2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge
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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid

Second opinion by Chris Chase

Damn that Murphy and his infernal law. When hurricane Gustav was threatening Gulf Coast oil production, speculators were driving up the price of oil, and consequently our cost at the pump. This just as we were heading west with four other families in a convoy of fun to Cedar Point, Ohio and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. My friends were all driving sensible minivans. I was captaining a 2630 kg 2008 GMC Yukon 4WD.

Oh, wait a sec. According to the five badges, twin stylized graphics sweeping down the Yukon’s flanks and the large decals on the windshield and rear window, my red beast was a hybrid. Phew.

Call me a skeptic, but I was certain no amount of fancy-schmancy hybrid technology was going to turn this body-on-frame 4×4 luxo-truck into a fuel sipper. Especially since our trip was to be mostly highway kilometres, and the benefits of gas/electric hybrid systems are realized mainly in city driving.

2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The other members in our party were a little more open to the possibility of a green full-sized SUV. After all, it did have a bunch of green H’s plastered all over it. My inner skeptic then mumbled something like, “Yeah. And if they slapped a hybrid badge on a wheelbarrow you’d probably dance a jig around that, too.”

We hummed out of our driveway and down my street on electric power, then the 6.0-litre Vortec V8 unobtrusively came to life and we were on our way. There certainly is no lack of grunt here. The V8 in combination with the two 60-kilowatt electric motor/generators housed within the transmission produce 332 hp and 367 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to leave the minivans wallowing in my green wake.

But that was not for me. My mission was to give this Yukon (and my wallet) a fair shake, driving as economically as possible.

The two-mode hybrid system powering the Yukon was developed in conjunction with Chrysler, BMW and to a small extent, Mercedes-Benz. In mode one, the Yukon runs like most full hybrids, operating on battery power, engine power, or a combination of both. Mode two is designed for towing, where under higher loads the V8 does most of the work and the transmission locks into its four planetary gears, largely bypassing the electric motors. With a hauling capacity of 2722 kgs (6,000 lbs), this Yukon Hybrid 4WD will still function as a tough eight-seat tow vehicle.

2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Helping out in the gas saving department is Active Fuel Management, wherein half the cylinders go on vacation while cruising under light loads. The batteries occasionally kick in to take up the slack, keeping the Yukon in V-4 mode for longer periods. And of course like all hybrids, the engine shuts off in stop-and-go driving.

The $69,885 Yukon Hybrid 4WD makes for a very comfy and well-equipped cruiser. Standard is DVD-based touch-screen navigation, park assist, rearview camera and premium Bose sound. While the kids were in the back laughing at Mr. Bean on the $1,750 rear-seat DVD, my wife and I were rocking out to XM satellite radio Deep Tracks. It tracks well on the highway too, despite the lifeless electric steering.

With a smoother snout and underbody, plus tweaked running boards and D-pillars, the GMC cleaves the air with a surprisingly low drag coefficient of 0.34. Think of it as a greased elephant.

This pachyderm has also been put on a serious weight-loss program to compensate for the hybrid components and 300-volt battery pack living under the second row seats. It gets an aluminum hood and tailgate, lighter 18-inch alloys shod with low rolling-resistant tires, lighter seats and the stripping of 100 kilograms of insulation (no worries – this truck is quieter than the standard unit). When all is said and done, the hybrid’s weight penalty is 181 kg.

2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

GM has left no stone unturned here, and I’m happy to report this skeptic was suitably gob smacked to see the on-board computer showing 11.3 L/100 km when we pulled into Sandusky, Ohio.

Cedar Point boasts 14 roller coasters – the most of any theme park in the world. So for someone like me, who feels queasy just looking at the things, this place is some kind of multi-coloured hell. Nonetheless, after much cajoling and flapping of arms a-la-chicken from various members of our party (and a few beers, which in retrospect makes no sense whatsoever), I boarded Top Thrill Dragster.

This creation rockets you to 200 km/h in under four seconds and then catapults skyward 400 ft, at which point the car makes a gut-wrenching turn and flies straight towards the earth, twisting the whole way. My son was quick to tell me I yelled some very un-family-theme-park-like things for the entire 14 seconds.

2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The next morning we motored to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very cool – almost as cool as silently negotiating the whole indoor parking lot on electric power alone.

My hat is off to GM for building the Yukon Hybrid. It’s a fascinating engineering exercise, and dammit if it doesn’t work as advertised. The question remains whether it is relevant. A full-sized SUV hybrid probably made more sense a few years ago when it was on the drawing boards, but these things are selling like brown bananas now.

And there’s not a whole lot of financial incentive here, as a similarly equipped Yukon 4WD SLT3 runs about 10 grand cheaper. Perhaps the Yukon Hybrid’s biggest worry is right across the showroom floor. The 3.6L V6 GMC Acadia, one of the finest vehicles in the GM lineup, gets similar fuel economy, is considerably less expensive, has more usable interior room thanks to its unibody construction, and is dynamically far superior.

Nonetheless, if towing, technology, luxury and a big helping of green rock your world, the Yukon Hybrid could be your Stairway To Heaven.

Pricing: 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid 4WD

Base price: $69,885
Options: $3,335 (rear entertainment system, $1750; power sunroof, $1325; XM satellite radio, $260)
A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,250
Price as tested: $74,570
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Specifications: 2008 GMC Yukon

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