2021 GMC Yukon AT4 Wins Four Wheeler’s SUV of the Year Award
An All-New Design, Fully Independent Suspension, And Incredible Off-Road Capability Help GMC Earn Top Honors.
Four Wheeler, the world's leading 4x4 authority since 1962, has selected the GMC Yukon AT4 as the winner of its 48th annual SUV of the Year award.
Four Wheeler's SUV of the Year award event is an invitation-only competition that is only open to all-new or significantly revised SUVs for the upcoming model year. For 2021, the field of vehicles included four entries: Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, GMC Yukon AT4, Land Rover Defender, and Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro.
"GMC came out of the gate strong with the first-ever Yukon AT4," Four Wheeler editor Ken Brubaker said. "Its styling ensures that it stands out from the crowd visually, while the AT4-specific mechanical bits like the Active Response 4WD system with electronic limited-slip differential help deliver off-road performance. The result is a luxury SUV that can stylishly and capably haul a family and its gear away from the hustle and bustle of paved life."
The competition began in the Los Angeles area with ramp travel index (RTI) testing to gauge each vehicle's suspension articulation. Following RTI testing, the SUVs were driven to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for track testing, including 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration times, as well as 60-0 braking distance. Following track testing, the vehicles were driven to the Southern California desert on paved roads. Judges included staff from various truck and 4x4 brands, including Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, and Truck Trend.
The next two days were spent primarily in a variety of off-road conditions, including sand, rocky trails, loose-surface trails, and rutted back roads. Testing also included a loose-dirt hill climb and sandstone slab rock crawl. Night driving was also integrated into the competition to gauge each vehicle's lighting equipment.
Testing this year was conducted out of a centralized hub, with minimal staff, operating in a "podded" environment to maximize the safety of our judges during the ongoing COVID pandemic. As such, our judges logged many highway miles getting to and from the testing locations each day, during which we gathered additional important highway data, including fuel economy, interior comfort, and on-road handling. The three days of testing covered approximately 750 miles.
"The GMC Yukon AT4 offers incredible comfort with its new fully independent chassis, as expected, but with tangible upgrades over the standard Yukon," Four Wheeler content director Sean P. Holman said. "The Yukon AT4 has proven that real off-road capability exists for those in the market for a full-size SUV that can haul both family and gear for adventures off the beaten path."
In the dirt, the Yukon AT4 impressed with its approach and departure angles (34.5 and 22.5 degrees, respectively), which were improved thanks in part to the vehicle's four-corner air suspension. The Yukon's Active Response 4WD system and electronic limited-slip rear differential made tackling most any obstacle a breeze. A unique front fascia and copious skidplating allowed the Yukon AT4 to travel to parts of the backcountry most three-row SUVs only dream of.
Inside, judges gave high marks to the Yukon AT4's leather-trimmed bucket seats, which proved to be a nice luxury on the dusty trail. The Yukon also features a new 10.2-inch color touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Apple Car Play, Onstar 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and myriad of driver assistance features. Judges also liked the optional panoramic sunroof, 12.2-inch entertainment screens for the second-row passengers, and the Yukon's enormous 122.9 cubic feet of cargo space (with the seats folded down).
The new-for-2021 GMC Yukon AT4 impressed the judges with its smooth ride both on- and off-road thanks to its all-new independent rear suspension. Four-corner air suspension and magnetic ride control dampers also contributed to the excellent ride quality. Fuel economy did not disappoint, as the AT4's 5.3L V-8 engine returned a best tank mpg of 20.96. On- and off-road, the engine and 10-speed transmission delivered power smoothly and seamlessly, adding to the Yukon's outstanding drivability. In track testing, the Yukon AT4 put down a respectable 0-60 time of 8.21 seconds and passed through the quarter mile in 16.27 seconds at 89.6 mph.
Scoring for the award included five weighted categories, with 30 percent Trail Performance, 25 percent Empirical (RTI, acceleration, braking, price), 20 percent On Pavement (handling, ride quality, steering feel), 15 percent Interior (instrumentation, ingress and egress, seat comfort, storage), and 10 percent Exterior (appearance, stance, body protection).