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What it is
GMC Yukon Hybrid – 2008 Preview: Though attitudes are changing, talk of hybrids leads many folks to think of compact and midsize cars like the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius, with more and more becoming aware of regular sedans and SUVs such as the Lexus GS 450h and Saturn Vue Green Line. What they don’t envision are large SUVs, though that will start to change when the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid (and 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid) arrives later next year. Engineers have blended the utility of a full-size rig, the power and capability of a V8 engine, and an expected 25-percent gain in fuel economy via the use of a dual-motor, two-mode hybrid system.
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Why it matters
It’s getting a little ragged around the edges from overuse, but the term “fuel economy” refuses to go away, especially since prices at the pump are starting to edge upward again. That’s leading many shoppers to consider smaller, more efficient vehicles. However, not everyone wants to downsize, and some legitimately need the power and utility of large SUV. For them, GMC intends to bridge the gap by offering the 2008 Yukon Hybrid, capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds while returning a reported 25 percent gain in fuel economy. For the foreseeable future, it’s as close as large SUV buyers will get to having their cake and eating it, too.
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What’s under the hood
Besides its four-speed automatic transmission and V8 engine with Active Fuel Management, the 2008 GMC Yukon features a two-mode hybrid system jointly developed by GM, BMW, and DaimlerChrysler that promises fuel economy gains of 25 percent. The first mode operates at slow speeds and when the Yukon is carrying light loads, with power being supplied by a pair of electric motors, the V8 engine, or a combination of the two. The Yukon Hybrid can move at slow speeds under pure electric power, and shuts off the engine while resting at idle. The second mode uses Active Fuel Management, variable-valve timing, and specific engine controls to conserve fuel.
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When you can buy it
GMC and Chevrolet will both launch two-mode hybrid versions of the Yukon and Tahoe SUVs as 2008 models late in the 2007 calendar year. Pricing has not been announced. Word is that the technology will follow in Crew Cab variants of the General’s Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks. GM sees this system as best approach to address fuel economy while maintaining the power and performance buyers have come to expect from full-size SUVs.
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What we think
Not too long ago, GM unveiled its Active Fuel Management technology – we’ve tested it, repeatedly, and have yet to see results close to those advertised. However, this two-mode technology may provide more discernable advantages, as it promises to cut off power in stop-and-go traffic and dial up electric-only propulsion at low speeds. Those benefits would be admirable. But what have yet to be determined are issues of price, and possibly more important to large SUV buyers, how this technology works when the truck is working. If the Yukon Hybrid can return improved fuel economy while towing a boat or transporting the family for a holiday vacation, then we’ve got something to take notice of.
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry and GMC
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