It’s not easy being big.
After decades of strong sales, tightening emissions standards and rising gas prices have made big SUVs the enemy for many U.S. car buyers.
Yet there will always be a need for a vehicle that can haul massive amounts of people and stuff.
General Motors knows this; its Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac mega-utes cover three-quarters of the market. So the redesigned 2015 Chevy Tahoe will carry a significant load of shareholders’ hopes and dreams.
Luckily, it’s got plenty of room.
The 2015 Tahoe is once again based on the Chevy Silverado full-size pickup truck, but for this latest version designers tried to further differentiate the SUV from its work-vehicle origins.
This is apparently the first time the Tahoe hasn’t shared its front doors with the Silverado, allowing designers to completely reshape the roofline.
There are also a few visual flourishes, including a sharp crease below the window line and headlights with twin streaks that make the Tahoe look like it’s wearing a domino mask.
In comparison, the 2014 Tahoe features a no-nonsense design that is handsome, but looks a bit frumpy compared to the highly-stylized crossovers and luxury SUVs buyers will undoubtedly cross-shop it against.
Interior design, comfort, amenities
The Tahoe was last redesigned in 2007, before the tech revolution that has swept automotive dashboards over the past couple of years.
Chevy sought to remedy that with the 2015 Tahoe, although the new center console looks the old one after it was left in the sun too long.
Still, it makes room for an optional eight-inch center stack screen for Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, and up to 12 device-charging locations. The Tahoe has entered the Digital Age.
Buyers seem to value these features (even if they don’t come in the most attractive package) so the 2015 Tahoe takes the lead here, too.
For 2015, The Tahoe gets a new 5.3-liter V8 from the Silverado. It produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Those are improvements of 35 hp and 48 lb-ft compared to the 5.3-liter V8 offered in the 2014 Tahoe.
Fuel economy is also improved, though only by one to two mpg for both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive Tahoe models.
The rear-drive 2015 model gets 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway); four-wheel drive brings a one-mpg penalty in the highway category.
With more power and (slightly) better fuel economy, the 2015 Tahoe comes out ahead.
Fun driving is not on the minds of most full-size SUV drivers. They’re mostly thinking about swaying trailers, blind spots, and people who park too close to the line.
With the 2015 Tahoe, GM decided to cure the typical big SUV handling issues with technology.
Among the new features are electric power steering, and optional magnetorhelogical suspension, which GM has been installing in Corvettes and Cadillacs for years.
However, engineers didn’t really try to make the Tahoe easier to drive by changing the greasy bits. Rather, they added an arsenal of computerized warning systems, including blind-spot assist, lane-departure warning, and forward collision with automatic braking.
There’s also an available parking sensor system to help dock this titanic SUV.
So while the 2015 Tahoe won’t necessarily be better to drive than the 2014, it will at least be able to warn its driver of impending danger. Hopefully the driver will heed those warnings.
The 2015 Chevy Tahoe starts at $45,890 (including destination) for a base rear-wheel drive LS model. The midrange LT starts at $50,995, while the top LTZ starts at a heady $59,995.
Adding four-wheel drive bumps the price of each model up by $3,000.
Those prices represent increases of around $1,295 for LS, $2,360 for LT, and $2,745 for LTZ models. However, considering the extra equipment offered, the new model may still be a better value.
The Tahoe may not win favor among Prius drivers, but it has won the approval of people who need its cargo-carrying capabilities and those who just like big vehicles.
Part of the fun of cars is variety; while most people’s needs tend to fall in the middle of the size spectrum, showrooms would be a lot less interesting without outliers like the Tahoe.
The 2015 model moves the Tahoe further away from its pickup-truck origins. While it’s not as basic as past models, the added style and technology should win over some new buyers.