The New GM Line-up
Prior to the big September reveal of the 2015 GM fullsize SUVs and Silverado HD pickups, Four Wheeler was invited to Detroit, Michigan, for a special sneak peek at these vehicles in static display. These two segments, fullsize SUVs and heavy-duty pickups, are very important to GM. For example, GM says that the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban are the number one selling fullsize SUVs in the U.S., representing over 50 percent of the segment. On the heavy-duty pickup side of things, GM says that over 25 percent of pickups sold in the U.S. are heavy-duty models, and of those, GM has 36 percent of the market share (Chevy 24 percent, GMC 12 percent), which puts GM only 2 percent behind Ford and 10 percent ahead of Ram.
What does this all mean to you? Well, it means that GM is aiming to give fullsize SUV buyers and heavy-duty truck buyers more of what they want in an effort to continue to dominate these two respective markets. Will these new trucks and SUVs help them accomplish that goal? You be the judge. Here are some of the highlights of the newest GM fullsize SUVs and heavy-duty pickups.
2015 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL
The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s a significant difference in exterior styling between the Chevy and GMC. This was by design to differentiate the vehicles and they have brand-specific hoods, grilles, fascias, fenders, and headlamps. The commonalities of the vehicles include all-new sheetmetal, a lightweight aluminum hood and liftgate, a rear spoiler with integrated rear window wiper (for a cleaner look), inlaid doors that fit into the body side openings (significantly improves the quietness of the cabin and improves aerodynamics) and triple door seals. Inside, there are new fold-flat second- and third-row seats, improved second-row roominess, center-mounted HVAC, improved ingress and egress for second- and third-row passengers, a high-volume center console, all-new seats, and a focus on storage for all passengers, among other things. There’s also the latest-and-greatest in technology, safety, and security equipment. The overall width of the vehicles is virtually unchanged while the overall length of the new vehicles has increased by about two inches.
Under the hood, the SUVs get the new EcoTec3 5.3L FlexFuel V-8 that produces 355hp and 383 lb-ft of torque (this is a 35hp and 48 lb-ft of torque increase over the outgoing Vortec 5.3L V-8). The engine’s features include direct injection and cylinder deactivation. GMC Yukon Denali models will be powered by the EcoTec3 6.2L V-8 that puts out an impressive 420hp and 460 lb-ft of torque (17 more hp and 43 more lb-ft of torque than the outgoing Vortec 6.2L V-8). All engines are mated to a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission with TapShift control, tow/haul mode, and Auto Grade Braking. Power is sent to the axles via a two-speed transfer case that is the same model as in the ’14 SUVs (the single-speed T-case is no longer offered). The electric-shift T-case offers Auto, 2WD, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo settings. The front differential is the same as is found in the previous generation SUVs, but the solid rear axle is now the 9½-inch unit. The final drive ratio is 3:42:1 and a G80 locker is available. The front suspension is still the coil-over-shock IFS configuration and the rear still uses a leaf spring/shock setup (third-generation magnetic ride control real-time damping system is standard on GMC Denali and Chevy Tahoe and Suburban in LTZ trim). The SUVs now have electric variable-assist power steering (enhances fuel economy and tailors steering assist to vehicle speed) and larger four-wheel disc brakes with Duralife rotors.
What We Think
We’re happy to see that GM didn’t do something radical like equip the SUVs with an independent rear suspension. We’re disappointed that we don’t see an off-road package for the Chevy or GMC, like the Z71 or All-Terrain packages found on the ½-ton pickups. We think the exterior styling is fresh, without wandering too far from the styling we really like on the ’14 GM SUVs. We think that the interiors of these vehicles are functional and handsome, and the Denali trim is downright opulent. We’re looking forward to some driving time in these rigs to see how all of the changes culminate on-road and off.
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2015 Chevy Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD
The 2015 Silverado and Sierra HD pickup trucks are major updates on trucks that were all-new under the skin for 2011. With that said, the 2015 HDs get an all-new cab and all-new interior that are shared with the Silverado and Sierra ½-ton pickups (you can read about the ’14 Silverado cab and interior by searching “Hi-Ho Silver” at www.fourwheeler.com. GM says that based on the rave reviews for these quiet and well-isolated interiors, the company wants to bring the same level of refinement to its HD pickups. Like the GM SUVs, each brand of truck gets its own styling treatment. Further, you’ll notice the front end styling for each of these trucks is different than the 2014 ½-ton GM trucks. Also worth noting is that the HD trucks sit 2 inches taller than their ½-ton counterparts. The hood louvers of the previous generation are gone and the hoods are steel, not aluminum like the ½-ton GM trucks. The new trucks have a sealed front end that uses cooling air more efficiently and the engine air intake is isolated from the hot engine compartment to keep intake air cooler. Out back, the cargo bed offers all the cool features of the ½-ton truck, including under rail LED lighting, hand assists molded into the standard box rail protectors, upper tie-down points, CornerStep rear bumper, and EZ Lift and Lower tailgate. And yes, these items are also available on the dualie bed found on the 1-ton truck.
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The drivetrain of the ’15 HD trucks is mostly carryover from the ’14 HD trucks. There’s a choice of a standard 6.0L Vortec V-8 (mated to a Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission) that makes 360hp and 380 lb-ft of torque or a Duramax turbodiesel V-8 that produces 397hp and 765 lb-ft of torque (it’s mated to an Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission). There’s also an available 6.0L bi-fuel-capable V-8 that can run on either gasoline or CNG. The transfer case, front differential, and rear axle are all said to be carryover from the previous generation as is the independent front suspension and leaf-spring rear suspension. The G80 locker returns for 2015 and it’s standard on 3500HD and optional on 2500HD trucks.
And for those who tow and haul, GM says that the ’15 HD trucks have increased payload and towing. The company claims a best-in-class maximum payload of 7,374 pounds, conventional towing maximum of 19,700 pounds (with factory hitch), and a fifth-wheel towing maximum of 23,200 pounds, depending on model.
What We Think
We’re digging having many of the latest-and-greatest features of the new GM ½-ton pickups on the proven HD underpinnings. We dig the snarling Duramax turbodiesel, but we would like to see the long-in-the-tooth Vortec 6.0L V-8 replaced with the more powerful EcoTec3 6.2L V-8. Maybe for the 2016 model year? Details were minimal at press time, but we’re told that the Chevy will be available with an off-road package, which is good. We assume the GMC will follow suit. It looks to us like the new HD trucks do a fine job of increasing capability and comfort. We’ll see how it all comes together when we get behind the wheel.