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GMC recently unveiled the 2021 Yukon and Yukon XL in Vail, Colo.Neil Vorano/The Globe and Mail

GMC has just this week taken the wraps off the latest iteration of its flagship large SUV, the Yukon, with significant changes that make this all-new, three-row SUV one of the most luxurious and capable on the market.

Like its Chevrolet stablemates, the Suburban and Tahoe, which were unveiled in December, the big news for the 2021 Yukon and Yukon XL is that it now has independent rear suspension for the first time, a huge change that makes more room in the cargo and rear-seat areas and is said to improve both ride and handling. On top of the normal coil-spring suspension setup, the top-level Yukons now get the options of air suspension with coil springs or air suspension with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control damping. Air suspension helps level the vehicle with heavy cargo and can be raised or lowered by 50 millimetres.

The Yukon will have three engine choices: the standard 5.3-litre V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque, a 6.2-litre V-8 with 420 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque, and, in a first for the vehicle, a 3.0-litre Duramax turbodiesel generating 277 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. All three engines are hooked to a 10-speed automatic transmission – operated with push buttons on the console – that goes through a standard, manual-switch four-wheel-drive system or an optional Active Response 4WD system that automatically transmits torque to wheels that need it in slippery conditions.

Overall, the big SUV has grown slightly, with the Yukon’s wheelbase stretched by 153 millimetres, while the Yukon XL grows by 22 mm. With that, along with the extra room created by the independent rear suspension, cargo capacity increases by 66 per cent in the Yukon, and there’s also 40 per cent more leg room. The Yukon XL gets an added 23 cu.-ft. of cargo room, up to a best-in-class 144.7.

The Yukon and Yukon XL's wheelbases have increased only slightly, but with their new independent rear suspension, they boast significantly improved cargo capacity and leg room.Neil Vorano/The Globe and Mail

To go with the more attractive exterior, the interior also gets a complete revamp, while the Denali version gets its own exclusive look and four different colour schemes on top of that. Open-pore wood trim and high-end leather with cross stitching help make this feel like one of the more luxurious large SUVs on the market. Standard on the Denali is a class-leading 15-inch head-up display and a clever sliding centre console, which can move back to make a flat platform between the front seats for more storage. That console also has a “secret” compartment that is completely hidden when moved forward.

Automatic emergency braking comes standard across the lineup, while the Denali gets a nine-camera, 360-degree view, as well as rear pedestrian alert. There’s also a rearview camera that gives a wider look behind the car.

GMC also unveiled the Yukon AT4, a more off-road oriented trim level, which includes skid plates and a higher front fascia for more ground clearance, all-terrain tires, hill-descent control, an off-road drive mode and a two-speed transfer case, all with a unique black interior with brandy accents. With the reveal of the 2020 Terrain AT4 this week, that means the AT4 off-road trim is available across the entire GMC lineup.

The 2021 GMC Yukon will be available in the summer; prices have not yet been revealed.

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