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Suburban vs Yukon: Corporate Cousins

Chris Kaiser

GM offers two of the biggest, most capable large SUVs on the market. But what distinguishes the Chevy Suburban from the GMC Yukon? We dig into the details.

While not siblings in the corporate sense, the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon are corporate cousins, sharing the same underpinnings and mechanicals. Despite some superficial differences, the two vehicles can be hard to tell apart, which is what we aim to do below. Both are big, beefy body-on-frame SUVs that tower above traffic and struggle to fit into the average mall parking space, but which is the better buy?

2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Suburban – chevrolet.com  |  Shop 2020 Chevrolet Suburban on Carsforsale.com

If you examine the General Motors family tree, you’ll find the Chevrolet Suburban and the GMC Yukon XL at the furthest extensions of their respective make’s SUV branch (along with the Cadillac Escalade ESV). The next largest SUV in the Chevrolet family tree is the Chevy Tahoe, which mirrors the GMC Yukon in size. The difference between the Yukon and the Yukon XL is the wheelbase – the Yukon XL has a wheelbase that is 14 inches longer than the Yukon model and increased cargo space. Beyond that, they fall under the same list of trims and features.

2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com

2020 GMC Yukon – gmc.com  |  Shop 2020 GMC Yukon on Carsforsale.com

In today’s competitive market, and with vehicles tailored for specific buyers, it doesn’t hurt to examine the differences between these corporate cousins to make sure you’re driving home the right SUV.

Specs

Part of the reason car companies do a badge swap is to fill out brand segments while saving on manufacturing costs. Nowhere is that more evident than in the mechanicals of the Suburban and Yukon. For their base engines both offer the same 5.3L Ecotec3 V8 making 355hp and 383lb.-ft. of torque paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. From there you can upgrade to a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 making 420hp and 460lb.-ft. of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic.

2020 GMC Yukon 6.4L V8 - carsforsale.com
2020 GMC Yukon 6.4L V8 - carsforsale.com

The base engine with RWD gets the best gas mileage at 15 city and 22 highway mpg. AWD versions (and the longer wheelbase Yukon XL) shave off a gallon to 14/22 mpg. The 6.2L engine goes from 14/23 mpg in RWD to 14/20 with AWD equipped.

2020 Chevrolet Suburban towing - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban towing - chevrolet.com

Towing is one of the few departure points between the two vehicles. The Suburban posts a max towing capacity of 8,300lbs. whereas the Yukon XL (with the 6.2L and RWD) can do a little better with a maximum of 8,500lbs.

Cargo for the Suburban and Yukon XL are identical at 39.2cu.-ft. behind the third row, 76.7cu.-ft. with the third row folded down, and a grand total of 121.7cu.-ft. The smaller, non-XL Yukon runs 15.3, 51.7, and maxes out at 94.7cu.-ft.

Design

Suburban

2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com

This, the final year of its eleventh generation, the 2020 Chevy Suburban maintains its imposing and boxy SUV profile. The inlaid doors fit into the body instead of over the top for improved aerodynamics. A lightweight aluminum hood and liftgate panels reduce overall mass as well. The signature chrome dual-port grille and projector beam headlights adorn the grille. Overall, the Suburban largely sticks with what’s worked for the past few generations, allowing sheer size to be its distinguishing characteristic.

Yukon

2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com
2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com

The Yukon gets slightly more luxurious looks but with the same basic design to the Suburban. The subtle and stylish chrome accents can’t make up for a somewhat dated appearance (the next-gen Yukon also will be released later this year). Still there are things to appreciate, including C-shaped lighting in front and rear, and laminated windshield and front door glass to enhance quietness. The Yukon shares the same inlaid doors concept that fit inside the body, lightweight aluminum hood, and liftgate panels as the Suburban.

A standard rear spoiler on the liftgate adds to the slick appearance, as do 20- and 22-inch wheel options. And as for colors, the Dark Sapphire Blue Metallic is especially eye-catching.

Interior

Suburban

Step inside and you’ll be taken aback by the sheer size of the cabin. Material quality climbs as you travel up the trim levels, with faux-wood replaced by real wood at the Premium level. The Suburban is loaded with tech, including available DVD or Blu-ray player and HDMI inputs, Chevy MyLink connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, up to 14 charge points (USB ports, power outlets, wireless phone charging), and Wi-Fi. A 10-speaker Bose audio system is also available, as is a heads-up display. The Suburban can seat between seven and nine people (with a front bench seat). A power liftgate is available for easy load and unload, making it a great choice for someone considering a large vehicle that will haul lots of cargo or groceries.

