Will I ever prowl the streets of Monte Carlo behind the wheel of a Monte Carlo? Unlikely. Will I have the chance to scoot down the long straight at Sebring piloting a Sebring? Again, it seems as though the answer is ‘no.’ The goofy smile on my face as I drive through the streets of Tahoe sitting up front in the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, then, isn’t just because our convoy of black-on-black SUVs is evoking images of an unexpected presidential ski trip in the minds of passersby. It also stems from my semi-childish, yet perfectly understandable satisfaction of cruising through my vehicle’s stunningly gorgeous geographical namesake.
While the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe is not up for debate, there may be some discussion warranted regarding the styling changes that have been made to the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and its long-wheelbase Chevrolet Suburban companion. For the most part, the two SUVs embody the same upright design and 90-degree angles that have long defined their rectangular shapes, but an unanticipated amount of detail has been carved into the new front grille and headlights shared by the Tahoe and the Suburban, intended to bring the trucks more in line with Chevy’s company-wide styling language. In particular, an upturned edge where the headlight surround carves into the front fenders injects more than a little Traverse – or even Impala – into the SUV’s visage It’s almost like seeing a close friend shortly after they received an unexpected haircut. It’s not that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with how the new ‘do frames their face, but it’s just surprising enough to cast their familiar features in a new light.
Once I had pried open the Chevrolet Tahoe’s inset doors (an upgrade intended to further silence interior noise at highway speeds), it became clear to me that considerable attention had also been paid to dragging the people mover’s interior up to a new standard. While top-tier LTZ model interiors benefit the most from Chevrolet’s investment in nicer, softer, and smoother leathers, plastics, and metals, it’s a better effort all around, especially when the optional Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen interface is present to control the car’s entertainment, navigation, and communications systems.
In addition to its quieter environs and more pleasing visual design, the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban (each of which can seat up to nine passengers) have received a substantial upgrade in the cargo management department. Although all three rows in the Tahoe/Suburban have traditionally been spacious – a fact that remains true for the new model – accessing the vehicle’ up-to-121.1 cubic feet of cargo area used to require drivers to lug out the third set of accommodations and find somewhere to store them until needed again. This was an awkward, and difficult task given the heft of the seats in question, and one that was routinely cited by owners as one of their least-favorite aspects of the vehicle.
This all changes for 2015 with the addition of a fold-flat feature that allows the rear two rows to be either manually flipped forward or motorized into a level position at the touch of a button. The load floor itself is somewhat raised, due to the fact that both the Suburban and the Tahoe maintain a volume-consuming live rear axle, but it’s a huge improvement over the previous layout.
The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban are each motivated by a 5.3-liter, eight-cylinder motor that has been gifted with direct fuel injection in order to push out a respectable 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Shuttling that output to either the rear or all four wheels (if optional four-wheel drive is selected) is a carry-over six-speed automatic transmission with a Tow/Haul mode for those seeking to explore the SUV’s 8,500 lbs of trailer capacity.
The mountain passes that must be traversed in order to reach Lake Tahoe from our GM-specified starting point of Sacramento, California, required that the transmission of the full-size SUV stay on its toes. Five-four-three downshifts were the order of the day in the heavy Chevys, and at times the 5.3-liter mill gnashed its mechanical teeth as it climbed I-80, iron lungs gasping for what sparse oxygen could be found at those altitudes. While it might sound dramatic, its not as if the V-8 ever ran completely out of breath – it simply displayed a marked contrast to the more robust 6.2-liter motor available with its cousin, the GMC Yukon Denali.
On flatter pavement, the 5.3-liter was more than up to the task of pushing the Suburban and the Tahoe forward at an acceptable rate of speed, and once the roads turned twisty – as they inevitably do through the foothills of wild America – the redesigned chassis underpinning both SUVs was perfectly willing to answer the call to duty. This was especially true of the LTZ models, which featured an adaptive suspension system that magnetically adapts to road conditions almost instantaneously in order to provide a higher level of control over more challenging stretches of pavement. Pricy though it may be, this feature performed exactly as advertised and had me occasionally forgetting the sheer heft of the SUV I was hustling through the corners.
It’s worth noting, too, that each of these full-size SUVs feature cylinder deactivation as a fuel-saving method, giving their V-8 engine the ability to drop to four-cylinder status when under a light load. This underhood maneuver happens almost imperceptibly, and in fact the only way I was able to detect that the truck was now operating on half its cylinder count was the change in exhaust note when I dipped back into the throttle. Fuel mileage figures for the Tahoe and the Suburban are listed at 16-mpg city and 23-mpg highway.
The Golden Goose
The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban are extremely important members of the automaker’s lineup, as they not only provide excellent volume year-over-year, but also substantial profit margins. This was particularly evidenced by the $70,000 MSRP attached to one of the Tahoe's that I drove, a stunning number made even more surprising by the fact that one can pick up an even more plush, and more powerful GMC Yukon XL Denali for thousands less. It's another indication of just how much money one can throw down the SUV rabbit hole in the pursuit of comfort and capability.
Still, if one can exhibit more restraint with the options sheet, there’s a lot of value to be had in the more affordable editions of either of these two trucks. In a segment of the market where competitors have either sat on their hands (Toyota Sequoia) or contented themselves with late-life drivetrain upgrades (Ford Expedition), the Tahoe and the Suburban both stand out as the complete package – full-size SUVs that have been painstakingly designed to outperform not just the ghosts of their predecessors, or the challenges presented by their rivals, but also the expectations of would-be buyers.