The large SUV doesn't always receive the best publicity, considering its historically low gas mileage figures and supposedly road-hogging size.

Yet the long, wide vehicles holding up to seven or eight people haven't lost their luster with a big swath of the buying public. And manufacturers have found ways to wring greater fuel economy numbers out of the V-8 engines.

Besides, there are situations when carrying a bunch of passengers and stuff are critically important.

Nickey Lanzarin, sales consultant at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet, used this scenario in describing the newly redesigned Chevy Tahoe and its extended cousin the Suburban.

For instance, "My son's a baseball player (and the team plays a host of games out of town). You've got to put the stuff somewhere."

Even with the seats in place, the cargo bay proves spacious. But it's positively cavernous with the seats folded up - and the two SUVs restyled the interior so the seats fold flat instead of raised somewhat on a middle bump as in the past.

Maybe the most dramatic change, however, involves the fuel totals. Rather than stumbling in the low- to mid-teens, the Suburban and Tahoe each can tally a combined 18 mpg, including 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. "That's big," he said.

The models start in price around $50,000 and can jump to the $60,000s with extras such as a navigation-communications system and seats that fold down at the push of a button. A just purchased well-appointed Tahoe LTZ at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet priced out at $66,000.

"My client, he's excited. He's trading in a (Ford) Explorer," Lanzarin said.

Motored by a 5.3-liter V-8, the Tahoe and Suburban release ample power yet keep gas usage down with a system that deactivates four of the eight cylinders when the SUVs coast or otherwise don't need much juice.

Available perks include automatic start and stop: The system also enables motorists to push a button on the door handle to enter the car when it's locked, as long as they have the key fob.

There's a host of safety and convenience features such as the General Motors OnStar emergency and information notification system, rear window defrost, lane departure warning lights on the side mirrors; and front and rear sensors that signal, vibrate the seats and then chirp if the driver pulls too close to a curb or other object.

A high-end Bose surround sound system is available, and the models can be ordered in 4 by 4 (four wheel drive) versions.

Lanzarin said the restyled SUVs are extra quiet: "Each door has three strips (of insulating material around the frame)."

Another highlight: the SUVs will automatically brake if they come up too fast on a much slower car in front.

Chevrolet hadn't overhauled the Suburban or the Tahoe since 2007. The new models began arriving at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet in the past month or so. "People are starting to see them now out of the street," he said. "They are liking the change."

The Tahoe and Suburban are similar in style and interior features. "The difference is the back space," Lanzarin said. The Suburban has more room in the cargo area.

While the SUVs are often seen as family vehicles, the sales consultant has another description. "It's a luxury car," he said, noting all the upgrades, leather steering wheel and seats and high-tech gadgets such as a free downloadable app to remotely start the car.

In a brief drive of the Tahoe and a couple-hour jaunt in the Suburban, the large SUVs artfully displayed the reasons that a slew of people buy larger cars.

Both the Tahoe and Suburban proved steady and agile while at the same time housing plenty of power. Visibility was pleasingly open.

The handling was reasonably responsive for a large vehicle, and acceleration was more than adequate. Seats were comfy with lots of legroom and head space. A nice touch was a button that lifts up the navigation screen to reveal a storage nook.

If there were downsides, the braking could have been more responsive and drink holder-side storage layout was underwhelming.

But Chevrolet went a long way in mending any shortcomings in the Tahoe and Suburban, notably the once difficult effort to raise and fold down seats for storage.

Meanwhile, by improving the fuel mileage, the SUVs have shown themselves to be versatile models that can handle most anything in the live, work or play department.

Mount Pleasant Chevrolet can be reached at www.mtpleasantchevy.com.To learn more about the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, visit your local Chevy dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.