Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as in insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
This review ran on March 20, 1998. It was still taking time to conform to the standards that my managing editor was looking for, from length to content. As with the C280 review, I’m going to share both what I submitted and what was eventually posted to the site. The former because it’s so much more entertaining, and the latter because it’s more informative while staying inside the 350-word limit. By the way, although I remember nearly all of the cars I drove during this period, I have absolutely no recollection of this one whatsoever.
– Aretha Franklin
Respect is exactly what you get from most other cars on the road when you’re driving a vehicle as large as the Yukon. I realized this when trying to negotiate traffic in downtown D.C., a confusing and frustrating environment to drive in. Cars started to cut me off, then changed their minds. When I needed to change lanes, other motorists quickly eased back to give me plenty of room. In my Sentra, I’d get cut off and honked at in a heartbeat. Not in the Yukon. With apologies to Richard Pryor – When you’re in a Yukon and driving down the street, people…will get out of your way.
The GMC Yukon, and identical Chevy Tahoe, are part of the full-size SUV segment that includes the Ford Expedition and Toyota Land Cruiser. In its own line-up, it falls between the mid-size Jimmy and the extra-large Suburban, but it shares its looks and most body panels with the Suburban. Where the Ford Expedition looks like an enlarged Explorer, the Yukon has a very different look than its smaller siblings. It combines straight lines with smooth edges and flush glass to create an extremely clean profile. The 255 horsepower V8 engine, the most powerful engine in its class, allows the Yukon to accelerate with authority as well as tow a 6500-pound trailer. The four-wheel drive system is for off road and foul weather only. However, if you select “AUTO 4WD,” the front wheels will engage automatically if either of the rear wheels begin to slip.
To get inside, you have to place your foot on the running board and hoist yourself in. But once there, you are treated with features that would make a Buick blush: thick leather seats, power everything, CD player, keyless entry, and cellular phone linked to GM’s On-Star system (which will pinpoint your location, unlock your doors, get help in an emergency, and inform you of the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts). A retractable cargo cover is provided to hide your trunk contents from prying eyes. Retract and remove the cargo cover, fold down the rear seats (an easy process), and you’re faced with an expansive 118.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
On the road, however, you are again reminded that you are driving a truck. The ride is busy, and rough surfaces, like the brick pavement in front of Arlington Cemetery, make the Yukon bounce. The steering is a little vague, and it leans heavily in sharp turns. The Expedition, being a newer design, rides and handles better than the Yukon, but the Yukon’s off-road prowess is superior.
Regardless of what you’re looking for in the Yukon, you’ll always get respect.
I then received the following e-mail:
Adam, I kept the same concept of size and respect, but shortened. The piece had gotten longer because of the additional info we needed. I also think it took to [sic] long to get into the review. I think this effort is closer to the mark, and I believe we will continue getting closer to it. Regards, Jackie
Here is the version that our readers saw:
Full-size sport-utility vehicles, the Big Daddies of the sport-ute family, command a lot of respect. You won’t find a wimpy one in the bunch, and the GMC Yukon is no exception.
The Yukon and twin Chevy Tahoe are members of an exclusive segment dubbed full-size SUVs, which includes such heavy-weights as the popular-selling Ford Expedition and redesigned Toyota Land Cruiser.
Within the General Motors family, the Yukon is situated between the mid-size Jimmy sport-ute and the extra-large Suburban and shares the same look and body as the Suburban. While the Ford Expedition looks like an enlarged Explorer, the Yukon has a distinctively different look than its smaller siblings. It combines straight lines with smooth edges and flush glass to create an extremely clean profile.
The 255 horsepower V8 engine, the most powerful engine in its class, allows the Yukon to accelerate with authority as well as tow a 6500-pound trailer. The four-wheel drive system is for off- road and foul-weather only. However, if you select “AUTO 4WD,” the front wheels will engage automatically if either of the rear wheels begin to slip.
To get inside its spacious cabin, you have to place your foot on the running board and hoist yourself in. But once there, you are treated with features that would make a Buick blush: thick leather seats, CD player and a cellular phone linked to GM’s On-Star navigational and emergency assistance system.
A retractable cargo cover is provided to hide your trunk contents from prying eyes. Removing the cargo cover and folding down the rear seats (an easy process), reveals an expansive 118.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
On the road, however, you are reminded that you are driving a truck. The ride is busy, and rough surfaces make for a bouncy ride. The steering is a little vague, and it leans heavily in sharp turns. The Expedition, based on an updated platform, rides and handles noticeably better than the Yukon, but the Yukon’s off-road prowess seems superior.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, with a Yukon you will get respect.
Type: 4-Door, 4WD Sport-Utility Vehicle
Engine: 255 horsepower, 5.7 liter V8
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 13 city/16 highway
Base Price: $32,604
This concludes today’s lesson in writing automotive reviews professionally. Have a nice day.
Love this generation of GM fullsizers, in fact I’ve been noodling on the idea of upgrading from my ’96 4Runner V6 if I intend to seriously partake in circle track racing and will need to tow my neon to the track regularly. One of these GMT400 Tahoe/Suburbans would be right at the top of the list for consideration.
In DC, a black fullsize GM SUV is the vehicle to have for traffic. Until they see the pedestrian non-govt license plate, anyway.
In my experience with DC-area vehicles, black full-size GM SUV’s break down in the following manner:
40% Government security vehicles
40% Airport taxis / Ubers
20% Soccer moms from affluent neighborhoods
For what it’s worth, I also preferred the original longer version.
