DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I spent a full 10 days with the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LT as my sole means of transport, and with the exception of towing, I used it the way most big SUV owners will likely use it: By packing up the family and heading to the lakes on vacation. With a couple significant caveats, the Chevy Tahoe is an outstanding road-trip companion: quiet and comfortable, this truck eats up miles while occupants enjoy that commanding view of the road that makes SUVs and crossovers so popular. The level of refinement is every bit as good as in GM’s latest full-size pickups (which is to say luxury-car-like), and there’s usable storage everywhere we looked -- great for stashing Apple iPads, wallets, kids’ toys, dog food and, in one instance, a pair of bamboo shrimp for a tropical fish tank.
Make that usable passenger compartment storage space: What surprised me the most was the Tahoe’s relative lack of cargo space. Due to the spare tire and full frame construction, the load floor is waist-high, not helped any by a storage compartment in the floor taking up another couple inches. With the third row of seats up you can get groceries or a couple suitcases in back, but if you’re moving six folks and their luggage you want a Suburban (or a minivan). During our extended road tripping we used the Tahoe in two-row configuration; stowing the third row helps increase cargo room, but the load floor remains very high -- it’s obvious why crossovers have gained so much popularity, considering a midsize CUV offers as much cargo space as this full-size SUV, plus better fuel economy.
Depending upon your CUV, though, it may not get much better mileage than our V8 Tahoe. Obviously stoplight drags in the city yield low teens, but in normal driving with an emphasis on highway cruising, we managed two tanks that averaged near 20 mpg. The EcoTec V8 is a smooth engine, but with just 5.3 liters, it requires a fairly heavy foot to get much acceleration. On the open road it cycles seamlessly between V4 and V8 modes, and while more power would be appreciated it's probably not necessary unless lots of towing is on your agenda.
The Tahoe's interior offers lots of usable storage space.PHOTO BY CHEVROLET
I’m a big fan of Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, finding it both attractive and very easy to use. Phones synced without any trouble, getting the kids’ movie loaded and playing through the included wireless headphones was a no-brainer, and the navigation system got us where we needed to be without fanfare. One complaint -- more a design feature than a MyLink problem -- is that the strip of plastic trim at the base of the touchscreen is sharp and flimsy-feeling; it wouldn’t be noticed except that’s where a user naturally rests his or her middle fingers while tapping entries into the touchscreen with an index finger. It ends up being a critical touchpoint, and it does not give the impression of durability.
The rest of the Tahoe’s interior proved attractive, easy to use and, critically for those traveling with kids and dogs, easy to clean. Even after a week of sand, sunscreen and lake water, our tester looked like new after a quick vacuuming and wipe down. Obviously years of wear and tear may yield a different result, but short-term experience left us impressed with the solidity of surfaces, switchgear and materials, aside from the bit of center-stack plastic mentioned earlier.
I’m somewhat desensitized to vehicle sticker prices, so $60K for a loaded Tahoe doesn’t really shock me much. The reality is that a lot of buyers are probably leasing these things with a few grand down and getting a fairly reasonable monthly payment, and in a few years they’ll go and get another one. For the levels of equipment, and considering the competitive set, whether it’s the Mercedes-Benz GL, Audi Q7, the Ford Expedition or the Toyota Land Cruiser, the new Tahoe gives buyers everything they could possibly want short of minivan-like space. I’d gladly spend another week in one.
The 2015 Chevy Tahoe LT starts at a $53,995.PHOTO BY CHEVROLET
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I’ve been eager to drive one of these new GM trucks since the unveiling. They look great, in my opinion: sharp, clean, uninterrupted lines and an imposing stance.
A few nights behind the wheel of this Chevy Tahoe LT didn’t disappoint. One of the vehicles this is reminiscent of in terms of presence, feel and initial quality is our long-term Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec. Sure, it’s not as torquey, the ride isn’t quite as buttoned-down and the interior isn’t as voluminous -- but unlike the Benz, this is an honest-to-goodness body-on-frame SUV. This is about as real as it gets today, folks.
Anyway, I don’t think the GL is necessarily this Tahoe’s natural prey. I’d look to the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX, two shockingly expensive vehicles that are absolutely shamed by the style, feel and amenities of the Tahoe, Yukon and Suburban.
Compared to those products, the Chevy feels cutting-edge. The 5.3-liter is adequate. The Yukon and Escalade are your only options if you want the bigger 6.2-liter, though I don’t know that you need it -- this is a very upright platform, and though I’m sure it won’t roll over like a truck out of the 1990s, you’re not going to be attacking corners in one of these.
You will be comfortable inside, though. The console is fluid, with a well-integrated touchscreen backed by analog controls. There is real stitching here and there. The crappy plastics of yesteryear seem to be more or less banished.
So fit and finish, as well as on-road manners and styling, are on point. Cost is high, but not breathtaking (although maybe that’s only in comparison to the stratospheric prices for the Toyota products).
What remains to be seen is whether these impressive trucks are as rugged and durable as the competition; one potential buyer I talked to seemed intrigued by GM’s new offerings, but had bad memories of Detroit’s old (hopefully) quality woes. Sure, the engines are bulletproof, he said -- but the infuriating little things, switches and buttons and what have you -- would crap out years before the end of the vehicle’s usable life.
That’s a very valid point. I’ll be taking notes on how our long-term Chevrolet Silverado holds up to months of use and abuse.
Yet my initial impressions are that this new Tahoe and its stablemates might just be slick enough to attract some pro-import die-hards -- especially the (admittedly small) number of those who legitimately need an old-fashioned body-on-frame truck.
Shame about the high price, but many of the marginal SUV-buyers of the 1990s have been shuffled into the CUV market; I guess you’ll have to think if you really need the capability -- or really want the style -- before making that down payment.
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