We’re spending time with the newly revamped 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL, vehicles that seem to defy the forces of evolution. These are huge, old-school SUVs built on a full-sized pickup chassis in a world where nearly every other SUV has adopted carlike structures.
Standing more than six feet, two inches tall, occupying almost 19 feet of parking space, and weighing close on to three tons, these are the vehicles that make green enthusiasts see red. But there is no denying the Suburban’s iconic status and utility.
GM has found plenty of takers for this formula, with its full-sized SUVs claiming almost three-quarters of this lucrative market. Price hikes for the 2015 models will bring a typically equipped Tahoe to about $60,000, and the Suburban close to $70,000. The top-trim GMC Yukon XL Denali will cost in the mid-$70s and higher.
GM’s dominant market share means that it has little incentive to try anything revolutionary, and it hasn’t. The “national car of Texas,” as the Suburban is sometimes known, has been modernized without risking becoming too modern.
The interiors of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL we’re sampling look plush, with lots of soft-touch padded surfaces edged with the “French” stitching GM does so well, giving a tailored, hand-sewn look. With controls wrapping around the driver, and a legible and easily understood MyLink touch screen that manages the audio, climate, phone, and navigation systems, the cockpit looks almost modern. If it weren’t for the high-effort, long-reach column shifter, a throwback to the 1970s, and foot-operated parking brake, the interior would be all modern and befitting the vehicle’s price tag.
The multi-adjustable front seats are large. Second-row passengers get limousine-level stretch-out room, especially with the second-row captain’s chairs. Abundant cabin storage includes a seemingly endless supply of large and small bins, open and covered.
You could almost move into this mobile home. Up to six USB ports are offered, plus five 12-volt power ports, and a 110-volt outlet. Also new is a power-folding third-row seat that with the power-release second-row captain’s chairs can fold down to make a flat load floor. While the third row folds flat now, eliminating the need to take it out when not needed as in the previous generation, it doesn’t fold into a well so it creates a high loading floor. That’s a consequence of retaining the solid rear axle as opposed to choosing a more expensive independent rear suspension setup.
Mounting up is eased by new power-retractable running boards, but they’re a little noisy when they crank in and out.
The first thing you notice while driving is that these trucks are exceptionally quiet, a lot like a good luxury car. You just don’t hear much road, wind, or tire noise, and it’s easy to have a comfortable conversation no matter what’s happening outdoors. Handling is sound and responsive enough, with no excessive body roll, but the bulk is ever present. The ride is compliant enough, but lots of jiggle is evident at low speeds.
The powertrains could be better. Suburbans and Tahoes offer just one combination: a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic. That sounds like it ought to deliver plenty of gusto but somehow it doesn’t. Acceleration feels leisurely.
While lesser Yukons use the same 5.3L as the Chevys, top-trim Denali versions employ a 420-hp, 6.2-liter V8 exclusively. We haven’t been exactly bowled over by the 6.2L, either. It gets up to speed fine, but it too feels like it’s dragging an anchor. So far we’ve been seeing about 16 mpg overall with the Tahoe LTZ 5.3L and about 15 mpg with the 6.2-liter in the Yukon XL Denali.
A full complement of electronic safety gear is available, including forward-collision alert, a lane-watch and blind-zone system, cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, and others. If you cross a lane marking without signaling, your seat vibrates on the appropriate side to warn you. In case of a side-on crash, a novel center air bag pops up like a partition between the front seats.
We’ll have a more evolved assessment of these new trucks when we buy models to test. First impressions suggest that GM has merely brought everything it needed to the table but not much more.
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