Predictable updates and a few surprises comprise GM's next-generation SUVs.
September 12, 2013
By: Nick Saporito
For the past 20 years, General Motors has consistently owned one market segment: full-size SUVs. Today, the company has nearly 74 percent market share in full-size SUVs and that number will likely grow with the all-new 2015 models, which are more attractive, more capable and much higher tech.
When setting out to design the new SUVs, GM had four core areas of focus - compelling designs, purposeful features, flawless quality and optimized performance. These subjective areas served as the basis for the entire SUV program, which started with an all-new platform. For 2015, the SUVs have moved to the same new platform that underpins the company’s 2014 pickups, though buyers of these vehicles aren’t likely to care about that technicality.
Also like the pickups, the SUVs will be powered by GM’s new EcoTec3 5.3-liter V-8, with an estimated 355 horsepower and 383 pounds-feet of torque. GMC Denali models will have exclusive access to the new EcoTec3 6.2-liter V-8, which is projected to have a hefty 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque. All engines will mate to six-speed automatic transmissions. GM has not yet finalized EPA fuel economy testing for the SUVs.
The big—and less predictable—news about the SUVs are their new exterior and interior designs.
Over at Chevrolet, the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban take an evolutionary approach to their outsides. Both feature dark headlamp bezels and a freshened take on Chevy’s iconic dual-port grille design, similar to today’s SUVs. The headlamps also take a new approach to the stacked design found on the new Silverado, with an indention of sheet metal from the fender found wrapping slightly around to the front of the lamp. That small design element makes a bold statement and will likely prove to serve as a conversation piece – good or bad, we’re not sure.
On the GMC side, both Yukon models are also evolutionary with front clip designs that mimic the revamped 2013 Acadia crossover closely, which is a good thing. GMC models also feature their signature C-clamp LED accent in the headlamps.
Both Chevy and GMC models have a new greenhouse design, with the two brands sharing the roofline, doors and lift gate only. Each brand has its own fender, hood, front and rear designs. Both brands have a more dynamic exterior design, devoid of the slab-sided look of the current models.
All of the SUVs also have inlaid doors like the new pickups, which reduces cabin wind noise and gives them a subjectively more substantial exterior presence. The new door design will help GM claim the 2015 SUVs as the quietest in the segment.
Now, this is the part where if you are reading this while standing, you will want to sit down. The 2015 SUVs do not share interiors with the trucks. Yes, the long-time trend of the Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon sporting truck interiors has thankfully ended.
In its place is an interior design that would look at home in one of GM’s own car-based crossovers. The overall design is very integrated, with a massive center stack and attached center console. Bench seats will remain available on select base models.
Material quality across both brands is good, with most plastic surfaces being soft touch and matte finish. GMC models, specifically, gain real aluminum and, in the case of Denali, real wood trim, too. Though GM has stuck to its guns and continues to force buyers to a column-mounted shifter.
Backseat passengers see improvements as well, with two additional inches of legroom in the second row. Like the crew cab pickups, the back doors have also been lengthened for easier ingress and egress.
Every seat in the SUVs has been redesigned, with what GM calls their “most comfortable seat ever.” Of which, slimmer second and third row seats fold flat into the cargo floor. No, GM did not switch to independent rear suspensions to make that happen. Actually, GM switched the SUVs to the same, larger 9.5-inch rear axle that the new trucks have. Instead, it added about four inches to the floor – enough space for the seats to fold flat into.
The downside to this approach is that the cargo floor is now unusually high, almost like a hybrid crossover or SUV that has a huge battery in the cargo floor. Since this means buyers will no longer have to risk a hernia to remove the rear seats for added space, it is likely a worthwhile tradeoff. Power folding third row and power folding and tumbling (for third row access) second row seats will be optional.
In addition to seat wizardry, GM has predictably added its entire arsenal of technology to the new SUVs. From the company’s patented Safety Alert Seat, to a BluRay entertainment system for the rear seat passengers, there isn’t much that GM won’t offer (more details in our first look articles).
This year, the average transaction price of a full-size SUV hovered around $47,200, meaning people spend big bucks on their SUVs. Unfortunately, thieves have taken note, making full-size SUVs one of the most sought after vehicles for those in the business of carjacking.
GM also noticed those statistics during development and put tremendous effort into making the 2015 SUVs more secure. Buyers will be able to select options such as glass breakage sensors, vertical motion sensors and greater door lock protection. GM will not even disclose all of the details of its new SUV security system and hopes that their efforts will ultimately lead to lower insurance premiums for owners.
Overall, the 2015 SUVs are a very predictable step forward but in this segment predictable is arguably a good thing. There are some surprises here, such as the SUV exclusive interiors and the Fort Knox-like security measures, but overall, these new SUVs are what everyone expected and should have no problem maintaining GM’s strong leadership in the segment, if not expand upon it.