- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

The future will one day be filled with green, and we’ll all live happily ever after. This is not a fairy tale. General Motors Corp. is writing a new chapter in the advancing field of green technology.

I drove the automaker’s 2009 Yukon Hybrid, a full-size, 5,835-pound, eight-passenger, four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle. With all we’re going through as a nation with an economic nightmare in general - and restless fuel prices in particular - I did not feel mortified to be driving around town in this huge SUV.

As I pulled up in stop-and-go traffic along Pennsylvania Avenue, I was hoping the drivers in the compact cars alongside me would surely see the “hybrid” badging smacked around the exterior of the GMC’s body. In my mind, I felt like I needed permission be navigating city traffic in this thing. The hybrid badging would be my ticket to certain assurance from my fellow motorists that it was OK to be driving a big SUV.

GMC says the 2009 Yukon Hybrid gives its owners a dramatic step up in fuel efficiency over nonhybrid SUVs - boasting of up to a 50 percent improved city mileage efficiency. My tester had an Environmental Protection Agency-certified sticker of 20 miles per gallon in the city. That’s pretty good.

Imagine getting 20 mpg in both city and highway driving from a half-ton truck with a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that can tow 6,000 pounds of trailer weight. It’s the green you’ve been dreaming of. The Yukon Hybrid, two-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway and can trailer up to 6,200 pounds. The SUV’s ground clearance is 9 inches.

General Motors is surely making Toyota bristle at the comparison that GMC is making on the Yukon Hybrid V-8 to the darling Camry: Toyota’s 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower, four-cylinder sedan coupled to a five-speed automatic is also EPA-rated at 21 mpg city.

The Yukon Hybrid has a torque output of 367 pound-feet at 4,100 revolutions per minute (rpm) and horsepower production of 332 at 5,100 rpm. The “hybrid” of the Yukon system is GM’s electrically variable transmission that works in concert through an energy storage system (ESS) with the V-8’s Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation).

The transmission is the key that makes the whole powerplant system more energy efficient. The transmission contains a hybrid-optimizing system that monitors the powertrain, deciding on which of two modes to use in order to propel the vehicle: the electric power of the 300-volt ESS battery the gasoline engine - or even a combination of both electric and gas. GM is backing its battery-pack ESS system with an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.

So how much money does all this take? Not excluding the premium brand that GMC is to General Motors, the Yukon Hybrid is a pretty penny. The tester’s base price was $53,730. The destination charge ($950), optional rear entertainment system ($1,295) and power sling sunroof ($995) brought the as-tested price to $56,970.

For this price, several premium amenities are standard, such as Bluetooth, leather appointments, navigation system, rear-view camera, XM satellite radio with a Bose sound system, power liftgate and heated sideview mirrors.

The body-on-frame Yukon Hybrid offers a quiet ride, a functional interior for cargo and passengers capabilities and a unique hybrid gauge instrumentation cluster. The Yukon is shod with low-rolling resistance 18-inch tires. The hybrid economy gauge is a message center that communicates to the driver on the efficiency of his or her driving style. It’s like having a personal tutor instruct you on how to tread lightly and drive a little greener.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009

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