2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban Review

For buyers of the Chevrolet Suburban and, to a lesser extent, the Chevrolet Tahoe, it seems that no other vehicle will do. Fully half of all buyers shopping for full-size SUVs choose Chevrolet. (Add their GMC Yukon equivalents, and GM has three-quarters of the full-size-SUV market.) In redesigning its family of large sport-utilities, GM appears to have been very conscious of that fact, as the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban are a very careful evolution of the species.

Long history

The Suburban is the U.S. auto industry’s oldest nameplate, having been in continuous production since 1935. Originally sold as both a Chevrolet and a GMC, it has been exclusive to Chevrolet since GMC rechristened its version the Yukon XL for the 2000 model year. Over the course of time, the Suburban has been a two-door, a three-door, and a four-door. The Tahoe has been around since 1995, but it didn’t gain four doors—and with them real market relevance—until the following year.

Both nameplates enjoyed their peak popularity in the early George W. Bush years, when full-size SUVs captured as much as seven percent of the U.S. auto market. Today, the segment has settled back down to its historic two-percent slice of new-car sales. Even so, these vehicles’ outsized profits make this a segment worth staying in.

Every bit as big

The 2015 Tahoe and Suburban are undiminished in size. Both SUVs ride on the same wheelbase as before: 116 inches for the Tahoe, 130 inches for the Suburban. Both have grown by 2 inches in length and by an inch and a half in width. Height is the only dimension that has decreased, by about 2.5 inches (for both 2WD and 4WD versions). Nor have these big boys achieved any significant weight loss. Depending on the model variant, they’re within 100 pounds of their previous weights, ranging from 5466 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive Tahoe to 5896 pounds for the four-wheel-drive Suburban.

One V-8

Whereas crosstown rival Ford recently announced that it will be replacing the 5.4-liter V-8 in its Expedition and Lincoln Navigator with a turbocharged V-6, Chevrolet is sticking with a normally aspirated V-8 for the Tahoe and the Suburban. At 5.3 liters, the displacement is the same as before, but this is the new “Gen 5” version of the 5.3-liter, which made its debut in the redesigned Silverado pickup. Power and torque output increase to 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, up from 320 hp and 335 lb-ft for the previous V-8. Paired again with a six-speed automatic, the new engine helps the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban squeeze another mile or two out of each gallon of unleaded: rear-wheel-drive versions of both trucks manage 16/23 mpg (city/highway), while the more popular 4WD models get 16/22 mpg (Tahoe) and 15/22 mpg (Suburban). Full-size SUV buyers who are keenly interested in fuel economy -- anyone? -- will be disappointed to learn that the Tahoe hybrid is no more.

In our drive from Lake Tahoe to Sacramento, the 5.3-liter proved to be adequately powerful—the 0-to-60-mph time for the Tahoe 4x4 has dropped from more than 8 seconds to an even 7.0 seconds. The new V-8 features variable valve timing and direct injection, but the intake noise you often find in direct-injected engines is completely absent. The engine also has the ability to shut down four cylinders under light load, and while the in-cluster display indicates when that happens, it is otherwise not discernable. One quibble: while the 5.3-liter is well matched to the six-speed automatic, when you do want to manually downshift (which is done using the plus/minus button on the shift lever) you first have to move the column shifter out of D and into M.

Drive small?

Despite the vehicles’ size, more than one engineer told us that a goal for the new Tahoe and Suburban was that they “drive smaller than they are.” To that end, you might expect a lower step-in height, a tighter turning circle, or a more sloped hood to provide better sight lines. You won’t find any of them. Instead, GM added a host of new driver-assistance systems, which don’t really make these big SUVs seem small from behind the wheel but do make them easier to drive. A backup camera is now standard, and rear cross-path detection is optional. Audible park assist can now be had for the front as well as the rear to aid in docking maneuvers. In addition to blind-spot warning, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and lane departure warning are available. The big utes may not drive smaller, but they do drive more confidently, thanks to extremely well-tuned electric power steering and improved brake pedal feel.

Cozier cabin

Whereas the new Silverado pickup has a large, blocky instrument panel, the Suburban/Tahoe interior is more cockpit-like, with a new dash flowing into a wide center console. Naturally, the large console creates a vast amount of storage space; there is also an abundance of power points and USB outlets. We were more impressed, though, with the well-thought-out switchgear. Our top-spec LTZ test car sported the obligatory touch screen, but there are still plenty of knobs for easy access to the most-used audio and climate-control functions, and buttons are grouped to help make everything easy to find. And, for the first time, the cabin’s design and materials reflect the fact that these trucks often share garage space with a luxury car. The dash has greater dimension than before; there are fewer hard plastics; and well-padded surfaces cover the door panels and armrests. The seats have been redesigned, which is good, but we still found the driving position awkward for lack of a driver’s dead pedal.

Cargo considerations

Cargo volume, whether you’re measuring behind the third row, the second row, or the front seats, has shrunk slightly in both the Tahoe and the Suburban. The reason is that the cargo floor had to be raised by several inches to allow the second- and third-row seats to fold flat. It’s not the most elegant solution—and it’s one downside to the solid rear axle—but it beats having to remove the third-row seats, a heavy chore that owners hated. Power folding of both rows is available, and the second-row seats can do a quick tumble at the push of a button to allow access to the third row.

