New Model News

Redesigned 2021 GMC Yukon is refined, loaded with tech, off-road capable

The GMC Yukon has been completely redesigned for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of GMC

On the heels of a banner sales year for GMC, a division of General Motors, the GMC Yukon has been completely redesigned for the 2021 model year. While the model's exterior takes definite design notes from the 2020 GMC Sierra, the interior is a refined, tech-filled example of balancing quality with durability.

"GMC Yukon is the full-size premium SUV that's made to be used," said Duncan Aldred, vice president, Global Buick and GMC. "The new Yukon delivers what customers value most – premium features, purposeful technology and all-terrain capability."

2020 GMC Yukon DenaliThe Denali trim level includes chrome accents. Photo courtesy of GMC

That starts at the front where the new Yukon has an even more commanding presence than before. Show first in the Denali trim, the 2021 GMC Yukon has plenty of chrome accents to win over the luxury market. Its headlights feature LED daytime running lights and vertically orientated fog lamps that ride low with chrome accents surrounding them.

The redesigned Yukon has a longer wheelbase than the 2020 model and a new chassis. This likely translates to a more comfortable ride and less body lean around corners. Fourth-generation Magnetic Ride Control will also help keep the Yukon stable on the road. It also means that cargo capacity is up 30 percent in the new model.

2020 GMC YukonThe Yukon XL holds size big duffle bags across its load floor. Photo courtesy of GMC

For 2021, the Yukon will be available with an Active Response 4WD System, which combines different types of technology to allow the vehicle's suspension to continuously adjust to changing terrain in an effort to deliver the best ride possible for its occupants. The system includes an electronic limited slip differential.

2020 GMC YukonGMC will once again offer the Yukon in an extended wheelbase format. Photo courtesy of GMC

The Yukon Denali is driven by a standard, new 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That's the same power output of the 2019 model. Other models come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 or an available 3.0-liter inline-six turbo-diesel engine. All engines are paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission.

GMC will sell the Yukon with an adaptive air suspension that allows for four inches of vertical height adjustment, the ability to lower the vehicle at speed to achieve better fuel economy, and a self-leveling feature.

2020 GMC YukonThe interior of the Yukon takes after the GMC Sierra and Sierra HD. Photo courtesy of GMC

The interior of the 2021 Yukon's cabin follows suit with what was in the 2020 GMC Sierra and Sierra HD. Likely, it's going to be a controversial decision to install a new type of shifter in the model, on the dashboard, next to the wheel and infotainment system. The pull-push button and lever system is one that needs tested to see if it works better than the button-centric woefully executed system GM installed in the Chevrolet Traverse.

Additional technology highlights include a high definition surround view camera, 15-inch multicolor head-up display and rear pedestrian alert.

2020 GMC YukonA 15-inch head-up display is available. Photo courtesy of GMC

The Denali model gets a unique cabin, filled with the most premium appointments in the GMC lineup. It's also exclusive to the Denali brand, not just unique accents as in the past. Four color themes will be available and consist of real wood finishes, leather surfaces, and hand stitched patterns.

2020 GMC YukonDenali grades have hand stitched surfaces.Photo courtesy of GMC

It has new sliding second row seats. The Yukon is also home to a power-sliding center console between the driver and front passenger seat that can move forward and backward up to 10 inches. With the console moved back, passengers have access to an underneath storage bin that is big enough to hold a purse.

2020 GMC YukonThe center console moves up to 10 inches forward and backward. Photo courtesy of GMC

GMC will be offering the Yukon for the first time in an AT4 trim level. The model features off-road ready equipment like in other AT4 grade models in the GMC lineup.

The all-new 2021 Yukon and Yukon XL go on sale this summer at General Motors' Arlington, Texas assembly facility. Pricing and additional specs will be announced closer to the model's on-sale date.

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The Hemi Orange package brings unqiue style to the Durango.

Dodge

The Dodge Durango isnt the newest or most refined SUV on the market, but it offers great comfort, good tech, and a handful of raucous powertrian options. The long-running family hauler is due for an update, but in the meantime, Dodge has given it a new Hemi Orange package with unique styling touches.

Dodge already offers the Hemi Orange package fo the Challenger and Charger, and now it's available for the three-row Durango. The package is available for the R/T trim, which comes with a 5.7-liter V8.

Dodge Durango Hemi OrangeDodge offers four exterior colors with the package. Dodge

Much of the Orange package's content comes on the outside, where Dodge adds orange and gunmetal hod stripes, black taillights, and grey/orange badging. The SUV rides on black 20-inch wheels, and Dodge offers different black "Lights Out" 20-inch wheels. Four exterior colors are available: Destroyer Grey, Diamond Black, Octane Red, and White Knuckle. Inside, the Durango gets orange sticthing and unique patterns in the upholstery. Dodge says the stitching extends throughout the interior, including to the gauge cluster, armrests, console lid, and steering wheel.

Two upgrades are available for the Hemi Orange Durango. The first is the Orange Plus Package, which adds a power sunroof, a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a load of driver aids. The Tow N Go package is available for four-wheel drive models, and brings the 20-inch Lights Out wheels, orange brake calipers, and a Bilstein high-performance suspension system.

The Durango R/T Hemi Orange is available now. It carries a price tag of $1,995. The Orange Plus package costs $4,500 and the Tow N Go package costs $5,095.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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