By ANN M. JOB
The Associated Press
The big, 2015 Tahoe sport utility vehicle is thriving at Chevrolet, thanks to updated styling, a more powerful V-8, improved second-row legroom, more towing capacity and new features.
Evidently, fuel mileage -- a combined city/highway rating of 18 mpg -- isn't a deal breaker for buyers. Mileage improved just 1 mile per gallon over the previous Tahoe.
U.S. sales of the Tahoe through July this calendar year, which include the 2015 Tahoe that arrived as an early model-year introduction, are up 18 percent from year-ago levels. The 2015 Tahoe is a rare breed of vehicle.
It can be equipped with seats for nine, or as few as six. Headroom in all three rows of seats in the Tahoe is more than 38 inches, and front-seat legroom of 45.3 inches is professional basketball player size. Towing capacity of 8,600 pounds is on par with some pickup trucks.
And while most SUVs have switched to car platforms and lower ride heights as newfangled crossover SUVs, the Tahoe remains planted on the strong Chevrolet Silverado platform.
So buyers aren't afraid of heading off-road to vacation cabins and venturing through the snow to ski lodges. The Tahoe's truck platform also provides command-view ride height that minivan riders can only dream about.
There is, simply, nothing diminutive about this 17-foot-long SUV, and that includes the price.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, rear-wheel drive, 2015 Tahoe LS with 355-horsepower V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission is $45,890. This is an increase of nearly $1,300 from the base 2014 Tahoe with rear-wheel drive.
The lowest starting retail price for a four-wheel drive, 2015 Tahoe is $48,890. This is up from the $47,595 starting retail price for a 2014 Tahoe with four wheel drive.
Competitors include other full-size SUVs with three rows of seats, such as the 2014 Ford Expedition which has a starting retail price of $43,170 for a two-wheel drive model and $46,070 with four-wheel drive. Note that the Tahoe's sales this year of 56,621 more than double the sales of the 2014 Expedition, which comes with a 310-horsepower V-8.
Another competitor, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz GL, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $63,925 with 240-horsepower, turbodiesel V-6. Gasoline engines also are available. But fewer than 15,000 GLs have been sold in the United States so far this year.
A 5.3-liter, gasoline V-8 -- now with direct injection and increased torque of 383 foot-pounds at 4,100 rpm -- powered the four-wheel drive, 2015 Tahoe LTZ test vehicle easily. Response to slight pushes of the accelerator wasn't immediate, but a strong stab to the pedal brought strong response. Shifts were almost imperceptible from the six-speed automatic.
Through it all, the Tahoe interior was quiet enough for the driver to converse with third-row passengers. Even wind noise around the Tahoe was noticeably muted.
Gasoline mileage, though, averaged only 14 mpg in majority city driving in the tester. This was below the federal government fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on highways for the test model. Additionally, this translated into a travel range of only 364 miles. Yet the Tahoe's 26-gallon gas tank could cost $90 to fill at today's average price for regular gasoline.
With the same, lengthy, 116-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, the 2015 Tahoe capably minimized the up-and-down bobbing effect that shorter vehicles get when traveling over road expansion cracks. The ride was smooth on most streets, with the LTZ's standard Magnetic Ride Control doing a great job keeping the big vehicle body tightly managed.
Steering had a light feel, but not too light. And brake pedal feel is improved from that in earlier Tahoes.
Passengers climbed up a ways to get inside, but well-placed handles reduced fumbling.
Third-row riders only get 24.8 inches of legroom, and seat cushions are just inches from the floor.
The new, bigger center console in between the front seats is commodious.
For the first time, the Tahoe can be had with power, second- and third-row seats that go up and down via push button.
And while a rearview camera is standard, there is no all-around-the-vehicle camera available as there is on some other SUVs. The 2015 Tahoe, like its 2011 to 2014 predecessors, is rated four out of five stars overall in federal government crash tests.
Passenger protection in frontal and side crash tests was the best -- five stars. But the potential for the high-riding Tahoe to roll over garnered three out of five stars.
The 2015 Tahoe has been the subject of four safety recalls this calendar year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a recall announced in June involved an electrical short that might cause the transfer case on certain Tahoes to move into neutral. If this occurs in a Tahoe that is parked without the parking brake on, the vehicle could roll away. If the transfer case moves to neutral while the vehicle is traveling, drive power would be lost, creating the risk of a crash.
An additional safety recall announced in June on some Tahoes was for radios that might stop working. This would render inoperative the chime that warns drivers when a seat belt is not buckled.
A May 2014 safety recall was for tie rod attachments that might not be properly tightened, which could result in a loss of steering.
A March 2014 safety recall on the 2015 Tahoe was for a transmission oil cooler line that might not be properly secured such that oil might leak and cause a vehicle fire.