published Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Test Drive: Tahoe gets face-lift, more refinement

The redesigned Chevy Tahoe has new sheet metal and a new headlight treatment.
The redesigned Chevy Tahoe has new sheet metal and a new headlight treatment.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LTZ

* Exterior color: Champagne Silver Metallic

* Interior color: Cocoa and Dune

* Engine: 5.3-liter V-8

* Horsepower: 355

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 23 mpg highway, 16 mpg city

* Dealer: Walter Jackson Chevrolet (Ringgold)

* Price (as tested): $62,750

Chevrolet’s full-size Tahoe SUV is the official pace car of the Chattanooga Area Soccer Moms’ Grand Prix.

The Tahoe, and its big brother the Chevy Suburban (which is 18 inches longer), share parts and personality with Chevy’s Silverado pickup trucks. The two Chevy SUVs, along with the similar GMC Yukon, are dominant in the truck-based SUV market segment.

Earlier this week, we tested a redesigned-for-2015 Chevy Tahoe LTZ from Walter Jackson Chevrolet in Ringgold, Ga., and it’s evident that The General has lavished improvements on this highly prized family hauler. GM sells more than 100,000 Tahoes and Suburbans a year. At $50,000-plus per unit, on average, that’s a lot of cash and contributes mightily to GM’s bottom line.

When you size up the Tahoe’s truck-like profile, you assume the ride will be similarly “truckish.” But that’s not the case. Thanks to a unique “magnetic” suspension in the LTZ trim and lots of sound-dampening technology, the Tahoe is one of the quietest, smoothest-running big SUVs we’ve ever tested. In fact, with its commodious interior, the Tahoe feels like the first-class cabin in a commercial jet.

Pricing for the Tahoe starts at $44,000 and accelerates quickly. Our two-wheel-drive LTZ tester has an MSRP of $62,750.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The 2015 Tahoe boasts a host of sheet-metal changes that give the SUV a more upscale appearance. A new sculpted hood and swept-back projector-beam headlights create visual interest and round off some of the sharp edges inherent in a SUV that’s 17 feet long and almost seven feet wide. There’s also a nice character line that runs down the shoulder of the Tahoe that gives it a more buttoned-down appearance. GM notes that not a single panel of the Tahoe’s sheet metal is shared with GM pickups, although many of the mechanical parts are the same.

Sales manager Bob Lollar at Walter Jackson Chevrolet was eager to show off the new power up and down buttons for the second- and third-row seats, that can almost instantly convert the Tahoe from a seven-passenger bus to a cargo carrier big enough to haul the entire contents of a college dorm room. Among the improvements for 2015, the new Tahoe has two inches of added leg room for second-row passengers.

Seating surfaces in our tester were covered in rich brown leather, and the front seats are both heated and ventilated. The interior is two-tone, blending Cocoa and Dune tones with dashes of wood trim. Our Tahoe also came with an optional moon roof and rear-seat DVD system.

Head and leg room are generous for all passengers, and the quiet ride contributes to a remarkably comfortable environment inside the big SUV, which is assembled at a GM plant in Arlington, Texas.

An eight-inch color touch screen serves as the Tahoe’s infotainment hub and includes Chevy’s useful Mylink interface which allows you to connect up to 10 devices via Bluetooth, GM says. Our tester also had keyless entry and push-button start features.

GM has stocked the Tahoe with a host of cutting-edge safety features, including blind-spot and lane-change alerts. These monitors work in a near 360-degree circle around the Tahoe — the equivalent of a safety-shield.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Tahoe is powered by a refined EcoTech3 5.3-liter V-8 engine, which deploys cylinder shut-down technology that allows the SUV to operate in four-cylinder cruising mode during freeway driving. But when you need plenty of grunt the Tahoe delivers 355 horsepower and a towing capacity of up to 8,500 pounds.

On our test drive along I-75, the Tahoe proved to be a well-mannered cruiser, with plenty of power available for passing and merging. The suspension is a refinements of GMs Magnetic Ride Control that uses sensors to adjust the damping to road imperfections in tiny fractions of a second.

The transmission is a silky six-speed automatic, and pairs well with the V-8. Our test vehicle came in two-wheel-drive, but four-wheel-drive is an option.

BOTTOM LINE

Overall, the Tahoe is the culmination of many generations of improvements in the GM SUV line and represents the pinnacle of comfort and functionality in the segment.

Advances in efficiency also allow this 5400-pound SUV to squeeze out 23 miles per gallon highway, which is a true testament to GM’s engineering prowess.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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