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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Test Drive

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     (Chevrolet)

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     (Chevrolet)

The redesigned 2015 Tahoe is the pride of Chevy’s fleet of family cars, so it’s no surprise its clean design and long, swept-back lines give it the presence of a luxury cabin cruiser. There’s no shying away from what it is: a supersize alternative to a minivan.

As always, it’s based on the Silverado pickup, but for once the Tahoe gets its own interior style. It’s a more carlike look than ever, and it’s the best in Chevy’s showrooms. The materials are upscale, with appointments verging on the luxurious.

It's high-tech, too. You can order it with a Blu-ray player for back-seat passengers, plus an infotainment system that can link to 10 devices and can be equipped with Wi-Fi. Safety features include an available lane departure alert, blind spot warning system and adaptive radar cruise control.

Eight-passenger seating is standard, but you can opt for a seven-passenger model with second-row captain’s chairs or get a front bench seat for a nine-passenger layout -- a rare sight these days.

Its pop-open tailgate window is another increasingly novel feature that lets you use the cargo area more like a trunk. But open the door and you can fold the seats down into a fully flat floor -- by the press of a couple of buttons on high-end models.

To level things out, Chevy had to raise that floor a bit and give up some cubic footage. But as a trade-off, the second-row seats have more legroom than last year’s model. The tight third row is still strictly for kids and flexible folks.

Power comes from a 355 horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 that can tow 8,600 pounds in two-wheel-drive models, and 8,400 pounds in 4x4s. At 22 miles per gallon highway, the latter delivers just 1 mpg less than the lighter and less powerful Chevy Traverse crossover, which is actually roomier inside but can't haul nearly as much.

What the Traverse, or any other Chevy, for that matter, is not ... is quieter. The Tahoe has triple-sealed doors, laminated glass and tons of sound insulation. Considering how big and boxy it is, road and wind noise are wonderfully absent, and it’s only when you hit the gas hard that the burble of that big V8 comes through. And that’s not a sound you’ll complain about.

The Tahoe also has an excellent ride, especially for a behemoth. Shockingly so if you go for the top-of-the-line Tahoe LTZ, which comes with magnetically controlled dampers that adjust up to 1,000 times a second, smoothing things out and keeping the body in control. The technology was developed for Cadillacs and Corvettes, is used by Ferrari and works miracles no matter the application. Along with the tailfin and the original Pontiac GTO, it’s one of GM’s greatest contributions to society. I can’t wait until it trickles down to the Spark.

Less impressive, as always with GM’s big pickups and SUVs, is the slightly off-center steering wheel. It’s an artifact from when they got larger a couple of generations back and evidence that these “new” trucks have a lot more hand-me-down engineering than GM would prefer that you know. I plan to keep beating this horse until it is dead, which won’t be until the trucks are redesigned again in a few years, at the earliest.

That said, after a few days in the Tahoe, the asymmetry fades into the background, and everything else about it is just so good. It’s clear that GM puts a lot of effort into these trucks, which is why it owns the full-size SUV segment. That’s something that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

But what an expensive segment it has become. The starting price for the Tahoe is now $45,890, and my nearly loaded LTZ test car cost $68,340. That’s more than the base price of last year’s Cadillac Escalade, but the 2015 Tahoe is more of a truck.

Which, of course, is why there’s also a new Escalade. I’ll get right on that.

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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LTZ

Base price: $56,995

As tested" $66,080

Type: 7-passenger, 5-door SUV

Engine: 5.3L V8

Power: 355 hp/383 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 17 city/22 hwy