Strengths and weaknesses:
- Quiet and smooth drive
- Automatic fold-down seats
- Nimble handling
- A plethora of technology and safety alerts
- Centre Console can interfere with driving
GM full-size SUVs grow in size, value
Lake Tahoe, CA – If you're looking for a full-size SUV, you need size, space, technology, and connectivity, possibly towing capabilities and then some more size and space. Times have changed, however, and consumers aren't wrong in demanding something that's more fuel efficient. If all automakers are headed in that direction, there's no reason that full-size SUV lovers should suffer any longer – cue the Dr. Phil music.
The SUVs we're talking about are the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL and the GMC Yukon Denali. They're all on-hand at a recent first drive event in Lake Tahoe, California to be tested for the first time.
The Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL utilize a brand-new all-aluminum EcoTec3 5.3-litre V8 engine to help solve those fuel efficiency problems. The GMC Yukon Denali - the premium variant - receives the EcoTec3 6.2-litre V8 with similar results. What makes these V8's "EcoTec" are their direct injection, variable valve timing, and Active Fuel Management system that allow for half of the cylinders to be deactivated. It's an identical system to the one found in the GMC Sierra. The cylinder deactivation is seamless and only noticeable from the notification on the instrument panel.
Let's start with engine numbers for the Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and GMC Yukon, all of which are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. These 2015 models put out 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. As for the Yukon Denali, the 6.2-litre V8 destroys those other numbers with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, albeit with a higher price.
The Tahoe and Suburban have unique projector headlights that flow well with its dual-port chrome grille. For the GMC brand, the Yukon's circular chrome grille gives it that tough-but-refined style accompanied by LED headlights that extend close to the hood with the words GMC inside.
I can continue talking about the outside, but the inside is where all the action is. All of the vehicles I test come with a standard eight-inch MyLink touchscreen that has a rear camera and many more goodies that for the most part can all be controlled through voice command. They also have three-rows of seating with connectivity up the wazoo, and television screens for both rows as options.
If you need them to transform these SUVs into cargo haulers, just press a button and presto-chango – the seats automatically fold down or up. Gone are the days of physically removing the third-row seats while hurting your back and cursing whoever was in earshot.
In terms of size, the Suburban and Yukon XL get grouped together and provide you the most cargo space, thanks to a wheelbase of 130 inches and an overall length of 224 inches. The Tahoe and regular Yukon, meanwhile, are 14 inches smaller in wheelbase, and have an overall length of approximately 204 inches. This adds up to more legroom and 26.4 cubic feet of cargo space for the Suburban and Yukon XL buyers. The Denali versions don't change in size from the various Yukon additions – just in performance and luxury design.
All of the GM products drive effortlessly with only a little growl when going uphill during my drive through the curvy roads of Northern California. Nimble handling is assisted by GM's new electric variable-assist power steering. The vehicles confidently go wherever I guide them, in a calm and controlled manner. I find the Tahoe to be the lightest of the bunch, as it easily swerves its way to the next destination. It cruises at speeds of 120 km/h without any vibration, nor road noise seeping through the cabin.
I come away impressed with the versatility of this beastly quartet. While driving, they can feel like a compact SUV when you want them to, yet they can also achieve similar feats as a mid-size truck with a tow/haul mode.
Throughout the drive, I have a love-hate relationship going on with the massive centre console. I love the fact that it's large enough to store a laptop, and its compartments can be very convenient during long drives. On the other hand, my elbows keep whacking it during right hand turns.
The pricing won't blow you away, as none of these SUVs come cheap, nor should they. GM has managed to lower pricing slightly compared to the outgoing models, while improving them all-around. Look for all of these models to be released in the spring.
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL
Starting Prices (before taxes): Tahoe 2WD ($49, 155); Tahoe 4WD ($52,455); Suburban 2WD ($52,145); Suburban 4WD ($55,445); Yukon 2WD ($51,090); Yukon 4WD ($54,390); Yukon 4WD Denali ($73,540); Yukon XL 2WD ($54,080); Yukon XL 4WD ($57,380); Yukon XL Denali ($76,530).
Configuration: front-engine, four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 5.3L V8 and 6.2L V8 (Denali) / 6-spd automatic
Power/torque: 355 hp and 420 hp (Denali)/ 383 lb-ft and 460 lb-ft (Denali)
Fuel (capacity): 98L (Tahoe and Yukon); 117L (Suburban and Yukon XL)
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km (basic), 5 years/160,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Expedition, Dodge Durango, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover Sport SE
Report Card (out of 10):
Fuel Economy: 7 – For a roster of full-size SUVs, I'm impressed.
Equipment level: 8 – GM offers plenty of standard equipment throughout their line-up.
Price: 7 – It's not a cheap segment – price is around expectation.
Styling: 8 – Hard to make such a monster look exceptional – they've done a decent job especially in the interior.
Comfort (front): 8 – The GMC's are a step-up, but can be very pleasant on long drives.
Comfort (rear): 9 – Tons of headroom and legroom – all you can ask for.
Handling: 9 – For how big it is, it handles like a compact SUV.
Performance: 9 – Has just the right amount of power. If you need more – go for the Yukon Denali.
Storage: 10 – Simplistic fold-down seat system and room for more hockey bags than you can count.
Overall: 8 – An all-around fantastic roster GM has rolled out. Can't find much fault here.