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Driving the New 2015 GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe/Suburban SUVs

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on March 25, 2014 Comment (0)
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Driving the New 2015 GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe/Suburban SUVs
Photographers: Brian Vance

If we were to sum up the redesigned GM SUVs in one word, that word would be refinement. The 2015 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon and GMC Yukon XL (plus their highend Denali counterparts) have a butter-smooth on-road ride and are whisper quiet even at highway speeds, thanks to a lot of attention paid to suspension tuning, body structure, and interior materials. They have benefitted from some wellthought- out interior revisions, like foldflat second- and third-row seats, to make them even more practical than before. If you have a big family—or a small sports team—you’d have to get into a minivan (yuck!) to find a vehicle better suited for hauling people and their stuff.

That’s the good news. Here’s the not so-good: With the exception of the Denali models, all of these SUVs are powered by GM’s 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8, even the long wheel base versions, which tip the scales at close to 3 tons. Now, the 5.3 isn’t a bad engine; it’s smooth and promises to deliver decent fuel economy. But 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque are just adequate for moving around these big guys. And we drove them unloaded. Adding gear and a few thousand pounds of trailer would surely sap their strength big-time, no matter how clever the tow/haul mode is in the six-speed automatic. (Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon 4x4s are rated to tow 8,400 pounds; Suburban and GMC Yukon XL 8,000.)

You have to step up to GMC Yukon Denali territory to get the 6.2L EcoTec3 V-8, with a romping 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy drops—from 16 city, 22 highway for 4x4s with the 5.3 to 14 city, 21 highway with the 6.2—but the big grin you’ll wear every time you plant your right foot just may be worth it.

Well, maybe. The 4WD GMC Yukon XL Denali we sampled had an as-tested price of (are you sitting down?) $77,470. That’s about as fully loaded as you can get, with retractable sidesteps, adaptive cruise control, 22-inch rims, a sunroof, and DVD screens all the way to the third-seating row. Knock off the big-ticket options and the LWB Denali is still $68,300. The Chevrolet models aren’t much cheaper: The loaded 4WD Suburban LTZ we drove stickered for $71,385. That included the sunroof, MyLink audio system and nav, adaptive cruise control, and a trailering package that adds 3.42 axles and a trailer brake controller.

Our time in the SUVs was brief, just a High-end Denali versions of the few hours in each model, all on pavement. But that’s really where they belong. Front air dams on all models hang way low to improve aerodynamics for fuel economy, making them easy targets for rocks or tall roots. Interior fabrics are pretty posh and not exactly of the hose-out variety. Vinyl seat/rubber mat models exist, but only for fleet buyers. Joe Average Consumer isn’t allowed to own one of those, we were told.

The SUVs are in dealer showrooms now. Chevy execs hinted that there may be a Z71 option package to come, hopefully with some attention paid to low-hanging body pieces as well as the shock absorbers. And when we asked about a 3/4-ton version, the answer was “not in 2015.”

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