First Drive: 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

For 2015, Chevrolet’s infamous Tahoe still looks tough and blocky on the outside. On the inside, though, it’s a place fit for a tech-savvy king.

Normally, having to traverse an ice- and snow-covered Donner Pass would be an intimidating prospect.

Donner pass, if you’re unaware, is named for the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who got stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the winter of 1846. In order to stay alive, the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism. When the survivors were discovered in the spring of 1847, 48 of the 87 original members remained.

Chevrolet’s designers, mercifully, went for refinement in the 2015 Tahoe – and it shows.

But as I sat with the same journey ahead of me on a frigid February morning, slowly chewing my oatmeal, lost in a morning daze overlooking Lake Tahoe, I was tranquil. The second deepest lake in North America is – I must say – mesmerizingly beautiful when surrounded by snow.

At this point, if I were driving any other vehicle, I’d be at least a bit worried. Knowing I’d be piloting the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, however, I didn’t even miss a slurp of my watery breakfast oats.

Treacherous snow driving is what the Tahoe was built for.

A big, steely piece of history

While the Suburban was originally unveiled in 1935, and remains the longest-running nameplate in automotive history, the smaller Tahoe didn’t come around until 1995.

Together, both vehicles quickly became the best-selling line of full-size SUVs on the market. The two trucks forged steel-hearted reputations both in America’s badlands and in its suburbs.

Remaining V8-powered, body-on-ladder-frame 4x4s, the two stand almost incomparable in today’s crossover-infested family hauler market.

Tahoe, the truck, not the lake

The Chevrolet Tahoe is new for 2015. I can’t say “all new” because the chassis is essentially a carry-over from the previous generation. Yes, it’s same underneath, but nothing seems the same at all.

The exterior, while a bit lumpy and lazy before, has been transformed into a handsome, svelte-looking dynamo. I love the grille shape and how the front quarter panels jut into the headlight assembly; they kind of look like arachnid pincers.

The proud hood line carries down the shoulder of the truck, giving the feeling of lightness but also of significance. I know it sounds contradictory, and it is, but that’s just what it looks like to me. It looks weighty and agile all at once.

The dash is shapely and handsome. The bits fit together with near-European precision.

Under that chunky hood lies only one engine option: an Ecotec3 5.3-liter V8. The V8 now – much like its sibling the Sierra pickup – has direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. In the Tahoe the engine makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic, the two-wheel drive Tahoe is rated at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The 4×4 Tahoe gets 15 and 22 mpg.

On the interior the changes are as significant as the exterior. The cabin is laid out to make front passengers feel cocooned in a cockpit. At first glance from the backseat, the huge center console seemed overdone. From behind the steering wheel, though, it felt just right.

When climbing into, well, every previous generation of Tahoe, I’d marvel at Chevy’s audacity. To ask over $40,000 for the truck seemed outrageous, as earlier Tahoe interiors were simply atrocious base-level pickup interiors repackaged for family hauling.

Now, though, it’s a different story. The dash is shapely and handsome. The bits fit together with near-European precision. And the real wood and leather are well accented by soft-touch materials throughout.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe engine

One of the coolest features, seemingly a new Chevy standard, is the 8-inch color touch screen that mechanically lifts to reveal a locking storage cubby, complete with a USB port. This is perfect hiding place for smartphones or whatever valuables you may want to conceal.

The Chevy Tahoe, just as serene as the lake

Chevrolet’s representatives requested we leave our Tahoe LTZ 4×4 systems in “Auto”. As we ventured out onto the snow, my Los Angeles-based co-pilot and I gritted our teeth, unsure of what wintry weather adventures laid in store for us.

I know it doesn’t make for a good story, but our Sierra Nevada journey was uneventful. As the Tahoe flawlessly tackled any weather condition we threw at it, and it saw, snow, ice, rain, and sun that day, I had time to enjoy the serenity of the truck.

The strong and proud hood line carries down the shoulder of the truck, giving the feeling of lightness but also of significance.

Chevrolet’s designers, mercifully, went for refinement in the 2015 Tahoe – and it shows. The interior is far, far quieter than any model before it. Only a hint of wind noise can be detected around the side-view mirrors and windshield top. And the high-end stereo produced more bass and volume than I’d ever foreseeably want.

It has a slew of tech and safety features, too. When the Tahoe could see the road, it would alert me to lane departure by buzzing my seat. And when snow wasn’t covering the forward sensors, it could utilize adaptive cruise control, too.

If infotainment is something you care about, the Chevy MyLink system is one of the best in the biz. Unfortunately, the Tahoe can be ordered without MyLink, so there’s no quick button to get to navigation mounted on the dash. You must hunt through a couple screens to get to it.

As for on-road feel, the brakes are far more robust and responsive than any full-size SUV I’ve ever driven. You no longer have to stand on the pedal and pray to the patron saint to brake pads – I think it’s Saint Midas – in order to bring the the Tahoe to a stop.

2015 Chevy Tahoe grill macro

The optional magnetic ride-control suspension, which had been fitted to my Tahoe, eliminated much of the jitteriness of other truck-based SUVs. I can’t tell you how the standard suspension is, though; Chevy didn’t have any standard units on the mountain that day.

All in all, the Tahoe was looking like a winner, an all-weather knockout … that is, until I looked at the window sticker.

While the base 2015 Tahoe starts at $46,090, the top-of-the-line LTZ trim Tahoe I drove weighed in at $70,850. You can get a loaded Land Rover LR4 for that money. It, too, seats seven, rides like a dream, and has a 4×4 system that would make even a Jeep wince.

So, yes, with the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, you can have it all. You’ll just have to spend it all, too.

Highs

  • Exterior design
  • Interior fit and finish and material quality
  • Powerful, optional sound system
  • Tech options and features
  • V8 power and efficiency

Lows

  • Cost of premium features
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