The luxury SUV market contains a variety of choices for those looking for a comfortable, luxurious and versatile vehicle. For several years, the GMC Yukon filled part of the luxury SUV niche by offering a wealth of unique features and options not available on lesser vehicles. While the Yukon remains one of the best SUVs on the market, several “crossover” SUVs have popped up to compete with the Yukon. Among these are the Lincoln MKT and Buick Enclave, two car-based crossover SUVs with an emphasis on providing a luxury ownership experience.
The Yukon comes in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants, in a lower-level SLE and higher-level SLT trim. Unlike the Buick Enclave and Lincoln MKT, the Yukon rides on a heavily modified rear-wheel drive body-on-frame platform derived from GMC’s Sierra pickup truck.
Plenty of visual differences help the GMC Yukon stand out from other luxury-oriented SUVs. The Yukon’s rugged, chunky, yet sophisticated styling alludes to the vehicle’s more humble origins. On the other hand, the Lincoln MKT and Buick Enclave are both derived from car-based platforms that empathize a car-like driving experience over rugged truck-based mechanicals. The styling for both of these vehicles is also decidedly more car-like, with smoother flowing lines and more delicate trim touches.
Inside, the GMC Yukon seats seven to nine passengers in three rows, depending on the trim level and options chosen. The Yukon SLE features optional cloth bench seats for all three rows, while the upper-level SLT features first and second-row premium cloth or leather-appointed bucket seats. The Enclave and MKT can only seat up to seven, due to the lack of a front bench on those models. The third-row bench seat on the Yukon splits 50/50 to provide extended cargo space. With nearly 109 cubic feet in overall cargo space, the Yukon features comparative cargo room to the Enclave and MKT.
For a big luxury SUV, the GMC Yukon handles well, thanks to the standard StabiliTrak traction control system that also includes electronic trailer sway control and a hill start assist. The suspension remains rather truck-like in comparison to the Enclave and MKT, but it fares better than its pickup derivatives. The AutoRide suspension package on the SLT helps keep the ride height level under any load and it keeps the suspension relatively smooth. Unlike the Lincoln MKT and Buick Enclave, the Yukon features full-time four wheel drive with an active transfer case, giving it some off-roading ability that the aforementioned SUVs lack.
When you’re dealing with a large luxury SUV, it pays to have plenty of power under the hood. The GMC Yukon packs a standard 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to motivate the roughly 5400-pound luxury SUV to speed, but it won’t feel like a drag racer off the line. The 5.3-liter is backed by a new 6-speed automatic transmission that helps the Yukon get better gas mileage, with an EPA estimate of 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway for models equipped with four-wheel drive.
While the GMC Yukon does well in fuel economy and power for a body-on-frame luxury SUV, other similar SUVs have their own tricks up their sleeves. Both the Lincoln MKT and Buick Enclave forgo 8-cylinder engines in favor of more economical 6-cylinder powerplants. For instance, the Enclave’s direct-injected V6 produces 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, less than the Yukon’s burly V8. However, the Buick Enclave weighs hundreds of pounds less weight than the Yukon, making its performance comparable to the GMC SUV. Fitted with optional all-wheel drive, the Enclave gets 1 mpg better in both city and highway mileage than the Yukon.
The Lincoln MKT has a standard 3.7-liter V6 that produces 20 fewer horses than the Buick Enclave and 52 fewer horses than the Yukon. With 267 pound-feet of torque, the 3.7-liter remains competitive to the Enclave but loses out completely to the Yukon’s V8 torque. Meanwhile, the MKT’s true ace is the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter “EcoBoost” V6, producing 355 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The 3.7-liter is the most frugal of the group, with EPA figures of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. On the other hand, the 3.5-liter “EcoBoost” shines with more power, more torque and a slightly better EPA estimated fuel economy: 16 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway.
While it may not best the “EcoBoost”-equipped Lincoln MKT in fuel economy or power, the GMC Yukon has it and other similar vehicles beat when it comes to towing capacity. Having the advantage of a truck-based body-on-frame architecture, the Yukon can tow up to 8200-pounds when properly equipped and carry a 1700-pound payload with relative ease. This makes the Yukon a smart choice for those who regularly tow trailers, campers and other equipment on a regular basis. Neither the MKT nor the Enclave can match these capacities. With StabiliTrak’s included electronic trailer sway control, the Yukon will always remain surefooted during towing.
At a MSRP of around $39,000, the Yukon in SLE trim represents a relative bargain, compared to the MKT’s $44,000 starting price. However, the Enclave manages to undercut the Yukon by at least $3,000. The GMC Yukon manages to hold its own in the luxury SUV market when faced with similar car-based crossover SUVs.
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