GMC has had an interesting image in the eyes of the buying public because it represents both industrial-grade workhorses and upscale luxury at the same time in a way not many other brands have been able to pull off. One might find a base model Sierra carrying steel pipes to a job site in one lane and see that same body style of the Sierra in a Denali trim a few miles up the road, all chromed up with the latest gadgets being driven by someone who could buy and sell you at a moment’s notice. It’s kind of disconcerting seeing just how different the same model in a different trim can be when you are exploring the GMC dealer near you.
It’s all very strange, and yet somehow they pull it off, and SUVs like the Yukon have bolstered that idea for the past 30 years. When you look at a Yukon SLE and compare it to a Yukon Denali, it will almost feel like two completely different vehicles. However, that kind of range in style, luxury, and capability are what sets GMC vehicles apart from the crowd. However, for those who want a little comfort and a little luxury in an off-road-ready vehicle, the performance capabilities of the 2021 Yukon AT4 may be perfect for you.
Bodystyle: Brawn and Brain
Big. If one could sum up the new Yukon in a single word, that would be it. The base Yukon rides on a 210-inch wheelbase, and the Yukon XL (a long-wheelbase model) is over 225 inches long. For context, that’s a hair longer than a 1975 Cadillac Eldorado! It’s true that the Caddy was a coupe that could only seat five, but the dimensions of the new Yukon remain mind-boggling. So, if you like your vehicles to be bigger, the AT4 Yukon XL is the model to get.
Thankfully, a lot has changed in the past forty-six years, and if one were to go a step further and add one more descriptive word, it would have to be – smart. Yes, this behemoth of an SUV is massive, but it throws its weight around well. The GMC Yukon wears the corporate GMC grille smartly. It’s large, yes, but it looks cohesive with the rest of the lineup, being flanked by large headlights on either side that incorporate the turn signals.
On the AT4 model, one can see a tucked-in underside to the front end that features two red tow hooks that match the shade of the GMC badge on the grille. It’s clear that from the front, this is no regular Yukon. The sides have two character lines that run from one wheel well to the other, drawing the eye to the slim area in between them, making the whole SUV seem smaller in the process. There is an AT4 badge halfway up the door that denotes the trim in a tasteful manner. The backend is simple and sturdy, with squared-off tail lights and small badges denoting the model and trim in a way that doesn’t distract from the rest of the design language and is rather understated when compared to others in its class.
Interior Appointments: Luxury and Refinement
The cabin of this SUV does much to distance itself in feel, if not design, from the truck platform on which it’s based. The Jet Black interior is contrasted nicely with the AT4 exclusive brandy colored inlays on the seats and stitching on the soft-touch materials surrounding the dash and center console. The steering wheel houses controls for the cruise control and radio. The gauge cluster houses two physical gauges, those being the speedometer and tachometer. In the middle is a screen that can display a wide array of information, such as the approach angle of the truck and the yaw of the vehicle as you go off-road. In the AT4 trim, this information can prove invaluable. Also projected on the windshield is that vital information repeated with a Head-Up Display, allowing you to keep your eyes where they belong on the trail ahead.
Speaking of the trail, the AT4 allows one to lift their Yukon to clear obstacles with an exclusive air ride system accessible through the infotainment screen, not found on any other SUV of its class. You can raise the vehicle up to two inches more to improve your ground clearance so you can get over any obstacle that enters your path. One can even opt for the Rear Seat Media package, which installs dual touch screens on the back of the front seats, allowing passengers to have their own entertainment experience separate from the rest of the media going on around them.
Off Road Performance
The AT4 offers a 5.3-liter V8 as standard that generates 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. It uses a ten-speed automatic transmission hooked up to a two-speed transfer case allowing drivers to choose four-wheel drive modes. Gone are the days of having to get out and go around to each front wheel, locking the hubs by hand, and climbing back in to pull a separate gear selector to get into four-by-four mode. One never needs to leave their leather and chrome accented cabin for a single moment; it’s all at the touch of a button.
Using Active Response 4WD, the Yukon AT4 can deliver power to each wheel separately, keeping you on the road and trail with confidence. Also helping bolster that confidence is the available Hill Descent Control system, which uses anti-lock brakes to make sure you don’t slide when coming off a steep grade. Also involving hills, the Yukon AT4 uses Hill Start Assist. When heading up a grade and being forced to stop at, say, a stoplight, the Yukon will hold the brakes for a few moments as you switch to the accelerator and avoid sliding backward those few crucial inches.
Finally, the AT4 gives you the Traction Select System. This system allows you to easily switch between different traction configurations depending on your surroundings. Choose from Sport, Off-Road (in four-wheel drive models), or Tow/Haul mode to get the most out of your AT4 capability. Not only is this SUV comfortable, it is adaptable.
Large and in Charge
The Yukon has been a popular full-size SUV for many years, and while that’s all well and good, it should be no surprise that a luxury off-roading version would eventually be made. If the popularity of full-size off-road based luxury pickups is anything to go by, that is. The Yukon AT4 offers all the space and comfort of the SUV, which bears its name and adds a dash of smart off-roading ability to go with it. This beast of a vehicle is perfect for taking on your everyday errands and taking off the pavement for a little bit of fun.
Using a powerful V8 with an efficient transfer case, a comfortable interior, and bold styling, the Yukon AT4 is sure to meet the needs and wants of the SUV market. GMC is clearly setting itself apart from the competition in the market it is trying to go after. The styling is undeniably GMC, with levels of luxury and comfort that scream high-end and the capability you need to get down and dirty. The Yukon has come a long way from being just a glammed-up basic SUV, and it really shows with the newest generation.