By Jim Bray
If youre interested in a full size SUV or pickup truck that corners
like a small one, GM has your answer.
I got to try two of the Generals Quadrasteer
four wheel steering option-equipped vehicles, the Yukon Denali XL SLT 2500
and Sierra LT1500HD Crew 4WD, and thanks to the rear wheels helping out with
the steering chores, they turn if not on a dime then at least on a fifty
Its quite a spectacular difference in such long wheelbase vehicles,
and lets you (for example) make right turns directly into the curb lane without
the vehicles nose sticking out into the farther lane. In fact, GMC says
Quadrasteer lets the big SUV turn as tightly as a Honda
Accord. I didnt measure the two vehicles turning circles, but
I would tend to believe the claim. It really is quite remarkable.
Theres also a trailering setting for the four wheel steering, as well
as a conventional two wheel steering setting. I didnt try the trailer
setting (no trailer) but I found that during my test - other than experimenting
for review purposes - I preferred leaving it in four wheel steering mode all
the time; it made both of the vehicles much more pleasant to drive and not
only helped with turning corners but with all around handling as well, including
passing on the highway.
Is four wheel steering worth the extra money? Probably. The
¾ Ton Yukon XL 2500 series SLT four wheel drive (aka Denali) starts
at just over $50,000 US ($58,000-ish Canadian) and the Quadrasteer adds $4500
($7500 Cdn.) to that. For that extra coin, you also get auto ride control,
the heavy duty trailering package and a limited slip rear differential.
My fully loaded tester tipped the financial scale at just over $56,000 ($70,600
and change Cdn.), which is quite substantial. For that price, however, you
get a highly competent and wonderfully appointed SUV that, albeit huge, is
pleasant to drive and even includes a rear seat DVD entertainment system.
GM includes some really nice little touches, too. For instance, my tester
came with power adjustable pedals that move the gas and brake nearer to or
farther from you, depending on whether youre tall or short. Using this
in combination with the luxurious, power leather seats (with bun and back warmers)
I could not only easily find a perfect driving position, but was given the
illusion that my feet would actually reach the ground when I got out.
Talk about living in a fantasy world!
Theres also a really nifty double set of sun visors, with a smaller
visor behind the main one. This is great! You can swing the main visor over
to the side window and leave the secondary one covering the windshield, which
comes in particularly handy on twisty roads where youre constantly changing
directions in relation to the sun.
But more about the creature comforts later.
This particular Yukon is powered by GMs big Vortec 6000 V8 engine featuring
sequential port fuel injection and boasting 320 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 365
lb. ft. of torque @ 4000, running through a four speed automatic transmission
with overdrive. The result is as much get up and go as youd need, despite
the vehicles super size and 2649 kg (5839 lb.) curb weight;
I didnt have an opportunity to try out its towing capability, but GM
says this version of the Yukon can drag up to 3629 kg. (8000 lb.) behind it.
And for all you greens out there, the SUV also qualifies as a Low Emissions
Vehicle (LEV), though of course its gas mileage isnt spectacular.
The Yukons suspension is independent up front, with torsion bar, heavy-duty
stabilizer bar and coil springs, while the rear features semi-elliptical, 5-link,
2 stage multi-leaf springs with automatic real time damping. It all combines
to give you a very smooth and comfortable ride that, though obviously fairly
trucklike, is quite comfortable. Thanks to the vehicles size and shape
it lets you really feel cross winds but, undoubtedly also thanks to its size
and shape, it plows through them quite well.
Yukon also offers you a variety of drive modes, from regular rear wheel drive
to automatic (which sends torque from the rears to the fronts,
making it four wheel drive, when required) as well as low and high range four
wheel drive. I kept it in two wheel drive for most city and highway driving,
but on a road trip along a snow and ice-covered parkway in Banff national park
the four wheel drive high range mode came in really handy and made the Yukon
feel secure and serene even though the road conditions were quite crummy.
Stopping the SUV are power assisted four wheel disc brakes with ABS; StabiliTrak
traction control also helps keep you safe when the going gets slippery. The
SUV runs on P265/70 R17 cross-terrain tires mounted on polished aluminum rims.
The whole shebang works very well and, when coupled with the terrific four
wheel steering, gives you a big SUV that, despite the ample elbow room inside,
doesnt feel like the Really Big SUV it is.
The middle row of buckets is also very comfortable - and they even recline!
This is really nice on a longer trip and on the way home from our day in Banff
I stretched out in back and put on a favorite DVD.
Which brings me to the rear seat entertainment center. The Panasonic DVD player
works well and outputs to a ceiling-mounted 16x9 aspect ratio liquid crystal
screen of about six inches diagonal. That may seem small, but its actually
a terrific size for this particular application. I watched some of Star
Wars Episode II on it and even its widescreen presentation looked really
good. And the ceiling mount (it swings up and tucks away when youre not
using it) helps prevent the sun from washing out the picture. Usually.
The player also has audio/video input jacks you can use to hook in another
source such as a video game - just the ticket to keep those ankle-biters away
from each others throats on long trips.
The DVD player doesnt play home made CDs, unfortunately, but in
the grand scheme of things that isnt a big deal since the main stereo
up front does.