Although not quite as commodious as it was previously, the Suburban is still a supersized family bus. Its 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat (versus 45.8 cubic feet previously) should easily accommodate a family’s luggage for a weeklong vacation and/or an extra-large dog crate. If you’re looking for maximum luggage space while still using all three rows of seats, the 2015 Suburban is going to remain at the top of your shopping list.

It’s harder, though, to make a case for the Tahoe. Chevrolet’s own Traverse has significantly more cargo space (behind any of its three rows) and a much more usable third-row seat in a similar-sized package. The only real advantage for the Tahoe is trailer towing, where the V-8-powered, body-on-frame SUV puts the V-6 Traverse crossover, well, on the trailer. The 2015 Tahoe is rated to tow 8600/8400 pounds (2WD/4WD), which is slightly more than before and significantly more than the Traverse’s 5200 pounds. For its part, the Suburban also tows with the best of them, although its maximum is slightly less than its smaller sibling’s, at 8000/8300 pounds. Note that the Suburban 2500, the heavy-duty variant powered by a 6.0-liter V-8 and towed five tons, is no longer part of the Suburban lineup.

The new bottom line

Familiar but pleasantly updated, there is little about the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban to shock their large cadre of repeat buyers—with the possible exception of the number at the bottom of the window sticker. Although the base two-wheel-drive LS versions of both trucks have increased by just $1000 (to $45,595 for a Tahoe $48,295 for a Suburban), the more popular, higher-trim 4x4s are up by a lot more. The starting price for the Tahoe LT 4x4 has grown by $2510 (to $53,995) and by $2650 for an LTZ. The Suburban 4x4 LTZ jumped $3300, to $65,695. Tap into the richer vein of options, and prices climb still more. The Suburban 4x4 LTZ we drove sported a sticker price of $71,090.

Overall, the strengths and character of the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban remain as before. The upgraded interiors, longer equipment list, and quieter ride make them more credible premium products—which is a good thing, considering their more premium price.


2015 Chevrolet Tahoe / 2015 Chevrolet Suburban

On sale:Now
Base price:$45,595/$48,295 (Tahoe/Suburban)
Engine:5.3-liter V-8
Power:355 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque:383 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Transmission:6-speed automatic
Drive:Rear- or 4-wheel
Curb weight:5466–5683/5664–5896 lb (Tahoe/Suburban)
Cargo capacity:94.7/51.6/15.3 cu ft (Tahoe, behind 1st/2nd/3rd seats); 121.1/76.7/39.3 cu ft (Suburban, behind 1st/2nd/3rd seats)
Maximum towing capacity:8600/8300 lb (Tahoe/Suburban)
Fuel economy:16/23 mpg (Tahoe/Suburban 2WD), 16/22 mpg (Tahoe 4WD), 15/22 mpg (Suburban 4WD)

ATrain145
Why is there no all around view camera  system. A lot of the competitors have it available. Seems like a natural fit in this case
Greg Narinian
It is a shame GM is still way behind in the automotive world...Same OLD same OLD...I have had 3 suburbans in the past for my Dog Showing days...GREAT Haulers..my Goldens loved the room...But to tell the truth the vehicle hasn't really changed in 20 years...Why oh Why hasn't GM gone to a CLEAN DIESEL ????? That gets 33 MPG.   with gobs more power and torque...a shame...sure they have the large SUV market but they would DOUBLE or TRIPLE sales worldwide with a clean burn DIESEL...WAKE UP !!!!
lray-801
Good lord...who designed those wrap-around lights and thought it was a good idea to leave the body protruding into them...?
WAFIII
Nice looking Suburban updates - and glad to learn the engine is finally direct injected - but it's lunacy to still have the same old 6-speed transmission when 7, 8, & 9-speed transmissions are already in other companies' vehicles. And a 1-gallon improvement in mileage over last year? Are you nuts? I realize most don't buy these vehicles for mileage, but come on, GM/Chevrolet/Cadillac/GMC: try and do something more to improve the mileage. The technology is already out there.I'm waiting.
Brian21
Saw these at the Baltimore Auto Show.  They're 2.5 inches shorter which apparently came directly out of the available headroom.  Equipped with a sunroof, the Tahoe LTZ I sat in no longer has enough headroom for my long-waisted, 6'5" body.  Ironic since since trucks are usually a slam-dunk for me.  Sorry, Chevy, off my wish list.  
JohnLuma
Good article, but... But my question is -- When are the SUV folks gonna design something special? These are the same blah designs as the 1997 Ford Expedition I owned... almost 20 years ago!
Come on, designers. Dump the slow "design evolution" history and start creating advanced Aventador-styled looks for the SUV industry. You are stuck in neutral and have been for a long, long time. Yeah, practicality AND IMAGINATION. 
Wolf47
I hate these huge trucks that clog the roads.  I can't imagine why people feel they need them.  I guess obesity is a major contributing factor, can't feel comfortable in a bucket seat when you have a 50 inch waist. 
tt618
These are nice looking SUV's and GM has really gotten on board the luxury band wagon with their recent interiors.  Ford doesn't even seem to want to give GM a run for it's money.   I'm also surprised the Ram doesn't try a full-sized SUV based on it's truck architecture as it's been successful.

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