2015 Chevy Suburban, Tahoe

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — There's a reason the Chevrolet Suburban has the distinction of being the longest continuous automotive nameplate in the world. Since the first model rolled into showrooms in 1934 as a 1935 model it has met the needs of Americans who desired a large station-wagon-like vehicle capable not only of hauling large families and their cargo, but doing it in a go-anywhere sport utility vehicle truck.

The Suburban remains popular with people who have the same needs in 2014 as people did 80 years ago. The Suburban — and its slightly smaller stablemate, the Tahoe — is all new for the 2015 model year, and we unabashedly predict that the new vehicle guarantees it will retain its popularity for years to come.

It is still a body-on-frame truck, based on the new Silverado pickup platform, but offers a very serene ride, an extraordinarily quiet interior, solid performance combined with decent gas mileage from a new 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower, and now with features formerly lacking such as a fold-flat third-row seat, electric power steering, adaptive cruise control, a backup camera with rear cross-traffic alert, a standard center airbag between the driver and passenger, and onboard 4G connectivity.

And here's a rather interesting feature: To make it tougher on thieves Chevy has added sensors for window or glass breakage and vertical and interior movement that when detected will trigger the Suburban's alarm and shut down key systems that allow the vehicle to start or roll.

The Suburban has, indeed, entered the modern world of motoring. But Chevrolet has not lost sight of its traditional tasks of comfortably carrying eight to nine people and a large amount of cargo while pulling the big boat on weekends. Front headroom and legroom have been increased while second-and-third row passenger space remains about the same, which is more than adequate.

A new fold flat third row, which creates a flat cargo floor, negates the need to physically remove the rear seat to get maximum hauling capability. The downside — this adds about six inches to the cargo floor reducing volume from 137 cubic feet in the outgoing Suburban to 121 cubic feet with all seatbacks folded. Behind the third-row seat, volume has been reduced from 46 to 39 cubic feet.

The Suburban and Tahoe have been restyled for the first time in several years with a new grille, full-width bumper, more sculpted sides and fenders including a strong character line just below the beltline, and a slightly less raked windshield.

The new styling modernizes the big Chevrolet SUVs while leaving their basic look intact.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

The interior, too, has been updated with a more sculpted dashboard that includes an eight-inch LCD touchscreen mounted higher in the dash for easier viewing. Interior materials appear to have been improved and fit and finish in the vehicles we drove was excellent. We were amazed at how hushed the cabin was when we first drove the Chevy Silverado a year ago, so it was not surprising to find the interior of the new Suburban to be as devoid of road and wind noise as the new pickup.

The only engine available, at least at the outset, in the Suburban and Tahoe is the new 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque with direct injection and cylinder deactivation. We found that it gave the Suburban a new sense of urgency — well matched for the big SUV — with an extra dose of performance and better gas mileage compared to the outgoing model. Rear-wheel drive models are now rated at 16 city and 23 highway on regular gas.

We were pleased with the on-center highway feel of the new electric power steering and the big truck's ability to hold the line at increased speeds on curving roads loaded with 35 mph cornering signs. Body roll was minimal on our top-trim LTZ test vehicle that came with GM's magnetic ride control, a unique feature that has moved from the Corvette to the company's more mainstream vehicles over the years.

Be prepared to pay more for this technologically advanced sport utility. Prices are up between about $1,000 and $5,000 depending on trim level. The Suburban starts at $47,300 (not including destination charge) for the rear-wheel drive LS and rises to $64,700 for the four-wheel drive LTZ. The well-optioned LTZ we drove from Squaw Valley, Calif., to Sacramento stickered out for just over $73,000.

Suburban and Tahoe fans will not be disappointed with the new offerings. In fact we think most current owners will be pleased with the improvements in the big haulers. Chevrolet has done a commendable job in advancing the long-running brand.

— Jim Meachen