The Chevrolet Tahoe and its GMC Yukon sibling are arguably one of the most recognizable sport utility vehicles around.
Many government officials have them in their official motorcade, and even the President of the United States of America has Secret Service agents riding in them along side the presidential limo.
Incidentally, fellow auto journalist Dan Heyman pointed out that the presidential limo, dubbed “The Beast”, has more in common than the Tahoe than the Cadillac that it has been disguised to look like!
These days, it’s easy to dismiss big truck-based SUVs as road going dinosaurs, especially when a lot of the market has shifted towards car-based platform crossovers. But for those who have a need to carry a lot of passengers or stuff while towing a motorhome, these tanks are perfect.
With the recent drop in gas prices, these highly profitable vehicles are still likely to be sold in the conceivable future. Being on the plus-size means that owners don’t have to be too worried about efficiently packing everything they want to carry along. Just toss it in the back and it will likely all fit.
For 2015, the Tahoe and its Yukon sibling get a total redesign that is based on the highly-rated Silverado/Sierra full-sized pickup truck platforms. With it, the Tahoe also inherits the new body and boxed-frame designs that improve upon structural rigidity. A higher percentage of high-strength low alloy steel also keeps the weight in check. However, the Tahoe still checks in at super-sized 5,545 lbs.
I found that getting into the Tahoe was tremendously easier with the wide optional power folding running boards. These drop fairly low down (lower than fixed boards) and are even lit for better visibility. Once you’re in the vehicle, they fold up so as to not compromise ground clearance and for better aerodynamics.
Here’s what they look like in action!
Once you’re inside, you’ll find that General Motors’ interior designers have really been given the latitude to take the interior upscale. There is real stitching on the dash and a lot of soft touch surfaces on the upper part of the dash, door panels, and centre console. Even the dual zone climate control’s temperature display looks similar to that in the Jaguar F-Type if you squint really hard. They are a big improvement from the previous generation truck, which had a lot more button clutter. While I would hesitate to call the rubberized knobs luxurious, they’re at least functional in a Rubbermaid container sort of way. Importantly, they’re also easy to grab onto even with gloved hands. There is also more functionality with 4 USB ports and two 12 volt outlets up front. The centre console is large enough to fit a laptop computer or a few BBQ Chickens for dinner! The two main things that betray the high quality upgrades are the hard plastic glovebox lid and the plastic wood patterned trim on the doors and around the centre console. I would have rather seen silver plastic rather than the ghastly “plood” (plastic wood). Infotainment-wise, the system has also been greatly improved. Now called the Chevy MyLink system, it even features OnStar connectivity. My LTZ-trimmed Tahoe was surprisingly not equipped with the optional GPS satellite navigation system, but did come with a Bose Audiopilot noise-cancellation surround sound system, XM Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity. Safety-wise, the Tahoe is also fully up-to-date with the optional Safety Alert seat (also found in Cadillac vehicles) that vibrates to warn the driver of a multitude of things from parking obstacles, vehicles in the blindspots, or alerts from the collision mitigation and lane departure warning systems. The Safety Alert seat is also tied into the excellent rear cross-traffic alert system, which warns drivers of vehicles or people that are hidden from view when they approach from either side of the Tahoe. This is especially important with the truck being so long and high.
The Tahoe finally gets an available power tilt and telescoping heated steering wheel that is a big improvement from its processor. The latter only had really coarse manual tilt adjustments.
The front seats are now also heated and cooled. They’re wide and easy to get comfortable in even though they lack much lateral bolstering.
When configured with the second row captain chairs, the Tahoe can seat up to seven people. The captain chairs are heated and can be reclined. They’re are supremely comfortable and there is even a separate climate control system overhead.
Because GM stuck with a solid rear axle out back to make heavier load carrying easier, the third row seats are also raised in order to clear the axle. While this means slightly better thigh support, taller passengers are still in knees-up positions when seated in the third row.
