New for 2021, GMC brings its off-road-focused AT4 trim to the Yukon SUV. This makes a fourth trim option for the Yukon; base SLE, mid-level SLT, off-road AT4, and luxury Denali. The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 is poised to be an ideal vehicle for adventure-focused families, and to test it I loaded my family up and took them on a 1,500-mile skiing road trip from our home in Boulder, Colo. to Sun Valley, Idaho, and Park City, Utah.
2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Review
The Yukon is the GMC counterpart of the Chevrolet Tahoe and evolved from the full-sized SUV GMC Jimmy from 1991. The current fifth generation of the Yukon (as well as the XL version) debuted in July 2020.
The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 builds off of the feature set of the SLT trim and adds in off-road specific features, most notably the tucked chin under the front grill where the skid plate starts. This bumps the approach angle to nearly 32 degrees, compared to nearly 25 degrees on the road-focused versions (the approach angle increases to 34.5 degrees with GMC’s optional Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension 2-inch lift).
The 2021 Yukon AT4 is only available with the 5.3L V-8 engine and sports independent rear suspension, a 10-speed automatic transmission, a 2-speed transfer case, Hill Descent Control, GMC’s Magnetic Ride Control electronically adaptive dampers, and 33-inch (275/60R20) Goodyear Trailrunner all-terrain tires on 20-inch wheels.
Most of us, even with off-road capable vehicles, spend a lot of time on pavement. And for many adventure-bound families, there will likely be a good stint of highway driving before turning down that beautifully remote dirt road—the home stretch to adventure. To that end, we clocked 1,500 highway miles in this test, and even with the Yukon’s truck-based heritage, with body-on-frame construction, it made for a very comfortable traipse across the open roads of the rocky mountain west.
The new independent rear suspension and the magnetic ride control dampers eliminated that truck-like feel on the highway—even when cruising across I-80 in Wyoming at 80 mph. Our trip included a shortcut in Colorado covering a few miles of unpaved road with eroded and washboard sections and the Yukon absorbed those bumps and dips wonderfully.
The gnarliest section of our trip was getting up and over Teton Pass where the roads were covered in compact snow at the top and blended into a slushy slurry mix at lower elevations. The 2012 GMC Yukon AT4 was stable and comforting in these otherwise white-knuckle conditions thanks in part to the optional electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD).
Without surprise, this 7,500-pound vehicle at nearly 77 inches tall did have some body roll when I pushed the speed around corners. But I only did this to test, without the family in the vehicle—otherwise, I would have received some unhappy feedback from my passengers. At everyday casual driving speeds, it was hardly noticeable.
Off-road handling varies depending on whether or not some of the optional upgrades are chosen. One of those options is GMC’s Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension which provides a 2-inch on-demand lift to take the vehicle from 8 inches of ground clearance to 10 inches. Standard on the AT4 trim, however, is the tucked chin and skid plate to protect the underside of the engine from protruding rocks. The tucked chin also increases the approach angle of the AT4 by 7 degrees.
Here’s a chart provided by GMC showing how the 2-inch lift makes a difference:
|Yukon AT4 Specs w/ 4-Corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension|
|Normal Ride Height||Max Ride Height (2-inch increase)|
|Approach Angle||Nearly 32 degrees||34.5 degrees|
|Departure Angle||20.5 degrees||22.5 degrees|
|Breakover Angle||18.5 degrees||22.0 degrees|
|Minimum Ground Clearance (inches)||8.0 inches||10.0 inches|
GMC Yukon: People & Gear Hauler
The Yukon has never been a slouch for getting gear or people around. With 2-rows of benches in the back the Yukon can seat up to 8 people—7 with captain’s chairs in the second row which is how our test vehicle was configured. And with seating capacity maxed out, there’s only a meager 25.5 cubic feet left for cargo. We could only fit our 4 ski boot bags and a small roller bag back there. Drop that third row and the cargo area jumps to 72.6 cubic feet, which easily holds all the gear needed for a long weekend camping trip for our family of four. Finally, for a gear-intensive trip for just one or two people, collapsing the second-row seats puts the 2021 Yukon AT4 cargo space at 122.9 cubic feet.
For our trip, we had five people and were able to split the 60/40 third-row bench and drop the smaller side to fit our Dometic cooler.
