DETROIT – General Motors unveiled new versions of its highly-profitable Chevrolet full-size SUVs Tuesday night that are larger, more tech-advanced and offer a wider range of choices for customers.
Profits from the vehicles are viewed as keys to assisting the automaker in funding its plans for autonomous and all-electric vehicles, including at least 20 new EVs globally by 2023.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2021 Chevrolet Suburban share design cues from the recently-redesigned Chevrolet Silverado pickup, including boomerang LED signature lights and large prominent grilles with horizontal bars behind Chevy's bowtie emblem.
The SUVs, according to officials, feature redesigned interiors with far greater interior space than the current models, including 66% more cargo room behind the third row for Tahoe, and 19% more cargo space behind the first row for Suburban.
The vehicles are expected to arrive in U.S. dealerships mid-next year in six trims, including a new top-end High Country model. Pricing was not announced. Starting pricing of current Tahoe models range from about $50,000 to $69,500. Suburban pricing currently starts between roughly $53,000 and $72,500.
The vehicles will be offered in three engine options: A 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 hp and new 3.0-liter diesel engine, which debuted in the Chevrolet Silverado, with 277 hp and a 460 lb-ft of torque. All engines will be matched with a 10-speed transmission.
The interior of the vehicles include standard 10-inch diagonal center infotainment screens and optional 15-inch heads up, or windshield, display for drivers and 12.6-inch-diagonal touchscreens for the rear seats.
Tim Herrick, GM vice president of global product programs, described the redesigned vehicles as "the ultimate SUVs."
"On-road and -off, the all-new Suburban and Tahoe play much bigger but actually drive much smaller than before," he said during the unveiling Tuesday night. "They offer the best of both roads," referring to capability and handling, including a new optional air suspension system.
The SUVs, according to GM, offer 30 safety and driver convenience technologies such as standard automatic emergency braking and optional HD surround view and a new rear pedestrian alert system.
An "all-new digital vehicle platform" for the SUVs have data-processing power five times greater than the current models, according to GM.
The new system and electrical infrastructure of the vehicles are capable of handling GM's Super Cruise highway driver-assist system, however the technology will not initially be offered on the SUVs, officials told CNBC.
GM last year announced plans to begin expanding Super Cruise, which operates similar to Tesla's Autopilot system on highways, outside of Cadillac beginning in 2020.
GM has dominated the highly-profitable full-size SUV segment with the Tahoe, Suburban as well as the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV.
The Tahoe and Suburban accounted for 45% of non-luxury full-size SUVs through October, according to Cox Automotive. GM during that same time period, including Chevy and GMC SUVs, accounted for 65%, or 188,520 units, of full-size non-luxury SUV sales in the U.S. The next closest competitor was Ford Motor at 23% with its redesigned Expedition.
GM President Mark Reuss said the automaker expects the vehicles to "continue to dominate their segment."
"We are here to win. Chevrolet created the template for the modern SUV in 1935. In doing so, it created the template for winning that we're still following today," Reuss said during the unveiling Tuesday night. "These all-new versions will be just as dominant as they were the day they were introduced."
Redesigned versions of the Yukon and Escalade are expected to be unveiled early-next year. GM's full-size SUVs are manufactured at GM's Arlington Assembly in Texas, which has received more than $1.4 billion in investments since 2015.
"They're very important vehicles," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive's Autotrader. "The full-size SUVs are probably the second-most important vehicles to GM in terms of profitability, next to the pickup trucks."