It was tough deciding between the Onyx Black 4WD Denali and Summit White 4WD AT4 for the at-home launch and test drive of the 2021 GMC Yukon, yet ultimately, Automotive Rhythms went with the adventurous AT4 model. The American SUV’s interior excels with exquisite woods, fine leather, and technology advancements such as a third-row that automatically folds and unfolds from an overhead switch. Additionally, the second and third-row seats can be actuated from the cargo area.
As stated, I went with the very first AT4 model, which is focused on off-roading and venturing into the unknown. Red tow hooks should hint at the model of your premium American SUV. As well, AT4 receives the rugged Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires with economical tread design and all-weather traction to accommodate the stylish 20” aluminum rims outlined by Carbon Grey Metallic accents. You will also recognize the skid plate and hardcore Tonka Truck styled front fascia of the AT4 compared to the Yukon Denali’s blinged-out silver grille. Both feature jeweled headlights with impressive shine abilities. AT4 also runs with the Traction Select System with off-road mode and Hill Descent Control.
Totally rebuilt, the GMC truck is powerful, distinguished, and innovative. The Power Sliding Center Console (can move 10″ back) with many storage locations is a testament of simple technology that works ergonomically. The $2,490 Rear Media and Navigation Package includes dual rear seat-mounted 12.6” entertainment screens that will satisfy some. Still, I’m not a fan since I know from experience that kids do not use them. They are too hypnotized by their phone screens. But an adult in that position may play with the creative features.
“GMC Yukon is the full-size premium SUV that’s made to be used,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick and GMC. “The new Yukon delivers what customers value most – premium features, purposeful technology, and all-terrain capability.”
On the road, the Yukon AT4 moves like wildebeests during Africa’s great migration utilizing an authoritative 5.3-liter V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management, which can operate anywhere from a 2-liter to an 8-liter depending on power needs for fuel savings. A Duramax 3-liter turbo-diesel engine is on the way. The Denali receives the robust 6.2-liter V8 that kicks out 420-horsepower. Each pair with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Though, I had to get used to the newfangled gear shift tabs that GMC dubs Electronic Precision Shift. However, during acceleration, you can select “Low” for added thrust and “sport” mode for more stabilization and throttle response.
GMC blessed my loaner with the Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension as part of the $1,795 Premium Capability Package with Active Response 4WD. For off-roading, 4WD Low will raise the suspension by 2″ for added clearance. I didn’t have time to hit the trails with the Yukon, but I did throw my mountain bike in the rear for some exercise in the wilderness. The Max Trailering Package ($465) is available for recreational owners to haul campers and boats. It includes radiator cooling technology as expected.
Before stepping up into the lovely cabin, automatic running boards ($1,745) power down when the doors open and retract when they are closed. Carbon fiber inlays line the triple storage doors, a 9-speaker Bose audio system amplifies your tunes, wireless charging keeps your devices energized, rear USB-c and standard power outlets in the third-row maintain passenger happiness, and the $1,150 15” multicolor Head-Up Display animates the Yukon’s speed, navigation, and distance between the vehicle ahead. The $1,500 Skyroof and rear tailgate opening window flows in fresh air while the nine camera views provide safety mechanisms for your pride and joy. Of course, the 10.2 infotainment center is far more advanced than the outgoing unit and integrates large knobs, tabs, and touch to control audio, Nav, apps, etc.
The 2021 GMC Yukon is refreshing and bad to the bone. Expect to pay $64,800 MSRP for the 4WD AT4 or $75,960 for my package including the $1,295 destination charge. The 4WD Denali starts at $71,400 and can increase to as much as $83,420 with all favorable options. For example, the Denali Ultimate Package requires $11,180 of your earnings. Yet, it includes the dual-pane panoramic sunroof, 22″ aluminum rims, power running boards, the air suspension, and seven other features. Keep in mind safety is still at the top of the list with Lane Keep Assist, Front Pedestrian Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front and Rear Park Assist, and many more.
During my 24-hour evaluation, I wanted to cruise all-day to enjoy the boatload of amenities, yet duty called. Instead of enjoying a luxurious restaurant or epic drive escape, I utilized the AT4 to help our local community in need. Through the Fit Fathers Foundation, I partnered with Montgomery County, Maryland, to deliver containers of fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, and lentils to organizations that, in turn, distribute directly to residents. COVID-19 cases are high here and have dramatically disrupted the ability to earn income, especially in the Hispanic community. So my volunteers and I made a few runs picking up 100 launches for kids whose parents are struggling, and then two warehouse loads for church organizations that distribute food packages every Thursday and Sunday to hundreds of families. The director said it is challenging finding volunteers with trucks and human resources, so the County was thankful for the Yukon’s availability and Fit Fathers’ involvement.
On GMC’s side, the automaker has produced and delivered more than 4 million face masks and 230,000 face shields to frontline workers to help fight off COVID-19. As I always say, “selfless acts nourish the soul.” Thanks to the 2021 GMC Yukon AT4, we collectively contributed to an entire supply chain to ultimately uplift, empower, and energize those in need. Keep motivating people.