While we didn’t have any cause to tow anything in our testing period, we did use the 2-inch hitch receiver, which comes standard with the AT4 trim, to mount the new EXO System from Yakima Racks which held a 10-cubic foot gearbox and our skis. The full weight on the receiver was around 250-pounds.
GMC lists the Yukon AT4 to tow 8,100 pounds—plenty for snowmobiles, a raft trailer, a medium-sized camper, or roughly a 25-foot motorboat. Basically, there are no concerns in taking the big toys along. A 7-wire electrical harness and 7-pin connector come standard with the Yukon AT4 trim. Towing-specific upgrades include the Max Trailering Package with the ProGrade Trailering System and an extra capacity cooling radiator.
On top, the roof side rails are standard with the AT4 trim but the crossbars are not. They can be added on by GMC or later by a third party. We didn’t have crossbars on ours and a second cargo box on top would have alleviated the cramped conditions for the adult riding in the third-row (the kids’ car seats were in the second-row captain’s chairs).
Efficiency and Power
We did not hit the 20 mpg EPA estimate for the GMC Yukon AT4 highway rating but I’m still happy with how we did. Each time I stopped to fill up the 24 gallon tank, the computer gave me an estimated range of around 380 miles—that’s 15.8 miles per gallon. We did a little better than that over the 1,500 miles we clocked, averaging 16.2 mpg on mostly paved roads with plenty of climbing and descending. We also had a full load of 5-passengers (3-adults and 2-kids) plus bags and the rack of gear on the hitch mentioned above.
The GMC Yukon AT4 sports a 5.3L V-8 engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission and cranks out 355 hp and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. The EPA fuel economy rating is 16 city, 20 hwy, and 18 combined.
2021 Yukon Amenities
Our test vehicle was decked out with the AT4 Premium Plus Package, a $9,000 add-on. This package is substantial and elevates (literally, in the case of the Air Ride Adaptive Suspension) the capabilities and experience of the vehicle. Beyond some of the options already covered above, the package also includes a rear seat media system and a 10.2-inch diagonal infotainment system with navigation. It also includes a Technology Package with HD Surround Vision, Head-Up Display, Rear Pedestrian Alert, and a few other things like a panoramic power sunroof and power-retractable running board with perimeter lighting.
The AT4 Premium Plus Package is designed to make it easy to purchase a “fully loaded” Yukon. But many of the options can be added à la carte.
The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 has lots of charging ports throughout the vehicle including USB-C ports. The front row has a USB-C, a USB-A, and 12v DC port as well as a wireless charging pad. The second row has two USB-C ports and a 110v AC plug. And even the third row has two USB-C ports on either side of the vehicle. Unfortunately, there is no 12v DC cigarette lighter-style plug in the cargo area, just a 110v AC power port.
Yukon AT4 Comfort
The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 is a spacious and comfortable vehicle. The road feel is good and the contour of the seats is very comfortable. The touchpoints are all soft and I never found myself shifting out of a position while driving the 1,500 miles because my elbow or hip got sore. There is ample head and leg room for the first 2-rows. And, thanks to the independent rear suspension, even the third row is relatively spacious—maybe not the best for an adult on the 1,500-mile road trip we took—but perfectly useful for just getting around town and to not have to take a second vehicle to go to brunch.
The heated steering wheel was much appreciated a number of times on our trip, as were the heated seats and remote start.
Safety is always paramount and the 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 has the standard LATCH connections for kids’ car seats, lockouts on the rear doors, and a “check the back seats” reminder when shutting the vehicle down. But one of the best kid-friendly features is the optional retractable running boards to let littles climb into the vehicle on their own—because they want to be so independent.
2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Overall Impression
With or without a family, this is an awesome vehicle for adventure. The Yukon has always had the room to haul lots of gear and now with the AT4 trim, it’s ready to tackle gnarlier roads to get to even more remote and secluded corners of the wilderness. Or, as in our case, to provide the comfort and confidence on snowy journeys to hit the slopes.
The downsides for me are the lack of the 12v-plug in the cargo area and the fact that the Adaptive Cruise Control is not available on the AT4 trim. Oh, and the price. The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 starts at $64,800. As tested, ours had a sticker price of $75,155.
You can build up your own 2021 Yukon and find a dealer near you at GMC.com.