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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe road test: more practical, more luxurious

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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT

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General Motors pretty much has a lock on the traditional full-size, truck-based sport-utility vehicle, so it would only seem natural that the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, along with the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

That is not to say that the Tahoe, et al, have undergone only minor upgrades. These offshoots of GM’s full-size pickup trucks drive better, ride better and are more comfortable, more convenient, more fuel efficient and more luxurious than their predecessors.

They still do not equal the family-friendly comfort of the GM crossovers --- Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Acadia and Buck Enclave --- but they have what the crossovers do not --- the rugged capability of a pickup truck and a better towing capacity.

The specific SUV provided for my inspection was the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT, which slots between the base LS and the top-of-the-line LTZ in the model lineup.

Perhaps to better distinguish between SUV and crossover, the designers have turned away from the softer contours of the previous model and given the 2015 Tahoe a more angular, slab-sided appearance. General Motors says the new styling is more aerodynamic and that helps to make the interior quieter.

I’m not sure that I fully appreciate the change, but I’m pretty certain the new design will not offend anyone who determines that a traditional full-size SUV best suits his or her needs.

In any case, the new Tahoe is basically the same size as the old. The wheelbase remains at 116 inches, length has grown by a scant 2 inches and the width has expanded by 1½ inches. Height, however, has decreased by about 2.5 inches.

The vehicle is still capable of carrying up to nine passengers in three rows, depending on the seating configuration. If you are planning on nine, make sure a couple of them are small children.

Cargo capacity, while still generous, has actually diminished a bit. The reason is that it was necessary to raise the cabin floor to allow the second- and third-row seats to fold flat.

The good news is that it no longer is necessary to remove the heavy third-row seats to expand cargo space. In addition, the rear door openings are larger, making it easier to climb into and out of the second-row seats.

Further enhancing the usability of the test vehicle were optional power-folding second and third row seats. The 60/40 seatbacks (optional for the third row) fold independently, providing more options for stowing cargo.

On the downside, the raised floor means that, like before, legroom is compromised in the third-row seats.

Tahoe buyers will get 94.7 cubic feet of space with second and third rows folded forward, 51.6 cubic feet with only the third row folded and 15.3 cubic feet with all seating in place.

Towing capacity, an important consideration for many traditional SUV buyers, is 8,400 pounds for the four-wheel drive vehicles and 8,600 pounds for two-wheel-drive models.

The Tahoe is powered by an upgraded 5.3-liter V-8 engine that produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission and able to switch automatically to four-cylinder operation under light loads, the powerplant returns an EPA-estimated 16 miles per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

In my week with the four-wheel-drive Tahoe, which was mostly highway travel, I averaged 20 mpg. Expect a lot less if you will be lumbering around town with a cabin full of passengers and a boat in tow.

Steering is electrically powered rack-and-pinion and brakes are beefy four-wheel discs with vented front and rear rotors. Suspension is independent with twin-tube shock absorbers in the front and a five-link solid axle with coil springs at the rear.

The result is that the 2015 truck offers somewhat more responsive driving dynamics and a more comfortable ride on smooth surfaces. However, if you are on rutted urban roads or on highways undergoing reconstruction (I’m talking about you, New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway.), the Tahoe’s truck roots are readily apparent.

Safety equipment includes a full complement of airbags and curtains, rear-vision camera, lane departure warning, forward collision alert and 6 months of the OnStar emergency communications system. A safety alert seat transmits warnings to the driver through the seat bottom.

The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LT with four-wheel drive has a base price of $53,000, and that includes a power rear liftgate with programmable height setting, leather upholstery, power front bucket seats with heaters, remote vehicle start, power adjustable pedals, tri-zone climate control, premium sound system and MyLink infotaiment system with 8-inch diagonal touch screen.

The $7,360 in options on the test vehicle included a power sunroof, navigation, rear seat entertainment system, 9 months of satellite radio, keyless entry and ignition, heated steering wheel, front and rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot alert, heated second row seats and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.

Add everything together and this mid-level Tahoe has a suggested asking price of $60,855.

No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money. But you get the amenities of a luxury sedan in a rugged vehicle that is suitable for family travel, off-road adventures and towing boats and recreational vehicles. For the right buyer, this Tahoe presses all the right buttons.

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