NAPA, Calif. -- It has been eight years since the last redesign of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. Some owners have been waiting even longer than that.
The average General Motors big SUV has been lumbering along the roads for about 11 years. That means there ought to be plenty of pent-up demand for the 2015 models, in spite of sticker prices that range from an extra $2,500 for a popular Tahoe model to nearly $7,000 more for a Yukon Denali XL.
The SUVs feature clean, contemporary designs, a more powerful yet more fuel efficient powertrain and a hushed interior that has been improved to vanquish some key complaints about the outgoing generation. They began arriving in dealerships last month.
The basics: The SUVs are still built on the same platform as GM's recently redesigned pickups. But for the first time, the SUVs don't share any sheet metal with their pickup brethren, giving designers more flexibility. The body sides on the Yukons, for instance, are more sculpted and have a higher beltline, giving the SUVs a "clean, classic" profile, lead exterior designer Chip Thole said last week during a media test drive here.
Designers distinguished the Chevys from the GMCs more so than in the past. Each gets unique front and rear fascias, and aluminum hoods and liftgates. The Yukon features C-shaped headlights with high-intensity discharge lamps, and a similar look for the taillights. The faces of the Tahoe and Suburban look more contemporary, with a chiseled look to the headlights and deeper dual-port grille.
The powertrain lineup features two of the new V-8 engines that debuted on the pickups. A 5.3-liter returns 355 hp, 11 percent more than the outgoing models, and 383 pounds-feet of torque, up 14 percent. The engine offered plenty of get-up while climbing steep mountain grades. The upscale Denali versions of the Yukon and Yukon XL step up to a standard 6.2-liter under the hood, putting out 420 hp and 460 pounds-feet of torque.
All of the SUVs feature premium-level interiors and the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink and GMC IntelliLink infotainment systems, which are more responsive and intuitive than previous iterations. Triple-sealed doors, laminated front door glass and additional acoustic padding under the floor and dash leave the cabin quiet enough for normal front-to-back seat conversations even at highway speeds.