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2019 GMC Yukon: A 2nd Look

Black 2019 GMC Yukon Denali in snow covered mountains

Considering the ease with which so many car-buyers have overlooked GMC’s lineup over the years, isn’t it about time that we give credit where it’s due? Take the 2019 GMC Yukon, for example. Even without the advantage of the Denali nameplate, the Yukon is a well-qualified and able competitor against the likes of the Infiniti QX60 and Acura MDX. Which begs the question: if those two vehicles are ranked among aspirational SUV’s (albeit more accessibly price ones) why are so many people reluctant to extend the same respect to the Yukon, and its stablemates?

It’s a fair question, and with that in mind, let’s take a long, hard look at the Yukon. Let’s familiarize ourselves with where it’s been, to get a better idea of where it’s headed, and maybe (just maybe) agree that we should be giving the Yukon the credit that it truly deserves. 

Remember Jimmy

Do you? Do you remember the GMC Jimmy, the full-size SUV introduced in 1992 which would then go on to become the Yukon? The then-answer to the Tahoe, it might have been a full-size SUV powered by a gutsy V8 but, in hindsight, its two-door design feels like an immediate misstep. It would be 1995 before an intelligently redesigned Yukon would make its debut, but once it did, it seems ready to cash in on GMC’s promise of offerings for a more refined palate.

This would be strengthened by GMC’s decision to release their own Denali sub-brand in 1999. While Denali variants of GMC offerings can reflect a price up to 47% higher than the standard model, it has allowed GMC to further differentiate themselves from Chevy upon the promise of top-of-the-line offerings, rivaling GM’s own Cadillac lineup. Now almost twenty years later, GMC has reported that Denali makes up over 20% of their overall sales, proving that the high-end nameplate was a venture worth rolling the dice on. But the road GM and the Yukon had to journey down was not without its bumps. In fact, the promise of refinement and luxury would soon be forced into a secondary role, despite the raging success they were experiencing. 

Low & Plateau

Bolstered by the accessibility and appeal of the Denali trim, it should be of no surprise that the first several years of the 21st century saw U.S. sales numbers doubling. It wasn’t until 2007 when Yukon sales dropped below the 70,000 unit mark. And by 2008, they found themselves floating aimlessly around the 30,000 unit mark. Of course, the full-size three-row Yukon was bound to lose some steam during the eco-sensitive Depression, but what would it take for GMC to recover? Short answer, patience and consistency: two traits that they would show they have in spades…

In Recent Years…

GMC has taken great care to apply modest, incremental changes to the Yukon with each model year since 2015 (the model year when it received a full redesign). One might argue that the kind of measured evolution the Yukon has gone thought reflects a lack of inspiration. That said, one could also argue that it reflects small, safe changes being made on a continual basis to reposition the Yukon for post-Depression re-acceptance. Accolades such as 5-Star Crash Test Ratings from the NHTSA and Best-in-Class honors from TruckTrend magazine served the Yukon well, keeping it part of the conversation. Now, with almost thirty years under its belt and a next-gen redesign right around the corner, GMC has decided to throw caution to the wind by offering up some exciting upgrades for the Yukon in 2019.

On the superficial end of the spectrum, GMC is dropping two exterior paint options (the Mineral Metallic and Iridium Metallic, respectively) and gaining three new Metallic colors (Dark Sky, Pepperdust and Smokey Quartz). While certainly mindful of the deep, refined colors that prove most complimentary of high-end SUV fare, each feels reservedly aware of the kind of bold color trends that today’s car-buyers seem partial to. 

In addition, the Yukon introduces two new packages to choose from: the Graphite and Graphite Performance Editions. Available for both the 2019 Yukon and Yukon XL, these are exclusive to the SLT trim levels. That said, the additions make for strong enhancements to what is already an all-too compelling offering. 

Black 2019 GMC Yukon Graphite Edition in warehouse

2019 Yukon Graphite Edition features:

  • 22″ bright machined wheels with Carbon Flash Metallic pockets
  • Black assist steps with Gloss Black accents
  • Black Chrome grille mesh inserts and fog lamp surround
  • Body-color grille surround
  • Gloss Black beltline moldings, DLO reveal, C-pillar vertical trim plate and roof rail inserts
  • Z85 Suspension Package

2019 Yukon Graphite Performance Edition features:

  • 6.2L V8 L86 engine (EcoTec3 family)
  • 10-speed automatic transmission MF6
  • 22″ 6-spoke Black wheels, LPO
  • 8″ diagonal Driver Information Center
  • Head-Up Display
  • 8″ diagonal Color Touch Screen Navigation with GMC Infotainment System
  • Trailer brake controller
  • 170-amp alternator
  • 2-speed active transfer case (4WD models only)
  • Z95 Magnetic Ride Control

So…is the Yukon Actually Underrated?

Judging by the sales numbers reported by GM, one thing is clear…any reputation of being an underdog that the Yukon might have had has diminished significantly since the 2015 redesign. In fact, in terms of USA sales alone, the Yukon has shown a drastic increase in sales since the 2014 model year when sales jumped from 28,302 units (in 2013) to 41,569 units. From there, sales climbed to 42,732 units (2015) 53,447 units (2016) 49,183 units (2017) and are tracking towards the 50,000 mark for 2018.

If nothing else, a nearly 200% jump in domestic sales between 2010 and 2018 shows that GMC might be more in-tune than ever with its customer base (both existing and prospective). It certainly speaks to the strength of their design offerings, and their decisions to highlight the right features and amenities, necessary to justify the slightly more aggressive price point. It’s a rewarding realization, considering the clear effort that is being put into offering the most compelling options possible.  If you ask us, it’s about time. 

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