The DVD player even comes with a remote control and a pair of wireless headphones
that offer very good sound.
On the rear of the center console separating the front bucket seats theres
also a set of heater and radio controls and a pair of headphone jacks, as well
as a couple of cupholders. In all, its a pretty nice place to spend some
Up front, theres a Driver Information Center which has over 30 customizable
functions (you can even set things like the keyless entry systems parameters).
The Bose stereo includes AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer and such stuff
as GMs terrific automatic volume control. It works well, is easy to figure
out and, best of all, sounds very good.
The driver also gets power everything (windows, mirrors, you name it) and
there are two memory settings that keep track of a pair of drivers preferred
seat position etc. Each front passenger can control his own HVAC settings,
and GM has also thrown in its great automatic headlight feature.
The rear hatch opens up very high, but fortunately theres a strap you
can grab to close it again without having to resort to a ladder. The rear window
wiper does a good job of covering its territory, and folds away right off the
window when not in use.
The Yukon is a solid and pleasant vehicle to drive, with three rows of seating
(the rear is a fold down bench). While it reminds me in some ways of the Hummer
H2 when youre inside, it eschews the H2s brawny image in favor
of a much more civilized demeanor.
Silverado LT 1500HD crew cab pickup with Quadrasteer, my test unit of which
featured a standard length bed, is a little smaller, but otherwise its
quite similar to the Yukon except that you carry your cargo outdoors and it
definitely feels like a pickup truck so far as driving feel is concerned. This
means that, rather than the smooth and comparatively gentle ride of the Yukon,
you get an experience in which youll want to ensure your bladder isnt
full when you start hitting frost heaves on the local highways and byways.
Well gee, of course trucks ride like trucks. Theyre trucks!
So lets forget about the drive quality, my comments on which are undoubtedly
fueled by the fact that Im not really a truck guy, so please forgive
any prejudice or ignorance I may display here.
The 2003 Silverado LT 1500 HD Crew Cab 4WD is a hefty hauler, and this year
it sports an aggressive new look reminiscent of other Chevys such as the Avalanche
- at least where the front end is concerned. Chevy says the new Silverado has
some 40 new and/or enhanced features which include dual stage air bags, automatic
air bag suppression, modified instrument panel with the same type of drivers information
center as the Yukon (and others), steering wheel controls for the stereo and
DIC, a big new center console and dual zone climate control.
All of which combines to make the Silverado as nicely civilized inside as
the Yukon. You can even get the rear seat DVD entertainment center, though
in this case youre sitting closer to it than in the Yukon, which means
the LCD screen looks a little bigger.
The Silverado offers just about everything else I liked about the Yukon, except
perhaps for the lack of secondary sun visors - and thats a pretty small
four door truck is roomy and comfortable, though the rear doors dont
open as wide as my potato-shaped body would like and the seats arent
as roomy as those in the admittedly longer, Yukon.
The Silverado is available with a choice of six engines, including a diesel;
my test unit came with the same big V8 Vortec 6000 as the Yukon, though this
time its rated at 300 horsepower @ 4400 rpm and 360 lb. -ft. of torque
@ 4000 rpm. The difference seems negligible, however, when youre behind
the wheel, undoubtedly due to the Silverados "trimmer"
Silverado can be had in 2 or 4 wheel drive. I had the 4 wheel drive and it
works as well as the Yukons - which is to say very well. I was fortunate
to have the Silverado during a particularly cold and snowy period and really
liked the four wheel high range setting when things got dicey. While no amount
of traction, traction control, or ABS is going to bail you out on glare ice,
the combination is wonderful on anything less than Zamboni-compatible conditions.
The cold weather performance is also very good, especially from an inside
comfort point of view. The seat heaters in both the Yukon and Silverado are
very efficient indeed: not only do they qualify as good bun warmers, you could
probably toast buns on them if you left them on the highest setting too long.
The interior warms up very quickly, too, and the defrost/defog system clears
the windows quickern you can say Jack Frost.
This is good, because the front windshield is so high and broad that I couldnt
reach its middle with a scraper no matter how hard I tried, short of bringing
in a block and tackle to hang from.
The rear seats fold down flat to form a nice platform, one thats capable
of carrying a variety of stuff you might not want to put on the leather seats.
The Quadrasteer works very well on the Silverado, though strangely enough
it doesnt feel as if its having as great an effect
as on the Yukon. Still, it takes what could be a bus-like turning circle and
makes it much more manageable and this comes in handy not only when turning
in traffic (and when parking), but even on the highway, where it helps stabilize
the truck in curves.
The Quadrasteer option also gives you electronic adjustable ride control,
the heavy duty trailering package, a limited slip rear differential and flared
pickup box fenders. Its an expensive option, but a good one.
My Silverado wore LT245/75R tires on 16 inch aluminum wheels, each of which
also had a disc brake with ABS.
Okay, since Im not really a truck guy, Im probably not the best
one to opine about the esoterics of such a vehicle, but I will tell you that
a couple of my friends have recent vintage Silverado crew cabs (though sans
Quadrasteer), and they both love them. One of them uses it as a family vehicle,
hauling mountain bikes, a dog house, and other lifestyle stuff in the bed all
the time, while the other drags a boat. So the truck is obviously up to its
And isnt that what its all about?