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The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe is new inside and out, with more power, more fuel efficiency and more refinement than before. All told, the 2015 Tahoe's makeover is thoughtfully planned and nicely executed.
While chassis dimensions don't change, there are updates to the foundation. A stronger body structure uses more high-strength steel and the rear track has been expanded slightly, contributing to a smoother ride and quieter cabin.
Third-generation magnetic ride control automatically adjusts shock absorbers to road surfaces and driving demands in milliseconds, affording a blend of comfort and control we find remarkable in a vehicle this size. It's limited to the top of the line LTZ trim level, but trim levels with conventional spring and damping systems have been retuned and deliver better dynamics than the previous generation.
The sheetmetal has been reshaped from stem to stern, and while it takes an experienced eye to distinguish the 2015 Tahoe from the previous generation, the styling is crisp, with sharp angles and a strong character line running from front to rear just below the greenhouse. The front doors are unique to the Tahoe, no more sharing with the Silverado, and the B-pillar has been moved forward, enlarging the rear door opening for easier ingress.
The 2015 Tahoe's interior is all new, with two welcome new options: a power liftgate and power-folding rear seatbacks. For 2015, GM made a substantial investment in noise suppression, with triple seals around the doors, acoustical laminate windows, and lots of sound-insulation throughout. The payoff is a big ute with luxo sedan interior noises levels.
Like the Suburban, the 2015 Tahoe is limited to a single engine, a 5.3-liter V8, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. That displacement is familiar, but this is a much different 5.3-liter V8: all aluminum, new block, new cylinder heads, new crankshaft, new pistons, higher compression ratio, direct fuel injection. More power: 355 horsepower versus 320 hp in the previous version, 383 pound-feet of torque. That torque provides the pulling power to achieve a towing capacity of 8400 pounds with four-wheel drive, 8600 pounds with 2WD.
And there's improved fuel efficiency to go with the increased thrust: 16/22 mpg City/Highway with 4WD, 16/23 mpg with rear-wheel drive.
Tahoe shares the Suburban's solid body-on-frame construction, and while it weighs a couple hundred pounds less than the big guy, at 5683 pounds with four-wheel drive it's no wraith. Curb weights on the 2015 models are up by as much as 100 pounds, depending on equipment, and while the Suburban takes up even more room, a vehicle that's 204 inches long and 74.4 inches high still casts a lot of shade in a parking lot.
The Tahoe is 14.4 inches shorter than the Suburban, on a 116-inch wheelbase, versus the Suburban's 130-inch wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels).
We found the 2015 Tahoe behaves very well on the road. Don't expect car-like driveability; it's a non-sequitur with vehicles in this size class. But the responses are prompt, an active safety plus for a vehicle that's likely to be loaded with kids. And it's a smooth operator in terms of ride quality.
Tahoe LS ($44,600) comes with tri-zone climate control, cloth upholstery, seating for nine, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, AM/FM/CD audio, satellite radio, remote vehicle starting, rear view camera, rear park assist. 4WD is optional ($47,600).
Tahoe LT ($50,000) adds leather trim to first and second row seats, heated power front seats with memory feature, Bose premium audio, Chevy MyLink infotainment system, power liftgate with programmable height, lane departure warning, forward collision alert.
Tahoe LTZ ($59,000) adds heated and cooled front seats, fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, heated power side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column with memory, heated leather steering wheel, keyless entry, pushbutton start, power folding second- and third-row seatbacks, power adjustable pedals, 110-volt power outlet, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert.
Safety features include front center airbag.
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The Chevrolet Tahoe is smaller than the Suburban, but that doesn't mean small. With passengers, cargo or a combination of both, the Tahoe weighs in over the 3-ton mark. Its gross vehicle weight ratings (curb weight plus whatever may be on board) are 7100 pounds for 2WD, 7300 pounds with 4WD, and max payloads are 1702 and 1760, respectively. Mass plus a tall profile limit handling responses, and all that weight affects stopping distances.
On the other hand, the chassis engineers have done a very good job with the new suspension tuning, particularly in the LTZ, with its magnetic ride control. As a result, the Tahoe is surprisingly willing in its responses to commands from the helm. This is attributable, at least in part, to improved roll stiffness. Though the center of gravity is high in a vehicle of this type, giving mass more leverage in cornering maneuvers, that phenomenon is minimized by the magnetic damping system, which limits suspension body roll, allowing quicker recovery in rapid transitions. It also helps that weight distribution is close to 50/50, front/rear.
The steering, a new electric assist power rack and pinion system, is a little numb and rather slow at 3.4 turns lock to lock. But even so, the new rig is agile by big SUV standards. This doesn't make the Tahoe a slalom star; weight will have its say in any dynamic equation. But it does give the driver a better chance of turning a crash into a near miss. And it does so without sacrificing ride quality, which trends toward firm, but it takes a pretty nasty bump to find its way to the vehicle's occupants.
Braking is another strong suit, again with a for-its-size asterisk. Brake pedal feel is firm, it's easy to modulate pedal pressure, and the Tahoe stops straight and true. We can't testify to fade resistance, other than to say we failed to provoke any fade with a few hard stops and repeated use in mountain driving, and we don't know about stopping distances other than to mention that GM claims a slight reduction. But we can testify to system function, which is very good.
Considering the Tahoe's role as an all-around pachyderm, the new 5.3-liter V8 is a definite improvement over its predecessor. The Tahoe gets off the line quickly, especially with the 3:42 final drive in our tester, throttle response is right now, and the operation of its cylinder deactivation system, from V8 to V4 in light load conditions, is totally transparent.
One final noteworthy dynamic element: interior noise. Anyone who's unable to converse at living room voice levels when the Tahoe is operating at freeway speeds needs a hearing aid. Wind noise is minimal, road noise ditto, and the only time the engine becomes audible is when the driver tramps on the gas, opening flapper valves in the plumbing and adding a pleasant V8 baritone to the mix.
Smooth, exceptionally quiet, comfortable, capable, and powerful, the latest Tahoe continues to be the quintessential big job family wagon. Tahoe continues to be a solid family workhorse with the added attraction of more grunt and more refinement. It's a little less expensive and a little lighter than the Suburban, and a little handier around town. You can get a fancier version of the Tahoe at the GMC store. But with the exception of the increased power option, you won't get any better.
Tony Swan filed this report from Detroit.