2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (© General Motors)Click to enlarge picture

Chevrolet redesigns the full-size Tahoe for the first time since 2007. The basic structure stays the same, but the Tahoe gets a new design, a new engine and an upgraded interior. Towing capacity is up slightly to 8,600 pounds.

Some 200 million years ago an abundance of plant matter and possibly atmospheric oxygen gave rise to dinosaurs that could weigh as much as 65 tons. These massive creatures seemed virtually indestructible, but then 66 million years ago a giant asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula, creating an "impact winter" and wiping out the dinosaurs. Sixty-six million years later man turned the compacted remains of ancient organisms, including the dinosaurs, into cheap fossil fuels, giving rise to another behemoth — the full-size, truck-based SUV.

The SUV grew in popularity in the 1990s, even acting as family transportation, until gas prices rose sharply in the mid-2000s. The SUVs didn't go extinct, but sales fell sharply as the automakers built more reasonable forms of transportation that served families better. Now, after years of ignoring its full-size SUVs, General Motors is updating the Chevrolet Tahoe, along with the Suburban and GMC Yukon. We journeyed to California to drive the new behemoths and decide if they have a place in today's market or if they should fade into extinction.

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Model lineup
We drove all of GM's full-size SUVs, all of which are based on the same platform, and we will review the most popular version here, the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe. The Tahoe is offered in three trim levels — LS, LT and LTZ — each with rear- or 4-wheel drive.

Standard equipment in the $46,090 LS includes cloth upholstery, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, AM/FM/HD radio with a 4.2-inch center screen, satellite radio, two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar, remote starting, tri-zone automatic climate control, rear park assist, a rearview camera and 18-inch alloy wheels. The $51,490 LT trim additions include heated leather front seats, an 8-inch center touch screen, three additional USB ports, voice recognition, universal garage door opener, power adjustable pedals, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Bose audio system, power rear liftgate, forward collision alert, and lane departure warning.

The $60,785 LTZ gets even more goodies, including leather heated and cooled front seats, power-release heated second-row seats, power folding third-row seats, heated steering wheel, Bose CenterPoint surround sound audio system, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, keyless entry and starting, front park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, side blind-zone alert, HID headlights and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.

View Pictures:  2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

Under the hood
The 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe comes with just one engine, the all-new EcoTec3 5.3-liter V8. This engine, which can also run on E85 ethanol, replaces an engine of the same size, but it has direct injection, variable valve timing, and GM's Active Fuel Management, which shuts down four cylinders under light load conditions to save fuel. Output increases from 320 to 355 horsepower and 335 to 383 lb-ft of torque, and fuel economy improves from 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway with rear- or 4-wheel drive to 16/23 mpg with rear drive and 16/22 mpg with 4-wheel drive. The lone transmission is a 6-speed automatic.

Capability increases slightly for 2015, as maximum towing capacity goes from 8,500 to 8,600 pounds.

The Tahoe's 4-wheel-drive system includes low-range gearing for off-roading.

Inner space
The 2015 Tahoe rides the same architecture as the last model. Instead of updating its already capable chassis, Chevrolet concentrated on giving it a more luxurious and versatile interior. The new interior features upgraded materials in an open, inviting design. Soft-touch surfaces are now found on the dash, door tops, and other major touch points. The look and feel are much more upscale, which is appropriate because buyers are paying more.

While it doesn't share any panels with the Silverado pickup, the Tahoe's cabin benefits from the same philosophy applied to the pickup cabs — doors are inlaid into the sides of the vehicle rather than extending into the roof. This configuration, along with considerable effort to block noise with sound deadener and an aerodynamic new design, help make the Tahoe's cabin impressively quiet.