GMC Yukon 4-door fills wagon niche between Suburban, Jimmy
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Steep tracks, rutted and weathered by dry Nevada winds swirling off the high desert, shot straight up a barren slope littered by sage, rock and succulents.
When viewed through the windshield of a 4-wheel-drive sport-utility wagon I had steered through 2,000 vertical feet of altitude gained on a rough off-pavement course in eastern foothills of the Sierras, a prudent driver might naturally assume this intended route should not be tackled without ropes, winches or sure-footed mountain mules.
But I had ventured into these hills to test the mettle of the latest off-road warrior from the GMC Truck Division of General Motors, and a steep stretch of ruts was not going to turn me back, at least not without trying.
Besides, this vehicle packed powerful weapons for wilderness ventures: A strong frame, big V8 muscle, sturdy 4-wheel-drive system and high chassis clearance.
So I tackled that steep and slippery grade.
Racking the floor-mounted transfer case lever forward, I shifted into the lowest reaches of 4-wheel-drive, then pulled the column-mounted automatic transmission's stick down to first gear. Hands locked on the steering wheel and the right foot eased into accelerator.
Tires, with special off-road tread patterns designed to grip dirt and gravel, bit into desert debris, backed by the power of 200 horses and massive amounts of engine torque.
Up we climbed, this wagon and I, bumping over loose rocks and plunging through deep erosive tracks, tires spitting out the scree but never loosing traction, despite a scary slant to this slope.
You had to see the uphill progress to believe it.
Yet inside this wagon, draped with plush comforts like a cushy leather seat, I never felt the roughness of this road, except for a dramatic tilt of cab during the climb.
Evidently, GMC's new full-size 4-door Yukon wagon can tackle such obstacles of the outback world and still keep riders comfortable with living-room conveniences.
The big machine, with a V8 tucked beneath the hood and broad bucket seats trimmed in supple leather set inside for driver and passenger, provides the plush touches of a luxury sedan, plus rugged off-road hardware with optional 4-wheel-drive system.
Check out the room remaining in back seat and rear cargo bay and you'll discover this sport-utility wagon, which rides on a full-size GMC truck chassis, could also haul three backseat riders and a batch of camping gear, golf bags or snow ski equipment.
It's so big inside, in fact, that Yukon in 4-door conformation forges a virtual new class of vehicle among domestically-produced sport-utility wagons -- its maximum cargo capacity of 122.5 cubic feet amounts to at least 40 more cubic feet of space than the nearest American rival.
To find its new position in the GMC lineup of SUV wagons, understand that the Yukon 4-door measures more than the redesigned GMC compact wagon, Jimmy, and not quite as much as gigantic Suburban. Its 117.5-inch wheelbase, six inches longer than the 2-door Yukon, exceeds Jimmy's 4-door wheelbase by a full ten inches but falls 14 inches short of the massive Suburban.
Park a Yukon 4-door next to Suburban and you will be pressed to tell them apart, since both look similar from front bumper through the B pillar. Beyond the front seatback, however, Suburban earns extra room to add a third tier of seats so it can carry up to nine people, while Yukon maximizes with six riders.
Detect differences by comparing the second set of doors on each side: Suburban's rear door edge forms a straight line from top to bottom and fits in front of the rear wheelwell, while the door of new Yukon has a notch near the bottom to tuck around that arched well.
Yukon also has less rear overhang than Suburban.
Yukon's 4-door variation begins with a rectangular ladder-type chassis with welded crossbars and boxed front. This is a special frame unique to Yukon, rather than an abbreviation of Suburban's chassis.
The rigid platform supports an independent front suspension and rear semi-eliptical multi-leaf spring.
Tack on variable-ratio power steering and power brakes linked to the 4-wheel anti-lock system and Yukon ends up with important ingredients for smooth maneuvers on pavement.
It also hauls a big V8.
The 5.7-liter iron-block engine, generating 200 hp, provides serious muscle for moving this mass of metal as well as towing a trailer's load. When outfitted with optional towing package, the wagon can pull a rig weighing up to 7,000 pounds for the rear-wheel 4x2 edition, or 6,500 pounds in 4x4 mode.
The engine's electronic powertrain control module regulates fuel injection, with micro-adjustments of the mixture of air and fuel. This means instantaneous compensation for stressful effects such as altitude, like my Yukon faced in tests across Arizona and Nevada, as well as load. The result: Continual, dependable power flow.
A single transmission, GM's ultra-smooth electronic automatic 4-speed system, connects with the V8.
To get a manual transmission with Yukon, you must drop back to Yukon's 2-door version, which was the original configuration for this wagon.
Further, the 2-door stocks a 4-wheel-drive system exclusively, while the new 4-door provides both traditional rear-wheel-drive and the optional 4x4.
My tests of the 4-door Yukon also included a week of driving a 4x2 around town from my home base. It maneuvered easily in traffic, despite that massive size, and carried enough luxury items to make me feel like I was connected to a fancy sedan.
Also, this wagon fit neatly into the home garage, a feat Suburban cannot accomplish due to its extra length.
Yukon contains a number of favored features as standard equipment, such a power windows and door locks, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, tilting steering wheel, stereo AM-FM radio with cassette deck and eight speakers, and a driver's-side airbag.
An overhead console adds twin individual map lights in front and back, plus handy electronic compass. Also, the rear cargo portal can be rigged as dual swing-out panels or fold-down tailgate with flip-up glass window.
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 GMC YUKON Specs
||Full-size 4-door wagon
| Model Options:
||Full-size 4-door wagon
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 5.7-L V8
||$ 26,900 to $ 29,100