The fully redesigned Tahoe and Suburban now come with more space, a new platform and new styling.
It’s finally here, the new Chevy Tahoe and Suburban. After 6 years, the new versions have arrived just in time to hang on to their titles as the bestselling, full-size SUVs in America. It’s also notable to mention that the Suburban remains the longest running name plate for the Bowtie, it’s been around since 1935, so it is vital that this car meets the needs of the buyers its continues to cater too after several decades. Currently, the Tahoe and Suburban make up 45% of non-lux full size market share. Now combine that with the GMC equivalent, the Yukon, GM dominates with a 65% market share in the non-lux full size market. Ford comparatively only has 23%. Any who, there is quite a bit I want to talk about with these vehicles but before I jump into it, as quick refresher, I want to remind you the Tahoe and Suburban are basically the same vehicle with the latter being a stretched version of the former with all the extra space going almost entirely to the rear cargo hold. Going further most of what I talk about will be for both vehicles unless I specify otherwise. Okay let’s get into it.
Finally more space!
That’s right! I think the biggest drawback of the previous version was the lack of space in the second row and the third row. It made no sense to me that a vehicle longer and wider than a Honda Odyssey Minivan could have such an uncomfortable third row. That problem is finally fixed and I feel the Ford Expedition, AKA the competition, may have played a small part. GM claims that there is 66% more cargo space (with the third row up) in the Tahoe and 19% more space overall behind the front driver and passenger row. That’s a huge improvement from the older model. In terms of cargo, the Tahoe now offers 26 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row, as compared to 15 cubic feet in the older model and the Suburban gains only 2 cubic feet to total around 41 cubic feet. In terms of passenger room, the third row of the Tahoe now has 34.9 inches of leg room compared to just 24 inches on the outgoing model. And the Suburban gains as well but not to the level of the Tahoe. The Suburban gets a respectable jump of 2.2 inches of third row leg room. The middle row on both models gain a few inches also, but the addition of fore and aft adjustment (10 inches in total adjustment) on the seats does aid further with adjustability. This is all great news as GM has been known to say that interior space was a priority to them when developing the vehicle. Thanks to the lengthened wheel base, 4.9 inches for the Tahoe and 4.1 inches for the suburban, and other improvements they have been able to pull this feat off.
There's also new underpinnings!
GM has done some extensive work with the underpinning’s as well. Since adding space was the idea behind the new iteration of Tahoe and Suburban, it was imperative that GM rethink the live rear axle, and not only did they do that, they took it a few steps further. GM installed its next gen updateable digital vehicle platform shared with the brand new Corvette Stingray announced back in July. With this upgrade almost any component can be updated with an over the air transmission and it can handle Super Cruise. While this is not offered on either model yet, I’m sure this tech will be out on later models. Possibly as early as 2022. This platform has allowed the live rear axle to be thrown away, finally, in favor of independent rear suspension. This change, almost entirely, allowed the cabin space to get bigger as the Multilink setup helps improve the handling, ride quality and responsiveness.
This major change now allows it to compete more directly with the new Ford Expedition introduced last year. Like I said GM did take it a step further. The Premier and High Country trims come standard with magnetic ride control, which reads the road multiple times per second and makes adjustments to smooth out the ride, but you can now option a new adjustable air suspension. It will be available as an option on the High Country and Z71 and have up to 4 inches of total adjustment. It can raise itself for enhanced off-road capability and lower itself 2 inches to be more aerodynamic at highways speeds (speeds above 65 mph) and to make entry and exit easy for the shorty’s in our life.
There are "new" engine options as well
The new SUVS also have a diverse offering of engines. Both the Tahoe and Suburban can be equipped with any of 2 carry over V8 motors that have been updated or with a inline six diesel borrowed from the Silverado. Oo exciting stuff! The standard motor remains at 5.3-liter V8 creating 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque, but has been updated to offer cylinder de-activation making it a bit more efficient. The upgraded engine is a 6.2L V8 making 420 horsepower and 460lb-ft of torque. This engine can be optioned on all trims but is standard on the High Country version. Lastly, you can get the 3-liter inline six cylinder engine making 277 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. This isn’t the first time a Tahoe or a Suburban has had a diesel, but its interesting to see it's back in these SUV's. This engine can be optioned on all trims minus the Z71. All engines come paired standard with a new 10 speed automatic transmission.
The inline six diesel is an interesting addition and a decent engine making close to 30mpg but I think I would have liked to see some electrification on these trucks to further optimize efficiency even if we had to lob off 2 cylinders. Ford has been good with this. Their Eco boost V6’s are making as much horsepower and torque as V8’s but are way more efficient. Yes, I know the Eco boost is not electrified with say a 48V systems or anything, but I feel like this could have been a great opportunity for GM to get with the electrification bandwagon in terms of their SUVs. It would have been a first for full size SUVs. Hopefully they will plan for it in the future.
The cars are full of new tech with a new design
GM continues to cram as much tech as they possibly can into their cars and the new Tahoe and Suburban are no exception. Inside the cabin, the car is filled with screens when outfitted in the top level High Country with all the options ticked off. For starters there’s the 10” central information touchscreen display floating above the dash which comes standard across the board on all trims. It is basically an iPad size screen running the latest Chevy My Link system. Behind the steering wheel there is a 4.2” gauge cluster that can display a variety of information and that screen grows to a 8” inches on Premier and High Country trims. Floating in the windshield in your line of vision, you have a massive 15” Head Up Display (optional on various trims), displaying audio, navigation and other information in bright colors and visuals. It looks quite good and I believe it’s the biggest in the segment.
