Yukon XL

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2021 GMC Yukon XL Overview

The GMC Yukon XL has been completely redesigned for 2021, resulting in more interior space while maintaining a similar overall length. This new package is offered in the SLE, SLT, and Denali trim levels, as well as the new AT4 off-road trim that debuted for 2020 in the Sierra, Sierra HD, and Acadia lineups.

Also new for 2021 is the addition of an optional turbodiesel 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. As of this writing, power numbers have not yet been released for the Yukon XL’s diesel 3.0-liter inline six, but in the 2020 Sierra 1500 the same engine produces 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Gas engines offered for the 2021 Yukon XL include the 5.3-liter V8 and optional 6.2-liter V8 (standard on the Denali), both with stop/start technology and revised dynamic fuel-management cylinder deactivation, which increases fuel economy. Output has not yet been announced for the 5.3-liter V8, but in the 2020 Yukon XL that engine produced 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. GMC claims 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque for the 2021 Yukon XL’s 6.2-liter V8.

All three engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, driving either the rear wheels (RWD) or all four (4WD). Shifting is controlled by a push-button gear selector on the dash. An optional electronic limited-slip differential is available to distribute torque evenly to the wheels. An optional two-speed transfer case is also available.

Major suspension changes are the big news for 2021, with a new multi-link independent rear suspension replacing the solid axle across all trim levels. An optional magnetic ride-control damping system offers a wide range of ride quality and handling. Optional air springs allow the ride height to be adjusted over a 4-inch range and include an automatic self-leveling feature. This provides the AT4 an advantage when off-roading, as it achieves a nearly 32-degree approach angle when lifted.

The redesign enables a lower load floor for easier loading and unloading, as well as an increase in cargo space. The Yukon XL’s wheelbase increases slightly more than 4 inches, but its overall length grows less than 1 inch. Despite the almost static length, the interior proportions increase dramatically for a maximum cargo space of 144.7 cubic feet, an increase of 23 cubic feet over the 2020 model. Rear legroom also increases with the help of a new sliding second-row seat.

The interior design is new across all trim levels, with Denali now featuring a unique treatment and a new instrument panel, leather seats, and four proprietary color themes that each include real wood trim. The AT4 features its own exclusive seats with leather inserts. The SLT, Denali, and AT4 feature an innovative power-sliding center console that can slide back up to 10 inches to reveal hidden storage options. This also puts additional cup holders within reach of the second row.

Exterior treatments offer liberal use of chrome on the Denali, including a larger and more detailed grille and optional 22-inch wheels. The Denali also receives LED lighting. The AT4 is more subtle with body color and dark trim, underbody skid plates, and red recovery hooks, plus all-terrain tires fitted to 20-inch wheels.

Automatic emergency braking is standard on all trim levels. An available 15-inch head-up display allows the driver to view speed, navigation, and multiple safety features without looking away from the road, while a newly available rear pedestrian alert notifies drivers of obstacles behind. Nine camera views are offered to improve driver visibility, including a surround view. The new ProGrade trailering system allows drivers an unobstructed perspective around and behind the trailer. Other new optional trailering features include trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring and a side-blind-zone alert.

The 2021 Yukon XL offers a much more efficient interior space than the previous generation, which should appeal to buyers seeking the largest SUVs sold today. Its only competition, when it comes to overall length and interior space, will be the also-revised-for-2021 Chevrolet Suburban and the Ford Expedition, which is slightly smaller.


Josh Jacquot is an automotive journalist who has held positions at both enthusiast- and consumer-based automotive publications for more than 20 years. With a far-reaching knowledge of all things automotive, his career has put him behind the wheel of everything from snowplows to 600-horsepower rallycross cars. His driving resume includes wins at the national level in NASA Rallysport competition and the California Rally Series in addition to one regrettable night at the inaugural 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Though he likes most anything that can be driven, he has a particular affinity for box flares, Campagnolo wheels, and gratuitous wings and ducts. Someday he will own an Renault R5 Turbo.

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