been having a blast taking it on the snowy trails and have yet to need the red recovery hooks. Pricing starts at around $66,000 and when you load it to the roof with all kinds of goodies – including the optional panoramic – you end up here at $75,960. Talk about profit margin!
I’ve driven all of the new GM SUVs at this point but this is my first one with the standard 5.3-liter V8. Don’t worry about it not being enough. It is. And with it, even this one will net 20mpg on the highway. As I’ve said in my previous tests, this new platform is a huge leap forward in terms of drivability and packaging. It’s polished and quiet even with these 20” all-terrain tires. But how is possible that at nearly $76,000 there’s no adaptive cruise control?
And I’ll levy the same complaints here as I have about the Tahoe and Suburban I’ve tested; the cabin does not match the price tag.
After waiting this long for a redesign the interior is definitely disappointing but it’s highly functional, very comfortable throughout and packs some neat tech.
But I really don’t like this gap setting button on the wheel. It can trick you, like it did me initially, into thinking the Yukon’s going to keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. It doesn’t. That’s reserved for Denali.
One of the options I would highly encourage and one I’ve neglected to show you in my previous vids is really quite cool; priced at $350 it’s a power sliding center console with expanded storage. I only wish the switches for it were down here and not overhead.
Other things I would tweak include adding radio control to the rear seat media system which does offer those in the 2nd row access to the navigation system, one-touch access to the very large 3rd row would be nice as opposed to having to flip things twice, and with the air suspension a switch in the cargo area to lower the body would be helpful. Now, with AT4 the 6.2 V8 and diesel engines are off the table but you still get the smooth shifting 10-speed auto and an impeccable ride quality thanks in part to the magnetic ride control shocks and the new independent rear suspension. GM has always been great at making their huge SUVs drive small and this is certainly the case here. 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded yields a healthy 432 mile driving range and max towing of 8,200 pounds bests the 6.2. Gas mileage checks in at 18mpg on regualr. And this one has the Prograde trailering system so there are all sorts of assistive features built-in to do that safely and confidently.
My favorite features include the power retractable side steps with perimeter lighting, the multi-color head-up display, wireless phone projection, and heated 2nd row seats with separate climate controls.
I also appreciate the surround view camera though I wish the activation button was off the touchscreen.
With the Traction Select System and wheel-specific 4-wheel drive, the Yukon AT4 feels like the beast you expect it to be but with the polish of a luxury SUV on-road. AT4 is a cool idea and will no doubt continue to bear fruit for GMC throughout their entire lineup.
2021 GMC YUKON AT4 TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES | TESTDRIVENOW 2021(c)