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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban First Drive

From rugged to refined--the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban.

What It Is
A refined yet functional SUV that can carry up to nine passengers.
Best Thing
Increased comfort and ride quality.
Worst Thing
Sluggish acceleration.
Snap Judgment
While not particularly fun to drive, these family-haulers get the job done well.


Loved or hated, the Chevrolet Suburban is a true history-maker. The Suburban created the full-size SUV market in 1936, starting out as an affordable, versatile hauler and eventually gaining the reputation as a clunky gas-guzzler of the 90s. This model spawned a shorter-wheelbase version, the Chevrolet Tahoe, which is now the automaker's top selling full-size SUV. For 2015, these models are changing history again with a complete overhaul that brings refinement we haven't seen before in Chevy's full-size SUVs.

GM invited us to drive its next-generation SUVs, and we were curious to see how these vehicles have shed their vestiges of the 90s. We found that the new 2015 SUVs are much quieter, refined, versatile, and fuel-efficient than their predecessors. Fortunately for consumers, prices for these models have only gone up slightly. The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe begins at just over $45,000, but can be priced to over $20,000 more. Similarly, the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban starts at around $47,300 but can top out to over $70,000. We drove the LTZ trim levels, which account for most Tahoe and Suburban sales. Expect these vehicles to arrive starting February 2014.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

With a prominent new grille and jewel-like LED daytime running lamps, the Tahoe and Suburban create a bigger presence on the road. This is only enhanced by the car's muscular appearance and angular body lines. It looks like a brand new toy, making models like the Nissan Armada and Honda Pilot look ancient. And while Chevy's new models are definitely more chromed-out than before, Chevrolet retained the characteristics that define these SUVs, including a body-on-frame structure.

Sitting Down

Heated and cooled seats, leather appointed seats, 12 USB ports, and a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system are features you may have never expected to see on these rugged SUVs. GM managed to create a refined space with large seats that are both comfortable and supportive. The comfort extends to all three rows, which receive the same soft-touch materials as in the front. Back seat passengers also have have access to seven USB ports and plenty of cup holders. All around, GM tried to maximize storage in every nook and cranny. A gear selector near the steering wheel frees up tons of storage space between the driver and front passenger, enough room so that GM has created a space that can double as a small file cabinet. Other than this, there are dozens of storage cubbies on the doors and armrests, increasing space from the previous model. One particularly clever storage space is located behind the infotainment touchscreen. With the push of a button, the touchscreen rises up off the console to reveal a USB port and space for small items.

Buyers of previous GM SUVs often complained that the third row didn't fold into the floor to provide extra space. Luckily, GM has remedied this for 2015. Drivers can now fold all seats back with the simple push of a button. Those looking for the most space will likely want to choose the Suburban, which has a cavernous 94.7 cubic feet of max cargo room.

Driving

The SUVs are as comfortable to sit in as they are to drive. Little road noise permeates the cabin, except on the roughest freeways.

Despite their large size, these vehicles feature car-like handling and drive nimbly on mountain roads. Making three point turns is surprisingly painless. The LTZ trim vehicles also benefit from magnetic ride control, an advanced suspension that reacts quickly to any road situation, making the ride exceptionally smooth. The Suburban and Tahoe also now feature adaptive cruise control for the first time this year.

Both the Tahoe and Suburban come with a new-generation 5.3-liter V-8 Ecotec engine that provides 355 horsepower, up 35 from the previous SUVs. But the Suburban is exceptionally slow to accelerate on the highway. I really had to step on the gas, and passing other cars is difficult. Once on the highway, however, the sluggish feeling goes away and I could focus on the comfortable ride and handling.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Summary

Refined and capable, the new 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2015 Chevrolet Suburban have matured from the last generation versions. While slow, they get the job done for what they do: carry large loads. The Suburban is the more family-oriented choice, featuring plenty of room for nine people while the Tahoe specializes in towing up to 8,600 pounds. Although we drove the top-of-the-line LTZ, we felt like the lower trim levels were also quite premium on their own. I would personally opt for a mid-level trim, because the optioned-out LTZ runs over $70,000, a pretty price to pay, even for a luxury SUV.

Basic Specs

5.3-liter V-8 direct injection Ecotec3, six-speed automatic transmission, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, 355-hp, 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy (two-wheel drive models), 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy (four-wheel drive Tahoe), 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy (four-wheel drive Suburban)

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