The rear passengers also get a treat. There are two giant 12.6” entertainment display screens mounted behind the driver and passengers’ headrests which are also optional on various trims. While having screens in the rear is nothing groundbreaking, GM has added some interesting features to maximize entertainment potential. The screens have HDMI connectivity so you can hook up a PlayStation in the back for those long rides or if you get bored of playing games you can quickly sync up your with smartphone and screen share it with one or both screen simultaneously. That is really cool. It will allow you to leave the iPads at home so you don’t have to worry about losing them or having them stolen.
You also get the full suite of safety tech you would come to expect from modern cars. The tech that comes standard include Automatic Emergency Braking, Rear Pedestrian detection, and finally a 360 degree camera. Optional safety tech includes Lane Keep Assist and a Radar Guided Cruise Control. Again good stuff here. Nothing to complain about, but while most of what I’ve talked about has been great, it’s sad to say that’s where the praise stops.
The interior design of this car is sadly, just so-so. There is nothing really “good looking” about it. I’m sure GM has done surveys and their research on this, but I still feel like these SUVs are an overall let down. I even asked a friend who knows nothing about cars to give me their honest feedback and she literally said, “it looks like the car is a 2014 model”, and I have to say I agree. This design will simply not age well. I know GM would like to save some money on the design but it clearly shows where they cut corners. There are various items that are obviously carry overs. Most of the HVAC controls are carry overs, the gauges mostly look carried over, the light switches and HUD controls are also carried over and basically the entire center arm rest. Now I know these items don’t collectively make the interior below par, but there are other design elements that make no sense.
The strip of leather under the screen looks tacked on last minute, the overall design of the HVAC controls and the way they are laid out looks simply down market. It just seems too plastic-y and boring. I’m sorry but Honda does a better job of interior design than GM does. The gear shifter is now buttons which is okay, but I feel like, again, the finishing just looks cheap and it seems like someone just gave the idea to stick it next to the screen last minute. I rather prefer the rotary shifter on the Ford Expedition, or the creatively integrated button shifter of the Navigator. And finally, the dashboard piece above the gauge cluster looks too blocky and reminds me of cars back in the 90’s, where the square blocky dash was very popular. I have yet to fully gauge build quality and materials but honestly I don’t have much hope.
The looks are "polarizing" but better than a silverado
The outside doesn’t get much love from me either. I’ll be blunt, I say “polarizing” but I what I mean is it’s kind of ugly. The exterior just is a huge let down. It’s as if GM wants people to go buy the Expedition. The front fascia is based off the equally ugly Silverado and while I can understand that blocky squared off look for a pickup truck, for a family SUV with its main duty to be a school runner or a highway warrior with prices, what I assume to be, north of $60k on average, I would expect the design to be more a bit more toned down and elegant. There’s just way to much going on that it just looks bad. It seems they tried to do that, as the front is not an exact copy of the Silverado, but they failed. Hard! It only looks a hair better than a Silverado and that’s as much praise it will get from me. I would maybe say the profile is good and the rear looks okay as well. The LED tail lamps look nice with an interesting shape, but the chrome bar above the model designation just doesn’t work, I would black that out or simply strip it off. Some notable pros are dual exhaust tips which I always like and the belt line stretching the length of the vehicle is strong.
What this means for future cars like the GMC Yukon and Escalade coming up
Now that GM has released the Tahoe and the Suburban, it is only a matter of time before we see the other SUVS based on the same platform: the new Escalade and GMC Yukon. From what I hear they should debut within the next couple months and there are already leaks online as to what they look like. Here’s a glimpse of the Escalade.
It was posted to Instagram by “allcarnews” one day after the Tahoe and Suburban reveal. I will hold all my remarks until GM officially reveals the car, but what I will say just taking an initial look, I don’t know if I will be fully satisfied. But again, I will wait for the full reveal. The Escalade however is supposed to set itself apart even more than its lower priced siblings by offering an entirely new design on both the inside and out. It should offer more luxury features and premium materials throughout with a six figure price tag for the top spec model.
I do hope the GMC Yukon will look way better and more upscale than the Tahoe and Suburban do. While this is usually the case anyway, I also hope the materials quality is a bit better, but if every previous generation is any indicator, the interior will most like be the exact same with maybe a few tweaks that don’t make a huge difference. The biggest difference has always been the exterior styling and I don’t expect that to change. Here’s a spy shot taken of the 2021 GMC Yukon by Motor1.
My final thoughts
All in all, I think the Tahoe and Suburban deserve credit for doing a great job with the tech additions and all the mechanical and structural upgrades on the car. They truly did a good job with that. I still don’t know why it took GM so long to adopt rear independent suspension even though Ford has been doing it for nearly 2 decades already, but I guess they finally decided it was a good idea even if just to stay competitive. While this credit is deserved, GM gets some major points taken off for execution of the car in terms of design. This is not an elegant design and the interior somehow feels dated even before the car is released. If you are a car guy, you know that design is usually the thing that attracts people first, then the mechanical bits come second. It’s true. If people prioritized third row leg room and a sliding middle row and large amounts of cargo room above all else, they would all buy minivans. They have had the space and flexibility for a while now. But people really care about image and looks first, then those priorities second. I’m not saying GM is doing a bad job at all. People will still buy this SUV and like it. GM may even continue their SUV domination. I just personally feel like the design team needs a serious talking to and once that bit is sorted out I feel like this SUV could be a winner for me and I may even consider buying one.