The age of the SUV is over. The age of the crossover is upon us.
What we mean is, we’re seeing fewer multi-person vehicles based on the platforms of pickup trucks, while more sedan platforms are being repurposed for vehicles with a little more legroom in the second row, a larger trunk, and slightly higher ground clearance. Rarely these vehicles will have a third row, but they’re to be reserved for the smallest of passengers. Where before, carmakers made bank on the phrase “Go big or go home,” the post-recession reality sees them going home where all the CUVs are parked.
It’s a decision that has made sense. Many people want a set of wheels that have versatile interior space but still drive like a smaller four-door. They want to pull away from the pump without spending three digits on a tank of gas. The blending of sensibilities is in many ways an astute adaptation on the auto industry’s part, and now we are seeing the crossover category separating into small, midsize, and full-size designations just like the sedans whose underpinnings they share.
Here’s the rub: There are families for whom these cars are too small. The small SUV shift is a move that gives people with full-size needs a much smaller market to shop in. We all know someone who spends time hauling cargo back and forth who needs all the space they can get and a powertrain that isn’t going to give out on them. Growing up, we were part of a carpool that filled every seat in a Suburban going to and from school, football practice, Boy Scouts, you name it. We’re talking about vehicles that can serve a neighborhood, and many of them are going the way of the dinosaur even though we still need them.
That’s why the Yukon is still around.
We recently test-drove the 2015 GMC Yukon because while we have ridden in mammoth cars like these our whole life, we had never driven one of them ourselves. When we asked Sales Manager David Kearney which Yukon we should take, he handed us the keys to the one on display, right out in front of the new showroom.
It had rained earlier that morning, so water was still running off the Iridium Metallic Yukon SLE as we approached. The 2015 model sports a refined body style that hearkens back to a boxier kind of SUV. The edges are still smooth, and the dual-paneled wraparound headlights and taillights give it a modern tone, but the broad shoulders, flat sides, and squared off wheel wells give the Yukon an almost brutal stance when looking at it in the right light. You get the immediate impression that this is a truck that can do work.
Looking under the hood, you’ll know that’s the truth. New for this model year is a 5.3L Ecotec V8 engine with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. With a curb weight of more than two and a half tons, the Yukon can tow an additional 1800 pounds for a standard trailering payload of 6500 pounds. With the third row folded down, it has a cargo capacity of 57.6 cubic feet, and when the second row is folded down, that capacity jumps to 94.7 cubic feet. We weren’t even driving the XL version of the Yukon, which adds even more space (though it sacrifices some towing capacity). GMC is one brand that hasn’t forgotten how to go big.
That said, the biggest change between last year and this year’s Yukon is the expanded list of standard features. GMC understands that while a big vehicle is necessary for some families, that doesn’t mean those families are necessarily used to driving a big vehicle. That’s why the Yukon comes with a standard Rear Vision Camera System, as well as Front & Rear Park Assist. With sensors embedded in each bumper, you’ll have no problem maneuvering garages and parking lots. 2015 Yukon adoptees will also enjoy an 8-inch touchscreen with the IntelliLink infotainment system, Premium Bose surround-sound, and a 110-volt three-prong power outlet for no extra cost.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, we were surprised by how enclosed the cockpit feels. The seat hugs you, and generous armrests on either side make it easy to rest your elbows while grasping the steering wheel. GMCs are designed as much around comfort as they are around toughness, so the cushy interior should be expected. The Yukon doesn’t slouch on amenities either. In addition to the three-pong plug-in, we also counted three 12V ports (two in the front and one for the second row), four USB ports, and an SD card reader (likely for navigation updates). The LCD touchscreen also rises up at the push of a button revealing a hidden compartment and iPod port. Plug in your mp3 player and lower the screen and you’ll be able to drive without worrying about your device sliding around or falling on the floor.
Driving down the main road in Wendell, the Yukon feels monolithic. We don’t mean that it’s ponderous or difficult to maneuver or hard to control – it’s none of those things. The V8 gives you more than enough power to accelerate up to speed, the electric power steering is as tight as it can be for a vehicle with this kind of girth, and the brakes never make you feel like you’re driving something too massive to stop. No, when we say it feels monolithic, we mean it’s something to behold. This is a substantial ride that should leave you, your passengers, and bystanders in awe. The technical achievement required to make a machine like this move is astounding.
Yet on the inside, it’s utterly silent. The degree of insulation is a feat in and of itself. The doors are triple-sealed and you can see some of the damping materials that they use if you look under the wheel wells, but what you can’t see are the advancements they’ve made under the hood to make the engine quieter overall. The engine mounts have been redesigned and retuned for improved isolation, the Active Direct Injection hushes operation sounds, and even the new valved exhaust system cuts down on cabin noise and vibration. It’s the kind of car that, when we hit the highway on our way back to the dealership, we didn’t realize how fast we were going until we checked the speedometer. When you close the door and buckle up, the Yukon seals you away from the outside world.
With its generous chrome fashioning and its tank-like toughness, the 2015 GMC Yukon is a striking and stalwart offering from GM that shows they won’t forget those big families and neighborhoods that rely on land-ferries. The interior is lavish at the standard level, and we haven’t even begun to talk about the Denali variant. For those who need to go big and go home, the Yukon is for you.
If you would like to test-drive it yourself, stop by Leith Buick GMC in Wendell or schedule your test-drive on our website. We can’t wait to see you.