When it came time for GMC to redesign the venerable Yukon and full-size Suburban (now called the Yukon XL to differentiate it from its Chevy sister vehicle), it had a head start with its own Sierra pickup. Both new Yukons share front-end sheetmetal, front doors, and some drivetrain components with the Sierra. However, because half of the full-size sport/utility vehicles sold are Chevys and GMCs, and Ford is introducing the extra-size Excursion this fall, the new Yukons need to be an immediate hit.

But, after spending time in two- and four-wheel-drive Yukon and Yukon XLs, we believe that GM may, in fact, increase its market share. Gone are the squeaks and rattles, non-connected road feel, mushy handling, and apple cart-like ride. This vehicle feels tight, corners better, and, in the case of the regular Yukon with its new coil spring rear suspension and AutoRide real-time damping system, rides more like a luxury car than a rough-and-tumble truck. The all-new interior is comfortable and well appointed. Climate and radio controls are easily reachable. The exterior styling doesn't break much new ground, but in this category it's proven better to be boring than bold.

Power comes from one of three engines, all OHV V-8s. The base is the 4.8-liter that pumps out 275 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, meets California's strict low emissions vehicle requirements, and is standard in the Yukon. Next is the 5.3-liter/285-horsepower 325-pound-feet-torque powerplant, standard in the half-ton Yukon XL and optional in the Yukon. Top dog is the 6.0-liter version, standard in the 3/4-ton XL. It produces 300 horsepower and 355 pound-feet of torque. Each feels smooth, with even the 4.8 having adequate off-the-line and passing power. Yukons and half-ton XLs come equipped with the smooth-shifting 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission, while the three-quarter-ton XLs get the beefier 4L80-E four-speed automatic transmission. There's no manual transmission available. Sources tell us, however, that an even larger engine (possibly diesel) will be available in the XL by 2001, which may come with a manual.

In the new Yukon, welcome changes include bigger brakes, stiffer body structure, hydroformed chassis rails, tow/haul transmission system, increased towing capacity, new third-row seat, larger heated outside mirrors, spare tire relocated underbody instead of inside, optional sunroof, front side impact airbags, and standard nine-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system.

Compared to the '99, the 2000 Yukon has more interior space, is lighter (83 pounds 2wd, 282 pounds 4wd), shorter (0.7 inch), narrower (2.1 inches), with a shorter wheelbase (1.5 inches) leading to a 1.6-inch-tighter turning radius. It's taller (3.6 inches 2wd, 1.2 inches 4wd), though GMC says its 76.4-inch-tall 2wd Yukon will still fit into a standard 78.0-inch-tall garage door opening, something Ford can't say about the 80-plus-inch-tall Excursion. The Yukon will start rolling off the assembly lines and into mall parking lots soon. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we're told there will be little increase over '99 models.

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