I’d like to say the brakes screeched to a halt, but brakes don’t really do that anymore. Instead, as I came upon a black bear about to cross the Klondike Highway in front of me, the anti-lock brake system in the 2015 GMC Yukon Denali sports utility vehicle brought the truck to a quick, shuddering stop. The bear limped across the road — it appeared to have an injured leg — and snuck largely out of sight into the brush on the opposite side of the road.
The encounter occurred about halfway between Dawson and Whitehorse during a road trip from the former to the latter this past August. I’d been invited to the Yukon for the trek by General Motors to test drive the newly updated GMC Yukon, a seven-passenger SUV that boasts a host of features designed to handle the rigours of such excursions — and undoubtedly equally at home on more superior roadways throughout the rest of the country that don’t offer encounters with big-game animals such as bears, elk and deer.
Regardless of the vehicle you’re driving, the Klondike Highway promises one of the nation’s best drives. It runs a route similar to the one prospectors took to get to the Klondike Gold Rush, crossing the Klondike, Stewart, Pelly and Yukon Rivers at various points along its length, which stretches more or less north-south between the Pelly and Saint Elias Mountain ranges. While 95 per cent of the Klondike is paved, it’s bumpy in places, and there are spots with loose gravel that should be cautiously navigated. Add in the unpredictable appearances of wildlife, from ptarmigan to elk, and you’ve got a nice recipe for running an SUV such as the Yukon through its paces.
The Yukon’s leather interior is stylish and the vehicle’s finishes are reminiscent of a luxury vehicle. The ride was quiet, thanks to a number of features designed to reduce cabin noise, including inlaid, triple-sealed doors, mirrors designed to reduce wind noise (and improve aerodynamics), and textile liners in the wheel housing. A valved exhaust system further contributes to reducing noise and vibration.
While interior quiet helps one concentrate on enjoying the spectacular scenery between Dawson and Whitehorse, the drive is a 500-plus-kilometre hike, and the Yukon’s advanced driver safety technologies were much appreciated along the eight-hour trek.
The adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the SUV’s speed to the vehicle in front of it (as well as the distance it follows at), is a handy feature — one I longed for when I got home. Also helpful is the safety alert driver seat, which vibrates the left or right side of the chair as an alert for, amongst other things, lane departure; drift too far toward the shoulder and the right side of the seat rumbles in warning. And as rain began to fall during my drive, I appreciated the Rainsense wipers, which automatically respond to varying degrees of precipitation.
I’d like to say that the innovative wiper technology helped ensure I didn’t miss stopping at the famous Braeburn Lodge just outside Whitehorse for one of the establishment’s world-renowned, larger-than-life cinnamon buns, but I wasn’t going to miss that for anything. There are some things you just don’t need technology for — the giant confectionary at Braeburn is definitely one.