2015 Chevrolet Tahoe road test: New and improved; just as tough

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT

Don’t mess with success! One has to guess that, in essence, was the order from General Motors headquarters as designers and engineers went to work in developing the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and its close relatives from GMC and Cadillac.

After all, GM pretty much has a lock on the traditional full-size, truck-based sport-utility vehicle, so it seems only natural that the 2015 Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe front seats

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe front seats

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.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe instruments

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe instruments

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.