They’re definitely not as comfortable as minivans for longer hauls and extra lumbar support will be necessary to prevent your passengers from squawking too more. Bring an extra pillow or two for them.
In order to get a flat load floor, GM engineers raised the platform a couple of inches so that the folded seatbacks collapse flat. However this means that loading any cargo requires a bit of a higher lift from the ground. Perhaps that’s worth it as the Tahoe is still equipped with a full-size spare tire carried underneath. A rarity these days.
Let’s face it, as flexible as minivans are, they don’t have four wheel drive and can’t tow 8,400 lbs.
An optional integrated trailer brake controller is a very handy feature that is included when you purchase the trailer tow package.
The transmission also has a tow mode that changes the shift points. In this mode, it downshifts earlier and holds the gears longer. It would probably be called a “Sport” mode if it were in anything smaller than this behemoth of a truck!
My test Tahoe was fitted with GM’s corporate aluminium small block 5.3L V8. Now with direct fuel injection, variable value timing, and active cylinder deactivation, this engine generates 355 hp at 5,600 rpms and 382 ft-lbs of torque at 4,100 rpms.
Despite the weight of the Tahoe, the power feels adequate thanks to the amount of torque. The Tahoe never feels short of breath and does just fine in passing manoeuvres. While there is plenty of poke to get up to speed when merging onto the highway, it doesn’t feel overly quick off-the-line either.
Although the Tahoe has the same engine as the GMC Sierra pickup truck I tested last year, the SUV seemed a lot quieter from the inside and the cylinder deactivation system more transparent.
The V8 is hooked up to GM’s 6 speed Hydra-Matic 6L80 automatic transmission. For the most part, this transmission shifts smoothly and quietly. However, there is a pretty wide gap between the second and third gear ratios, something which is especially prevalent during engine braking down hills. An 8 speed transmission would be nice in order to improve both the Tahoe’s fuel efficiency and power delivery.
Fuel consumption-wise, Transport Canada rates the Tahoe 4×4 at 15.1L/100 kms in the city, and 10.4L/100 kms on the highway. I managed 17.3L /100 kms in mostly city driving on regular unleaded fuel, which was honestly better than expected.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The electric-power steering is a big improvement from the numb and vague electric power steering that I experienced in the previous generation hybrid Tahoe. This new system has a pretty quick ratio and feels precise. The turning circle is an astoundingly tight 39.0 feet.
While the steering effort is still a bit too boosted for my personal tastes, I’m sure that Chevy Tahoe customers like it this way as it makes the truck feel more manoeuvrable than it is, despite its size.
All Tahoes are equipped with independent front suspension with a coil over shock design and twin-tube shock absorbers. At the back, there is a solid axle with five-link location and coil springs.
Exclusive to the LTZ-trimmed Tahoes is Chevy’s third generation Magnetic Ride Control suspension. These magnetorheological shocks are also found in some Cadillac vehicles and constantly adjust to round off bumps and to keep the body from excessive bobbing motions. The result is a very impressively smooth ride that isn’t floaty, even on rough roads.
Finally, braking is now a highlight with good brake pedal feel and strong fade-free performance from the Tahoe’s four-wheel vented disc brakes with GM’s Duralife rotors.
Those who are looking to tow will enjoy the fact that these Duralife rotors feature a hardened and strengthened surface to reduce corrosion. GM also says that these rotors provide quieter braking with less vibration and should last twice as long as conventional rotors.
With the refresh for model year 2015, by default the Tahoe/Yukon are the most modern of the truck-based SUVs.
However, there aren’t many of these left on the market. The Toyota Sequoia is getting a bit long in the tooth, as is the modestly refreshed for 2015 Ford Expedition. This is probably enough for General Motors to maintain its sales lead for the time being.
Although the Tahoe may not be the newest kid on the block with its ladder-type frame, live rear axle, and small-block American V8, this SUV still makes a lot of old-fashioned sense for those who need it.