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2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid – Socially Responsible Large SUV

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The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid starts with a weird chuffing coughing sound and a mild shudder and then settles down to a 1000RPM idle. What you have here is one of the first dual mode hybrids available. A vehicle type that has quickly become a pariah in the market is transformed to social responsibility. Fuel economy goes from abysmal to acceptable especially for a vehicle of this weight and performance. Fuel economy increases almost 50% over the base 5.3L V8 in the GMC when the dual mode hybrid is added. While the numbers aren’t impressive compared with a small car, the percentage increase is huge.
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Mileage Around 20MPG
The indicated fuel economy shows 18.9 miles per gallon. This is the smallest number shown on the Yukon’s display during a week of driving. On one highway trip from Orange County to Beverly Hills mileage topped 21 miles per gallon. Not bad for a hulking Large SUV.

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Billboard of Hybrid Badges
Many hybrid owners say that they don’t want to shout their green-ness by having a visually distinctive vehicle. But what hybrid sells the best? The highly visually distinctive Toyota Prius. People considering a hybrid tell automakers in research that being green and saving fuel is all they really need. They are lying. They really do want a vehicle that looks different from mundane gasoline powered vehicles.
Unfortunately for automakers, they believed the research and, with the exception of the Prius, made their hybrids virtually indistinguishable from their gasoline-powered brethren. The Honda Civic Hybrid is very tough to tell from a gas powered Civic. Same with the Escape/Mariner Hybrids.
Yukon’s solution was to plaster hybrid badges, stickers, decals all over the vehicle. There are nine on the exterior alone. The instrument cluster has a nice hybrid logo over the trip meter readout. So, while the Yukon hybrid does not look very different from a regular Yukon, it’s tough to miss that it is an SUV trying to be green.
Still a Yukon
We haven’t driven a GMT900 Yukon for a couple of years and this one reminded us of several warts inherent in the smaller GMT900 SUVs (Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe). First the short rear door makes entry into the rear seat tough. It’s kind of like an old Jeep Cherokee where you have to maneuver your foot around the B-pillar to get in. The lack of an independent rear suspension leaves the third-row seat above the floor and sacrifices ride quality. Both of these problems were solved by the Ford Expedition as long ago as 2003 when they adopted IRS and fold-in-floor third-row seat. The IRS gives Expedition a substantially better ride quality and handling than the Yukon.
Still, Yukon’s fuel economy can’t be beat in this class of vehicle. Using a similar dual mode system (developed by General Motors, Chrysler and BMW), Chrysler will be the next manufacturer launching dual mode hybrids in Large SUVs with the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango. The press preview for these vehicles was held in June, and we’ll report on those vehicles shortly.

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