Without a doubt, the area most in need of improvement with General Motors' full-size trucks has been with their interiors. We'll avoid running down a list of faults, as it's likely that nearly every one of our readers has been exposed to a GMT800 at one point or another. Let's just say that not only was it not in the competition's ballpark, it was readily apparent that it wasn't even playing the same game. As such, GM needed to hit a home run with the GMT900's touch, appearance, lighting, and coloration, all while offering a level of functionality and versatility to justify the Tahoe's bulk. Let's step inside our '07 Chevy Tahoe LT to see if the General has succeeded.
[Click through for plenty of pictures, observations, and commentary...]
The first thing that noticed by the truck owners on Autoblog's staff is just how easy it is to climb into this SUV. With running boards just above ankle height and satin-finish metal sill plates only a half step above that, ingress and egress was incredibly easy, even for your height-challenged author and his even shorter wife. Macho types that enjoy the act of ascending a half-story into their trucks need not apply.
Once settled into the driver's seat, the all-new interior has a profound impact on those who have calibrated their expectation meter to GM's prior truck offerings. The leather seat cover actually resembles something of an organic nature, the materials that aren't supposed to be glossy have an even matte sheen, and the stuff that's supposed to shine does so proudly. The seats have a vertically adjustable lumbar support that's certain to help drivers of all shapes and sizes. Once again, we felt that the lower cushion was just a bit too long for shorter drivers, but those of larger stature are likely to find comfort easily. We'd also like to feel significantly more lateral support, but we know better than to ask such a thing of truck seats. The additional width of the GMT900 platform is immediately noticeable, but when there is only a pair of bucket seats, the five feet and four inches of room between the door panels seems just a bit superfluous. We suspect that this additional room may not be truly appreciated until we experience a bench-seat regular-cab truck on this platform.
We especially appreciated the classy two-tone tan and gray ("Dark Titanium" in General's tongue) of our tester, as they combined to prevent the dark and dour mood that larger interiors tend to take on when done in a single hue. The prospect of maintaining the appearance of such light colors over the life of the vehicle is a bit daunting, though - especially when the kid-hauling usage profile of such a vehicle is considered, but there are always darker shades in the catalog to consider. Adding to the overall look is a rather realistic simulated wood trim, liberal use of bright chrome, and a few bits of brushed metal here and there to satisfy our industrial fashion sense.
To go along with the windshield's sharper rake, the dashboard has been pushed away from the driver and is quite a bit lower than previous GM trucks. Combined with the trademark low beltline and tall seating position, the Tahoe makes good on the much-coveted "commanding view of the road" vantage point.
The Tahoe's gauge cluster combines six analog dials and a multifunction display to communicate a vast array of information about the vehicle's operation. Especially entertaining is the instantaneous fuel economy display, which incorporates a tell-tale to show whether the Displacement on Demand system was operating in V4 or V8 mode. The blue backlighting looks lovely, but probably isn't the best color for nighttime driving. Further complicating matters was a dimmer control that refused to reduce the illumination levels to our preferred barely perceptible levels.
Cruise-control functions are completely removed from the wiper stalk and placed on the left spokes of the steering wheel, but it takes a simian's thumb to use the buttons without shifting hand positions on the leather-wrapped rim. On the right are useful controls for the radio and hands-free OnStar system. The size and shape of the column-mounted shift lever remind of an axe handle-- even Paul Bunyan types should not fear breaking off this stalk.
Shifting our gaze to the center stack reveals a Bose audio system and two-thirds of the vehicle's climate controls (our tester's LT3 spec gives second-row passengers their own set of HVAC dials). Everything here has the look and feel of quality, but in the process of eliminating the sometimes cartoonishly large buttons of yore, it's now extremely difficult to operate the system's tiny pushbuttons while wearing gloves. The track information displayed when using XM satellite radio also had us wishing for a multi-line display on the head unit.
Below the center stack lays a console that seems larger than most subcompact cars. The open bin provides substantial volume in which to place cell phones, PDAs, and MP3 players, but the interior of the console is less roomy than its exterior would suggest.
A few pokes around reveal that not all is what it seems, however. A knuckle-rap on the well-textured dashboard results in a sharp knock that betrays its appearance, but the hard plastic at least looks pleasant enough. The softer material used for the door panels has just a bit of that distinctively cheap PVC feel, and we were able to elicit a few squeaks and squawks by pressing hard enough on certain trim pieces. None of those same pieces made so much of a single noise during actual driving, though.
Moving back to the three-position second row seating (a pair of buckets can be ordered in place of the bench), we find adequate but not breathtaking amounts of room. With the front seats moved to the most rearward position, taller adults may actually find themselves wishing for a bit more legroom. While a peek at the spec sheet shows that the GMT900-based Tahoe is actually a few tenths of an inch narrower through the hips than its predecesor in this area, it seemed if anything to feel more roomy and open.
Our tester lacked the optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system, but we'd like to see one as a standard feature given our people-mover's $43k pricetag.
The first of our significant gripes comes as we move to the optional 2-position third row of seating (it's also possible to order up three chairs out back). Quite simply, the short wheelbase (relative to the Suburban, anyway) combines with the Tahoe's particularly cumbersome second row folding technique makes third row access a spontanious athletic event. Operating the large handle for the latch resulted in some PG-13 rated language on a few occasions, and the seat itself is rather heavy. When imagining a mother trying to help her children into the rearmost seats while juggling a couple handfuls of miscellanea, suddenly the power-folding option seems justifiable.
Rear seats can be folded or removed completely, but when installed they dramatically reduce the amount of available cargo space. It takes only a tug of the seats' handles to unlatch them from the Tahoe's cargo floor, but we're guessing that they each weigh in the neighborhood of 50 pounds, and thus strike like a chiropractor visit waiting to happen. By the time we'd removed both and folded the second row of seats to accommodate a trip to the local Home Depot, we felt as if we'd just gone a few rounds on the Total Gym that Chuck Norris hawks on late-night infomercials.
Overall, we're quite pleased with the quality of the interior, and drivers in particular will have little reason to complain about the Tahoe's accoutrements. Unfortunately, the difficulty of accessing the third row and the lack of storage behind said seating takes a sizable bite out of this vehicle's utility-- troubling considering that this is supposedly half of the vehicle's functionality. We know that the Suburban's extra wheelbase is a large burden when looking for a parking spot at the mall, but if there's a need to regularly carry more than five adults, then we have no other choice than to recommend Supersizing one' s order at the Chevrolet dealership.
Stay tuned for the final installment of our Autoblog Garage review of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, when we hit the road (and even leave it) to see how the GMT900 chassis handles a dynamic driving environment. We'll also report back with our fuel economy calculations our week with the Tahoe, and issue a final verdict.