The letter read: “Dear AutoGuide, can you give me some advice in looking for a vehicle for my family. My wife and I have two kids, ages 5 and 8, and a Golden Retriever. Twice a year or so, I need to tow two motorcycles to Sturgis and Daytona for motorcycle rallies. Several times each summer, I tow my jet skis to and from our summer cottage in Michigan. We also take two family camping trips each summer, so we need a place for all our gear and the dog. During the year, my wife has to car pool our kids and others to school, and handle the usual chauffeuring to soccer, swim meets, Little League, and gymnastics classes. We also help out at church recycling programs, and lots of trips to the nursery for landscaping chores. So we need a large vehicle that can preferably seat 8, and have a large cargo area. We live in the Snow Belt, so 4-wheel drive is important, and since we spend a lot of time in the vehicle, we’d like it to be comfortable with some luxury amenities. But we also want it to be as green and economical as possible, as we are teaching our kids about conservation and being responsible for the planet. Our other car is a small Hyundai Accent which gets great mileage and is used as a commuter car and whenever possible to transport our family when we don’t need to take a lot along with us. What are your suggestions?”
|1. The Yukon Denali Hybrid makes 332-hp and 337 ft-lbs of torque. For 2010, 4WD models are rated to tow 6,000 lbs, while 2WD models are rated for 6,200 lbs.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 20/20 mg (city/hwy) for 4WD models and 21/22 mpg for 2WD models, which is much improved over the standard Denali’s 12/19 mpg rating.
3. The Denali Hybrid starts at $58,235, about $8,000 more than the non-hybrid model, with the 4WD hybrid at $61,080. A less-luxurious Yukon Hybrid is priced from $50,920.
This letter describes and illustrates the varied needs of many American families. Many need to haul trailers, kids, and cargo, and want those capabilities in a luxury vehicle that can still be environmentally friendly. I recently tested a vehicle that can fit the needs of this and many other families quite nicely… the GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid.
The Yukon is the workhorse SUV in the GMC lineup, and in Denali trim, makes it a luxury SUV. It’s powered by GM’s Vortech 6.0-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management that seamlessly shuts down from eight cylinders to four cylinders whenever less power is needed. But it’s the two electric motors inside the CVT two-mode transmission that make this Yukon a hybrid, by moving the vehicle with electric power only at slow speeds, or with a combination of electric and gas, and then on to full gas power when up to speed.
Despite the hybrid name, however, the motor is still extremely capable and produces an impressive 332 horsepower and 337 ft-lbs of torque and can tow up to 6,000 pounds (6,200 lbs. for the 2-wheel drive version). Perhaps that won’t let you tow your 31-foot speedboat, or 4-horse trailer, but it’s plenty for towing motorcycles, ATVs or watercraft.
In everyday driving, there is more than enough power to get you where you’re going and the power is so seamless you don’t know if the electric motor is on or off, and wouldn’t be able to count the operating cylinders at any given time. Best of all, the hybrid motor gives you 20 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway, with an improved 21/22 rating for 2WD models. That may not sound impressive, but the gas only models are rated at 12 mpg city and 19 highway. And let’s not forget that this is a vehicle that is 202-inches long, weighs just over 3 tons, and has full off-road capabilities. And on that note, compared to the Escalade Hybrid, this truck is one tick better in both the city and on the highway.
The Denali model also comes with GM’s advanced MagnaRide suspension, standard on the Cadillac Escalade. The shock absorbers use magnetorheological fluid for almost instantaneous dampening adjustments, and help to provide a more car-like ride than truck like handling. The Yukon features all the safety electronics you’d expect, like ABS brakes, and Stabilitrak stability control with traction control. This is no sports car, and you’ll feel plenty of body lean under hard cornering, but the 4-wheel drive and the electronics provide the safety and confidence that this Yukon is stable under all on-pavement driving situations and most off-road ones as well.
On the outside, aside from the Denali Hybrid badging, the chrome honeycomb grill and handsome 8-spoke, 22-inch chrome wheels are the major tip-offs that this is the up-model. But slide inside the Yukon’s cabin, and the interior appointments will leave no doubt about the luxury aspect of the Denali version.
The leather trimmed cabin features handsome wood trim on the dash, doors, console and steering wheel. The glove-soft leather seats, which are both heated and cooled, are wide and comfortable, yet not at all bulky, which help to provide more leg room for second row passengers. And there’s plenty of headroom for all eight passengers.
Second row passengers get their own climate and audio controls as well as heated seats. Cupholders are located in the center armrest, and the test vehicle was equipped with the $1,295 rear entertainment system, which allows the kids to watch a DVD with wireless headphones, while Mom and Dad can listen to their music up front through the Bose 10-speaker audio system with XM Satellite radio. And the second row is wide enough for 3 adults to sit comfortably. The second row seatbacks fold flat, and then the whole seat tilts forward to allow entry into the 3-person third row bench, or to just increase cargo room.
Third row passengers don’t get much leg room, unfortunately. These seats should be thought of as kids-only, as it is still difficult for adults to squeeze back there, and there is only room for short legs. And GM should have placed assist handles near the roofline for those times when older folks need to wedge in and out of the rear area. And while the 60/40 third row split bench seatbacks fold flat, they must be removed to get a truly flat cargo area. Seat removal is easy, and the seats are fairly light, but it would have been nice for the third row to fold flush into the floor, like the Ford Expedition. The liftgate is electric, a nice feature, and offers a low lift height for cargo storage and retrieval.
Cargo room is plentiful with 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row, 60.3 cu.-ft. with the third row removed, and 108.9 cu.-ft. with the second row also folded flat.
The Navigation System is excellent and easy to use. Programming addresses into the system is simple, and you can even voice tag them through the Bluetooth system to choose your destination. The Nav screen can also show you a graphic flow chart of where the hybrid engine power is coming from or flowing to. A back-up camera and Rear Parking Assist warning is part of the package. There are redundant controls on the steering wheel for the audio and phone system, as well as the cruise controls. The center console is huge, and includes three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets for charging or operating electronic devices, and there is ample storage in the door pockets, which have contoured water bottle holders molded into them.
One outstanding safety feature, particularly n a truck of this size, is the Side Blind Zone Alert, which flashes a warning light on each outside mirror to let you know when a vehicle in the adjacent lane is in your blind spot. And when you operate either turn signal, the mirrors also flash a warning arrow making it easier for other drivers around you to notice your intentions.
Another excellent feature is the power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals. Shorter legged drivers can move the pedals closer, yet not have to move the seat too close to the steering wheel. The keyless entry system features remote start, and has a built in anti theft system.
The Denali model I tested started at $61,080, which is about $3,000 more than a 2-wheel drive hybrid model. The 4-wheel drive Denali with the standard gas engine begins at $53,700. My test car added the $1,295 Rear seat Entertainment System, a $995 power moonroof, the Side Blind Zone Alert for only $500, and $395 for the red Jewel Tintcoat paint. The last line on the sticker read a healthy $65,215. That’s not cheap, but still almost $10,000 less than the Escalade Hybrid.
This is an excellent choice for those who have a need for such a versatile vehicle. You get the fuel economy of a sedan in city driving, and can fill up the seats with eight folks, (if three are kids), you can haul camping gear, a trailer, the dog, and whatever you need for an active lifestyle. And you can do all that in a solid, well built vehicle that performs like a truck but with a car-like ride quality. You can also have all the luxury amenities you’d want in a vehicle, and still be able to slap a Green Peace sticker on the window. For truck owners, this is your future.