- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

The American fondness for full-size sport utility vehicles continues. While the rising cost of a gallon of gasoline along with a negative political and social climate, you would think that that would not be the case. However, you would be wrong.

Granted, sales of full-sized SUVs have slowed their massive growth of past years. Nonetheless, these large sport utes continue to be popular because of their functionality, versatility and overall usefulness. Manufacturers are working diligently in making these vehicles even more family friendly plus easier on our gas cards.

The new GMC Yukon is just one perfect example. Redesigned from front bumper to rear, this sport utility has a new look, with a more aerodynamic exterior and a very luxurious interior.

This transformation in exterior design has accompanied a more miserly use of gasoline — a particularly important aspect of making sport utility vehicle fit both the political and social climate of today.

A major aspect of this fuel savings is the result of utilizing an all-new innovation called Active Fuel Management system, which helps this big and capable V-8 engine use less fuel. Employing numerous sensors and a computer controller, the Active Fuel Management system shuts off four of the engine’s cylinders when it senses a light load condition.

For example, if you were to drive down the highway at a constant 65 mph, the computer reads this light load condition and “knows” it can cut the power to four of the eight cylinders while maintaining the cruising speed. This saves fuel. GMC claims this can increase the fuel economy by as much as 20 percent.

Of course, if that doesn’t move you with enough power, you can opt for the Denali equipped with the 6.0-liter V-8 that produces an honorable 380 horsepower and 417 foot-pounds of torque. The Denali also gets you a major move up in features and dressing with large polished wheels, its own identifying grille treatment and much more.

If this in itself isn’t enough to lure you into the new Yukon, maybe the overall structural and interior features might. A new stronger frame translates to a quieter passenger compartment as well as providing a strong and aggressive stance on the road with a three-inch increase in the front track. The new coil-spring front and five-link rear suspension system not only improve the ride comfort, they lend a big help to adding better handling of those mountain curves. A rack-and-pinion steering system is used for the first time in a full-sized GMC SUV. This hearty rack-and-pinion lends carlike steering to the Yukon. This SUV handles much more like a sedan than a cumbersome 4X4 utility of the past.

Both exterior and interior design have moved into the modern age. Tighter exterior panel gaps give the Yukon a well-executed quality appearance. This tightening of body panel tolerances helps give the Yukon one of the quietest interior spaces.

The interior is also much nicer to the eyes and body. The seats are comfortable and a third row is available — although I would leave the third-row seating to the youngsters.

With the tightening of exterior lines comes incorporation of the tow-hitch receiver into the bumper assembly.

This is a much cleaner look because the system no longer appears to be a second thought add-on, as it does on so many other SUVs. An accessory cover plate is available that hides the hitch from sight.

The Yukon easy power folding second-row seats assist in making access to the third row much more convenient. These seats also help in opening up the additional cargo space.

The interior design of dash and door trim adds a much more refined feel than we’ve previously seen.

Here, the open and airy feel of the interior lends the atmosphere of a much more expensive vehicle. The gauges and switches have an up-level feel and look to them. The whole package just gives the appearance of an up-scale vehicle.

The Yukon adds surprises to the SUV as it displays the increase in attention to detail as well as the increased function and versatility.

This sport utility stretches our way of thinking about full-sized SUVs by becoming more miserly on fuel and more generous on comfort.

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