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The 2021 GMC Yukon Coolest Features: "Hurricane Turns," Built-In Gun Safe, and More

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/15/2020 Motor Trend Staff

Events like the snowbound introduction of the 2021 GMC Yukon are great, because after the camera drones land, the applause dies down, and the frigid bleachers clear, all the product experts head to the bar and start to jabber away. Usually, they don't discuss the weather, or other useless topics—no, during happy hour, the engineers and marketing people tend to let slip secrets and fun features that aren't covered in the Powerpoint presentations.

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a car parked in a parking lot: 2021 GMC Yukon Denali 003 © Motor Trend Staff 2021 GMC Yukon Denali 003

Here are nine great tidbits about GMC's newest Yukon and Yukon XL full-size SUVs that we gleaned in the post-reveal scrums and bar chats:

Hurricane Turns!

a car covered in snow © Motor Trend Staff

Crank the steering wheel hard left or right, switch off traction control, and stomp the accelerator on snow, sand, or other very loose surfaces, and the big GM utes are calibrated to feather their brakes and fiddle with their powertrains in such a way as to cause them to pivot about the front axle. Keep your foot in it, and the center of the spin reportedly migrates aft to about the center of the vehicle. Take that, Rivian Tank-Turn! Whereas the upcoming Rivian R1T electric pickup and R1S EV SUV use clever electronics and their four motors—each individually powering a single wheel—to mimic a battle tank spinning in place, the Yukon's Hurricane Turn feature is arguably more impressive because it has only a single engine, which spins all four tires in the same direction no matter what (forwards, or backwards!), and uses judicious brake applications and GMC's own electronic wizardry. This trick, it probably needn't be noted, surely decreases brake-pad life . . .

Gentle Drifts

Proving that the fun police haven't put GM on total lockdown, the stability control is calibrated to allow accomplished drivers to incite and hold gentle drifts with yaw angles of up to about 15 degrees on slick surfaces. So, steer into that slide and keep your foot in the gas—the 2021 Yukon won't shut the party down unless you really get things out of sorts.

Worst Case Scenario

a car covered in snow © Motor Trend Staff

As we reported with the latest Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, the Yukons' mechanical twins, the brake system is by-wire, with a force transducer simulating pedal effort. Should something go wrong with this system, the driver's brake-pedal pressure can be fed directly to the front calipers (which do most of the work when stopping, anyway). The emergency backup system then applies electric parking brake pressure to the rear calipers to execute safe, stable stops.

Terrain Mode

This drive mode is offered in lower-spec Yukon models not equipped with a two-speed transfer case with low-range. In slow rock-crawling-type maneuvers, Terrain Mode uses brake pressure to simulate the heavy engine braking that low-range gearing provides so that the driver can execute high-precision maneuvers using only the accelerator. Don't you love modern electronics?

Sliding Safe Option

That power sliding front center console, it turns out, will not be standard equipment on any Yukon. It will be an extra-cost option on SLT, AT4, and Denali (with pricing unknown at this time). Its most valuable feature is the slide-out drawer in the bottom, which is only accessible when the console is motored aft (via an unmarked switch in the overhead console). Anything left in that drawer—a wallet, phone, or even a handgun—remains inaccessible except via crowbar when the console is motored forward, the ignition is off, and the ignition key is out of range. It reminds us of those safe-like holds that used to reside behind the infotainment screens on some GM products.

Biggest Rear Screens

a desktop computer sitting on top of a car: 2021-GMC-Yukon-Denali-032.jpg © Motor Trend Staff 2021-GMC-Yukon-Denali-032.jpg

Measuring 12.6 inches on the diagonal, we're told these are the biggest rear-entertainment screens in the premium SUV segment. They can easily be seen by third-row occupants, and they can display the same or different content fed by HDMI inputs, smart-phone Miracast, Chromecast, etc. The displays come bundled with navigation, and they allow rear-seat occupants to, for example, research restaurants or points of interest and share the destination to the front screen and main navigation system. Pricing is forthcoming.

Nine Passengers!

a car covered in snow © Motor Trend Staff

Base SLE model Yukons will still be offered with three bench seats, bringing the passenger tally to nine, and with the Yukon and Yukon XL benefitting from longer wheelbases and a more packaging-friendly independent rear suspension, the GMCs are going to be pretty comfortable ways to move nine folks.

Fractal Stitching

2021-GMC-Yukon-Fractal-Stitching.jpg © Motor Trend Staff 2021-GMC-Yukon-Fractal-Stitching.jpg

The sumptuous Denali interior features beautiful contrasting colors, real wood species selected to match the four color themes, and a variety of upholstery stitching patterns. The fanciest of these is the fractal stitching used on the seats. It joins two upholstery panels with X patterns made of contrasting thread. Deck stitching, which looks a bit like half of a French stitch, with a single linear stitch on one side of the seam, is used extensively on the dash and door panels.

Flatter Cargo Floor

a desktop computer sitting on top of a car © Motor Trend Staff

Owners of current full-size GM utes may be in the habit of assuming a position of readiness to catch loose groceries before they open their rigs' tailgates. That's because stuff in the backs of those previous-generation models was always poised to fall out of opened tailgates, thanks to the sloped cargo floors that practically acted like slides. The new Yukons mostly take care of that issue. Their cargo floors are sloped a much flatter 3 degrees, down from 7 degrees before.

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