Here's the short version: If you want a family-size Chevrolet SUV, you have to be close to crazy to pick the new Tahoe over the old Traverse.
Exception: folks who tow. The 2015 Tahoe, based on the redone 2014 Silverado pickup, can tug quite a bit more than the car-based Traverse — around 8,600 pounds vs. 5,200 lbs.
Otherwise, there's no rational reason to pick the Tahoe.
But car buying isn't rational. Chevy insists — and we agree — that nobody considering a Tahoe would look at a Traverse, and vice versa. Two very different buyers.
An SUV such as a Tahoe, even at the bottom end, is a premium vehicle that makes an "I've earned it" statement.
Traverse and its ilk, which start about $10,000 less, announce, "I have a big family and don't want a minivan."
Still, it's enlightening to see how much practicality you sacrifice for the high, wide and handsome look and feel of a truck-based SUV.
Examples: Tahoe has less cargo space than Traverse, a lot less third-row legroom, no advantage in payload, a much higher price and lower fuel economy.
More likely and sensible Tahoe comparisons:
Ford Expedition, which despite its older design, reports more cargo space than Tahoe, as well as more third-row leg space and greater towing capacity.
Toyota Sequoia, which gives up a lot of headroom, payload and towing to Tahoe, but has a larger cargo hold and more third-row legroom.
As the newest of the litter, Tahoe's fresh styling could carry the day vs. rivals. Frankly, though, Test Drive thinks the previous generation is better-looking.
The new Tahoe's standout features:
It's quiet. General Motors spent a lot of effort making its new pickups quiet, and that benefit flows to the pickup-based Tahoe and its corporate cousins, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.
It doesn't guzzle fuel. Our real-world mileage was close to the window sticker, which happens almost never. We got 15-plus mpg in the 'burbs, vs. a city rating of 16 mpg. Our highway was between 20 and 21, vs. a rating of 22 mpg.
The interior is a cut above. Our high-end LTZ test truck, at $63,945, had the pomp and circumstance of a luxury liner.
It turns tightly for its size. A 39-foot turning diameter makes it feel more nimble in tight spots. GM does that pretty well. If tight turning is your highest priority, Sequoia claims a 38-ft. circle.
GM's top truck engineer, Jeff Luke, says the goal was to make the new Tahoe more crossover-like. But GM went far enough to scrub out the robust, firm truck feel, without delivering the crisper driving feel of a car-based crossover.
Which left us with a ho-hum reaction. Here's why:
We found the steering numb and imprecise, the suspension on the soggy side, and the "go" command lacking the hoped-for, big-engine, high-torque power ooze. Luke said he drove the test truck, and another equipped the same, and said "they were right on," and felt as intended behind the wheel.
The best blend of truck and crossover driven recently is the Dodge Durango, which is, in fact, a crossover unibody design. But because it's derived from the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it's not far removed from the appealing parts of "truckiness." Also, though slightly narrower than Tahoe, it has similar room inside and better space in the third row.
That third row in the Tahoe, while we're on the subject, seems so tight as to be silly. The mechanism flips and folds just fine, but to no purpose because there's so little legroom that you can't imagine actually using it.
But lack of a third row, however marginal, would be a deal-breaker for some shoppers, Luke says. Most buyers want one because they think they might use it one day, he says. Buyers who actually need a third row, he says, would go for the Suburban, the longer version of Tahoe.
Chevy says it's having trouble keeping dealers supplied with 2015 Tahoes, so the overall package must resonate with buyers.
If we were stuck on a Tahoe, though, we'd sooner go for a lightly used 2013 or 2014 and get the big used car discount. Or we'd shift gears entirely and consider a new Durango with the nifty eight-speed automatic.
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe
What? Remake of body-on-frame, truck-based, three-row SUV with rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4x4).
When? On sale since February.
Where made? Arlington, Texas.
How much? Starts at $45,890, including $995 shipping, for LS RWD. Top trim LTZ 4x4 starts at $62,995.
What makes it go? 5.3-liter V-8 rated 355 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 383 pounds-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm. Six-speed automatic transmission.
How big? Two inches wider, 700 pounds heavier, otherwise similar size to Chevy Traverse full-size crossover SUV. Tahoe weighs 5,466 to 5,683 lbs. Carries up to 1,760 lbs. of people, cargo and accessories. Tows up to 8,600 lbs.
Cargo space: 15.3 cubic feet behind third row; 51.6 cu. ft. with third row folded; 94.2 cu. ft. with second and third rows folded.
Turning-circle diameter: 39 feet.
How thirsty? Rated 16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg highway (22 mpg, 4x4), 18 mpg combined.
RWD LTZ test vehicle registered 20.5 mpg (4.88 gallons per 100 miles) highway, 15.4 mpg (6.49 gal./100 mi.) in easy-going suburban driving.
Burns regular, holds 26 gallons.
Overall: We liked the old one better.