Yukon

Inside, the Yukon features a quiet cabin (thanks to active noise cancellation), quality, soft touch materials, and use of ambient lighting. A Bose sound system comes standard with all trims, in keeping with GMC’s premium focus. Like the Suburban, the Yukon is loaded with tech. An upgraded rear seat entertainment system includes HDMI/MHL connector, an additional USB port, and digital headphones. The interior sports multiple USB ports and accessory power outlets, including an 110-volt three-prong outlet. An 8-inch touch screen with enhanced GMC IntelliLink comes standard and integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wi-fi connectivity, remote vehicle start, and keyless entry are standard, and wireless phone charging comes standard on the SLT trim.

Driving Performance

As with the mechanicals, the driving properties and ride qualities of the Suburban and Yukon are nearly identical. In terms of handling, the Suburban and Yukon handle like the truck-based SUVs they are. But the vehicles demonstrate improved ride quality far superior their pickup counterparts. Surprisingly, the standard adaptive dampers (Magnetic Ride Control) in the Suburban RST and the Yukon Denali, actually made the ride bumpier and less pleasant.

Safety

Suburban

2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com

In NHTSA crash tests, the 2019 Chevrolet Suburban received a four-star safety rating (out of five). It hasn’t been accessed by IIHS (Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety). Standard safety features rear parking sensors, rearview camera, and rear parking assist. Optional safety features include forward collision alert with automatic braking, lane departure warning and mitigation, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.

Yukon

2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com
2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com

Likewise, the Yukon hasn’t been evaluated by the IIHS, but received solid marks from the NHTSA. Standard safety features also include front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera, and rear parking assist. Optional safety features include rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and land departure warning. Adaptive cruise control is reserved for the top Denali trim.

Features and Trims

Suburban

2020 Chevrolet Suburban LS - carsforsale.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban LS - carsforsale.com

LS – $50,800

Standard features included at the base LS trim are remote entry and ignition, active grille shutters, rearview camera and rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, and trailer hitch.

2020 Chevrolet Suburban LT - carsforsale.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban LT - carsforsale.com

LT – $55,800

LT trim includes leather upholstery, 10-way power front passenger seat, heated front bucket seats, a power liftgate, and nine-speaker Bose audio system.

2020 Chevrolet Suburban Premier - carsforsale.com
2020 Chevrolet Suburban Premier - carsforsale.com

Premier – $65, 500

The Premier trim offers the same features as the Luxury package with upgrades to the wheels (20-inch), adds xenon headlights, and a navigation system. Ventilated, 12-way power front seats and a ten speaker Bose sound are also included. Other available features include 22-inch wheels, the Max Trailering package that includes trailer brake control and an auto-leveling suspension for non-magnetic suspension vehicles.

Yukon

2020 GMC Yukon SLE - carsforsale.com
2020 GMC Yukon SLE - carsforsale.com

SLE – $50,600

The SLE is pretty well equipped for an entry point with standard 9-speaker Bose stereo, Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, and remote start among other features.

2020 GMC Yukon SLT Standard Edition - carsforsale.com
2020 GMC Yukon SLT Standard Edition - carsforsale.com

SLT Standard Edition- $54,800

The SLT Standard Edition comes with leather seats, power liftgate, power adjustable pedals, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. It also includes the Enhanced Driver Alert Package that grants lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and forward collision warning.

2020 GMC Yukon SLT - carsforsale.com
2020 GMC Yukon SLT - carsforsale.com

SLT – $57,800

The SLT model features standard leather-trimmed heated and vented driver and passenger seats. Power third-row seats, power liftgate, and wireless phone charging are also standard, in addition to rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

2020 GMC Yukon Denali - carsforsale.com
2020 GMC Yukon Denali - carsforsale.com

Denali – $67,700

The Denali trim, which makes up more than 50 percent of GMC Yukon sales, includes navigation, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, and second-row captain’s chairs. Additional available features include heads-up display, power sunroof, and Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking.

Conclusions

There’s not a lot of daylight between these two SUVs. The Suburban, by default, is longer in length than the Yukon, with a price tag that starts at $50,800, just slightly above the Yukon’s $50,600. The Yukon offers a wider range of sizes (Yukon or Yukon XL) and a slightly more luxurious interior. Both are loaded with tech and quality materials. When it comes to safety, they tested the same while sharing features and underpinnings. The choice boils down to mostly room and price.

2020 GMC Yukon - gmc.com

2020 GMC Yukon – gmc.com  |  Shop 2020 GMC Yukon on Carsforsale.com

If a greater towing capacity and a more upscale cabin are what you are after, the Yukon Denali XL has all the above. If lesser towing capacity but adequate power and a slightly less luxury cabin will suffice, the Suburban has equal passenger and cargo room as the Yukon XL and almost identical features at a lesser price tag.

2020 Chevrolet Suburban - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Suburban – chevrolet.com  |  Shop 2020 Chevrolet Suburban on Carsforsale.com

Check out Chevrolet Suburban Through the Years

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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