June 24, 2014 10:15 AM | By Jeremy Sinek for MSN Autos

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban first drive



2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
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  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

Big Chevs stick to the script in first major redesign since 2007

2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

Gaspé, Quebec -- Full-size SUVS like the Tahoe and Suburban are a species of vehicle that very few people truly need, but some people really want – and want badly. These big bruisers have some of the highest rates of owner loyalty in the industry. And that’s not just loyalty to the brand, but loyalty to the concept: big, brawny SUVs built like trucks, the way God intended SUVs to be.

What would Jesus drive? That slogan dreamed up a few years ago by an environmentally aware evangelical group is not the kind of question that keeps these buyers awake at night.

To reward their loyalty, GM has treated its big-SUV fleet (which also includes the Chevs’ GMC Yukon and Yukon XL siblings) to a do-over for 2015. But it hasn’t messed with the basic formula. While the rival Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada have long shed their pickup roots to ride on independent rear suspension, the Chevs retain a live rear axle. Likewise, while the 2015 Expedition has shed its V8 in favour of a turbocharged EcoBoost V6, Chevrolet is sticking with its tried and true small-block V8.

Truck through and through

2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Predictably, much of the new engineering and technology is shared with the full-size Silverado pickups that were redone last year. The frame is stronger, the brakes are bigger and the power steering is now of the fuel-saving electric kind. The 5.3-litre pushrod V8 is the modernized EcoTec3 design with direct injection, continuously-variable cam timing and cylinder deactivation.  Engine outputs grow significantly, from 320 horsepower to 355 and from 335 lb.-ft. of torque to 383.

The exterior shape is all new, and brings enhanced aerodynamics that combine with the engine tweaks to improve fuel economy by an estimated 10 percent. Not a single panel is shared with the Silverado, we’re told.

Arguably the most popular enhancements will be those on the inside. A quieter and more richly furnished cabin contains more second-row legroom (with much improved access), plus available power-folding second- and third-row fold-flat seats; up to six USB ports and six power outlets; and an available eight-inch color touch screen radio with next-generation MyLink connectivity. Suburban buyers can also choose a Bluray-based dual-screen rear entertainment system.

And, inevitably, the new trucks get a full complement of standard or available electronic safety co-drivers, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with lane-change alert, forward collision alert, crash-imminent braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Grade expectations

2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Tahoe and Suburban each come in LS, LT or LTZ trim grades, starting at $52,865 for Tahoe and $55,855 for the Suburban. Those prices are for the 4WD models, which 99 percent of Canadian buyers choose: 2WD starts at $49,565. Base MSRPs top out at $70,785 for a Suburban LTZ, and checking option boxes can easily push that over $80K. Depending on the model, the 2015 MSRPs are roughly $2,000 to $3,000 below those of the 2014s, though street prices for left-over ‘14s are well below their official MSRPs.

Both trucks retain the same wheelbases as before – 14 inches longer for the Suburban than the Tahoe – but are about 2 inches (50 mm) longer overall. More importantly, the new bodies’ B-posts have been moved forward and the C-pillar is more upright, resulting in a much-needed larger door opening that transforms accessibility to the second and third rows.

As before, either model can seat at least seven and up to nine occupants, depending on the trim level and your choice between bucket or bench seats for the first and/or second rows. But while the Tahoe’s second-row offers more relaxed space than before, the third row remains suitable for small children only; knee-room is negligible, and even if you are small enough to squeeze your knees in, the high floor forces you into a squat with thighs pointing skywards. And with the third-row seats raised, cargo space is minimal.

Significantly, Chevrolet says only 35 percent of Tahoe buyers have children at home, and only 22 percent have more than one child. Those figures rise to 55 percent and 49 percent respectively for buyers of the Suburban, which has an adult-useable third row and 2.5 times more cargo volume behind the third row than the Tahoe has.

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