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GMC’s 2021 Yukon AT4 Won’t Be Available With a Diesel

The 3.0L Duramax is fine, but here’s why the oil-burner isn’t gonna happen in the off-road SUV.

KJ JonesAuthorCourtesy of GMCPhotography

We're now in the "season of change," the short time frame in 2020 when final additions and deletions of individual components, packages, etc., are made on the pickup trucks that will be hitting dealership showrooms in August.

Although we always like hearing about a manufacturer further enhancing its rigs, announcements of features being discontinued for a particular model definitely give us pause and immediately raise a flag about "why" the deletion happened.

With 2021 GMC Yukons almost here, we were surprised to learn that those carrying the rugged, off-road-style AT4 treatments will not be available with a diesel engine. As we mentioned earlier, the immediate question is, "why?" Rest assured, the reason has nothing to do with the already proven 3.0L Duramax LM2 I-6 powerplant.

According to sources, the reason lies in the vehicle's fascia, of all places. The 2021 GMC Yukon AT4 package includes an updated front piece that features a lower panel that is cut at a high angle to give the SUV higher approach angle when adventuring off-road (and it looks really good). However, the panel's height actually creates a problem. Because it is taller than the same piece on standard Yukon, the panel actually blocks the all-important intercooler for the turbocharger.

It's a problem that Yukon AT4 shares with Chevrolet's 2021 Tahoe and Suburban Z71 models. Thus, the diesel is excluded from those SUVs, too. So it looks like a V-8 (5.3L EcoTec L84 engine making 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque)/10-speed automatic transmission combo is your only recourse if you want a 2021 GMC Yukon in AT4 trim; the bigger 6.2L V-8 powers XL and Denali versions.

Having driven the impressive 3.0L Duramax-powered 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 during Truck Trend's Pickup Truck of the Year evaluation, all we can do is hope that a redesign comes about, to correct the problem for the SUV and support the diesel's inclusion in a rig that we think will be really cool.

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