Your editor sucked. 🙂
I didn’t like her changes at all, and some are questionable in terms of facts (“shares the same body as the Suburban” No; the Tahoe) and a few others.
It’s quite clear that you’re both a car person and a talented writer. She’s neither.
I agree with Paul. As for the vehicle itself, I know they have their fans, but I usually don’t find them remotely interesting. Yet you (especially in the first one) actually managed to pique my interest, even if for a few fleeting moments. Nice job!
Thanks Matt. It was easy back in 1998 since there weren’t nearly as many vehicles the size of the Yukon/Tahoe and larger Suburban. Today, they just blend in.
I wouldn’t kick that truck out of my driveway today. The biggest problem with them is that 20 year old 250,000 mile examples are still $3,500. The original version of the article is spot on, too-“people…will get out of your way.” It didn’t take me long to notice when I went from a Cadillac to a Hyundai that I didn’t get the traffic leeway I had enjoyed before. I’ve driven these, I’d prefer a Suburban (by the time you’re in that far, go the rest of the way), but I’d like to have any length or any of the 3 brands of this truck for the rare times that I need to haul some stuff.
The GMT400 SUVs were well made, excellent trucks. My wife had a ’96 Tahoe followed by a ’98 GMC Suburban and both were superb. The GMT800s that followed seemed to follow GM’s decline in those years and weren’t nearly as well made, or as nice to drive. Both our ’00 Suburban and ’03 Yukon Denali stranded my wife in western Nebraska on I-80 with, respectively, fuel pump and engine ECU issues. Those episodes ended her relationship with GM SUVs and she went Japanese thereafter. But those GMT400s sure were (are) great trucks.
Your original version grabbed my attention with the quote from Aretha, and built up from there. Your enthusiasm and skill as a writer showed. You kept the reader’s attention throughout. Her amended version was boring; I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.
Respect…Good summery. It was a similar feel driving my grand marquis all over boston. You just roll along and the cars so big nobody wants go get close to you…and they seemed farther away than they were cuz of the long hoodline and trunk deck. It always felt like it commanded a pressence. Just roll low and slow. It made it a very easy car to drive in the city. You wouldnt expect it but it was.
I like the “features that would make a Buick blush” line–glad it survived the edits!
Two of the less sophisticated versions of this GMT-400, with the same end-of-production small block in our family, 1999 K2500 Suburban in Forest Service green and a 2000 K2500 regular cab pickup in fleet white. Both were bought at government auction and have been amazingly reliable considering age. No Auto 4WD with the manual floor shift transfer case and the 80psi LT tires make for a firm ride. These are some of the best styled trucks of all time.
Still driving 97 slt bought new, 4wd Yukon has 251,000 miles. Still drives smooth on road and can pull tree stumps out of ground. I tell my kids it’s the Monster that will not quit, so I’m not quitting on it. Needs paint and new driver seat. This has been the best investment I’ve ever made. People come up and ask if I want to sell it, even after 20 yrs.
I really liked this era of Yukons/Tahoes. They sill looked good.
A friend of mine had this vintage of Yukon for many years, I don’t know exactly what year it was, but it was a twin to the pictured one. It had like 75K miles on it when he got it around 2003, and had well over 250K on it when it had become a rusted up mess. It needed an engine rebuild, and the rear end was making weird noises, so he finally sent it to the boneyard, as it would have cost big bucks to get back on the road. The replacement is a 2008 Tahoe, which is not anywhere near as dependable as the Yukon was. He did get almost a year of totally problem free driving out of it, but then it began to have a lot of electrical issues, and recently had to have the rear differential rebuilt as it was howling louder every time it was driven. Other than the rear end and the electrical stuff, it’s been pretty good mechanically, with a water pump being the only thing other than a battery I can remember. He’s looking at a ’15 Tahoe now, but he doesn’t like it’s looks at all. But the price is a bargain, it’s a family friend of his dad’s and dad can’t drive anymore. Hell, if I had the cash, I would grab it in a second, just to flip. It looks new inside and out, and $27,000 is a great deal.
I owned a successor to this generation (GMT 800?) – a 2002 Tahoe. It was black, and I got lots of R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Hartford, CT, where I still work – there is a federal building/federal court in town. Since my work usually required a white shirt and tie, that porbably didn’t hurt, either.
It handled decent for its size, but being used, it had stuff I didn’t want – like the barn door – and stuff I wanted that it didn’t have. I bought it in 2007 for what I thought was cheap money – 17,900 – with 45K miles on the clock. Gas was expensive then, which explained the low price.
I drove it daily until 2013 and 140k miles; I got tired of 16 MPG at best and it was starting to have electrical issues, like a gas gauge that quit intermittently.
Wouldn’t mind having one of these big GM’s again , but strictly as a second vehicle now.
I imagine it must have been pretty frustrating writing car articles for a non-car editor in a non-car publication. It doesnt seem like she ‘got it.’
Anyway, I have extensive amounts of wheel time of every generation of Tahoe/Yukon and these are the best out of all of them. It wouldn’t surprise me if they become somewhat collectible in the future
My 96 Yukon going through some appearance restoration. Need a cargo cover., any ideas where GM placed part no.?
The pinnacle of truck styling to me.
I’ve gotten used to how most trucks look now, all chunky and creasy and crass, burly and bloated and bedazzled, but seeing one of these makes me remember when a truck could be strong without shoving it in your face. Understated strength is no longer valued in our trucks, or our culture. The new zeitgeist is, well, whatever is is.