VIA Winnipeg Free Press: One million years from now, archeologists will unearth the most popular breed of SUV that ever graced the globe.
Whole herds of Chevrolet Suburbans, Tahoes and GMC Yukons will be dug up, dusted off and defined as a signature of our brief time on Earth. Heck, if they find the keys to one of these big SUVs, it might even start.
Fully refreshed for 2015, America’s favourite full-size SUV — and loved by the RCMP, OPP and FBI — has been refashioned from the frame up.
Gone are those stupid, lift-out third-row seats that not only took up space elsewhere when removed but had the potential to topple anyone who lifted them out because they were heavier than a La-Z-Boy recliner. The new third-row seats fold almost flat with the touch of a button, creating a cave inside that — I kid you not — could carry home a couch.
Indeed, the love for this full-sized SUV comes largely from big families, even for those who believe eight is not enough, because up to nine can easily fit into one of the XL models, which stretch 20 inches longer than a standard Yukon or Tahoe.
Even with all three rows of seats in place, there’s room in the XL for two or more hockey bags behind the third row. Plus, a neat hideaway area under the cargo deck could stow enough Coke Zero, licorice and chips to keep all the hamsters happy for days.
Total cargo room in the XL, with all seats folded, is 121 cubic feet — 94.7 cubic feet in non-XL models. That’s huge. Missing at the very back, however, is ample cargo light.
Something else missing from the Yukon, Suburban and Tahoe, especially the Denali versions: noise. Laminated windshield and front-door glass, along with enough cabin insulation to make Mike Holmes proud, has made these SUVs appreciably quiet. The side mirrors, despite being small, do give off some turbulence, but little else can be heard while cruising, allowing the Bose stereo to do a good job of delivering quality sound.
While the new electric steering lacks the kind of feedback in a Mercedes GL or Toyota Sequoia, it tracks well and is responsive enough. And the ride quality more than makes up for the damped feel in the heated steering wheel.
Thank GM’s next-generation Magnetic Ride Control (available on the LTZ and Denali) for making the suspension firm yet forgiving. Enter a sweeping bend with some speed and the expected lean fails to arrive. Bumps and broken pavement are chewed up by the reworked suspension and, unbeknownst to the driver, spit back out.
No, it’s no Lotus, but it doesn’t feel like an overloaded Chinese coal barge either, even if it hasn’t lost any weight from the use of an aluminum hood, tailgate and front control arms. There’s a manoeuverability that belies the great amount of mass.
The Denali XL, in particular, doesn’t feel as long as a locomotive, even if the rig’s squared proportions might look the part. Coupled with some much-needed stiffening of the boxed frame and new body mounts, GM’s new full-sized SUVs are as easy to drive as they are enjoyable.
New seats proved seriously comfy, and there are enough power outlets and USB ports inside to run a small casino.
The 6.2-litre V-8 in the Denali models, with 420 horsepower and rated at 460 pound-feet of torque, doles out power the way Taylor Swift exudes charm. Hydraulic engine mounts smooth out torque delivery in a noticeable way, leaving no coarseness, even under full throttle.
The direct-injection V-8 does an excellent job of hustling 6,000 pounds about, and it sounds good, too. Of course, it’s not miserly with fuel, even if the 6.2L engine can run on four cylinders when all eight are not needed, but a highway rating of 11.4 L/100 km is nothing to be ashamed about, nor is the 16.2 city rating outrageous. In fact, those are figures we normally see in many pickup trucks.
Unfortunately, the 6.2L is only available in the more expensive Yukon Denali models, leaving the smaller, but more efficient, 5.3-litre V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque to do the lion’s share of hauling in other models.
This engine, along with the EcoTec3 version in the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado, is obviously not as robust as the bigger V-8, but nonetheless feels suited for muscling these big brutes up the mountain with a bunch of snowboarders in the back. The 5.3L can even tow slightly more than the 6.2L, giving the standard-wheelbase Yukon a tow rating of 8,200 pounds for 4WD versions.
Regardless of engine choice, all Yukons, Suburbans and Tahoes employ a Hydra-matic six-speed automatic transmission. While not as quick as a German double-clutch gearbox, this six speed — still controlled by an old-school stalk on the steering column — comes with grade braking and a tow/haul mode that works well. On a twisty mountain road through northern California, the transmission shifted quickly and imperceptibly at a variety of speeds, and the stalk does free up space in the centre console.
That console, elegantly designed to sweep into controls that are easy to see and operate, contains a large cubby under the armrest and a secret cubby behind the eight-inch colour touchscreen. Complete with USB port, it makes it the perfect spot to hide a Garmin, iPhone or other valuable item.
The new exteriors for each model look fresh and attractive. A strong crease along the side of the Yukon ties neatly with the headlamps, and the rear gate has been cleaned up with a wiper that tucks under a high-mount spoiler. Wheels come in 18-, 20- and 22-inch diameters. Projector headlamps, LED lighting and HIDs on Denali and LTZ models bring a higher level of sophistication to these SUVs, which don’t share a single piece of sheet metal with their truck siblings.
The 2015 Yukon, Tahoe and Suburban get a suite of new safety devices and should be harder to steal, thanks to enhanced security features. Along with everything else on these full-size SUVs, that will make the RCMP just as happy as the families who choose one.
Prices starts at $49,155 for 2WD Tahoe models and climb to more than $70,000 for Suburban 4WD models, with the Denali commanding a premium above that.
This article was originally posted on the Winnipeg Free Press.