2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Expert Review
To grasp the importance of General Motors' new GMT900 full-size pickup and SUV platform, one only has to consider that its predecessor is responsible for over 10-percent of total annual new-vehicle sales in the US. The General's full-size SUVs move off the lot at a rate of approximately 650,000 per year, meaning that a new Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, or Escalade finds its way into a garage approximately every 48 seconds. Love 'em or loath 'em, these vehicles are GM's lifeblood.
With today's statistics lesson out of the way, we submit Autoblog's review of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT. As nearly seven years have passed since the last redesign, GM's engineers certainly have their work cut out for them -- virtually every aspect of the previous iteration needs improvement if the company expects to maintain the full-size SUV sales crown. Have they succeeded? While the verdict will ultimately be rendered in showrooms, that isn't stopping us from weighing-in with our opinion.
The Tahoe name came to Chevy dealerships in 1995, when the classic Blazer moniker was reassigned to full-time duty on the brand's mini-SUVs. This was also the first year for a four-door model; prior to this, the only way to get four doors on a full-size GM SUV was to spring for the gigantic Suburban. By trimming over a foot from the 'Burb's wheelbase, Tahoe suddenly found itself the new darling of subdivision dwellers across the country.
With fuel economy at the forefront of many buyers' minds, GM's designers set out to create a fresh look for the new Tahoe that would also slice through the wind with less effort. To the extent that a vehicle boasting 37.3 square feet of frontal area can be called "sleek", the work has paid off. The Tahoe has a drag coefficient of 0.363 - approaching that of many sedans, and the sheetmetal carries with it a much more sophisticated look than we're used to seeing on a truck carrying a Bowtie up front. Gone is the plain-jane appearance of previous Tahoes, and the silly scowl of the Silverado. In its place lies a vehicle that comes off as decidedly modern and classy.
A pair of tow hooks have been recessed into the bumper cover, but forget any notions of serious off-roading. The fascia and air dam contribute to almost car-like approach angles, meaning that anything taller than that speed bump in the neighborhood Starbucks is likely to result in a trip to the local body shop. For a vehicle segment that depends so much on the illusion of ruggedness, this seems like an unforgivable sin, but it's probably a move in the right direction considering the ever-so-few number of SUV owners that leave the pavement with their $40,000 steeds. The upcoming Z71 off-road package will supposedly address this issue when introduced later this year; in the mean time, we'll ponder other uses for the transfer case's low range.
The front fenders flare gracefully over the widened track and fit tightly to the adjoining panels. Without a doubt, the quality of the bodywork is worlds' beyond what we've previously seen from the General. The front door openings seem larger than those of the previous model, and a set of cleanly integrated (but not retractable) running boards makes entering the cabin very un-truck-like.
Large side mirrors provide good rearward visibility and contain integrated turn signals, automatic dimming, and a power-fold feature (the latter useful for guiding this supertanker-width vehicle through narrow garage openings). Up top sits the ubiquitous roof rack, which we almost never observe in use. At least it's barely noticeable and doesn't noticeably contribute to wind noise.
Of significantly greater usefulness is the integrated 2" receiver hitch, rated for Class IV duty and capable of yanking 7,700 lbs of your favorite cargo. A small spoiler sits atop the power-lift rear hatch; below the cargo opening is a step bumper. There's ultrasonic parking assist, but we'd much prefer the optional rear-view camera system, as such setups allow drivers to hook up trailers with ease.
A set of 265/70-17 all-season tires on 17" alloy wheels graced our tester. We've seen a similar design on too many other GM products, and would prefer a fresher design. We'd also like to see the wheel wells filled out a bit better. Fortunately, 20" wheels are available from the factory, and the aftermarket is already overflowing with options for the 6-lug pattern.
Our middle-of-the-road sample was delivered with a $43,970 sticker price. That's right in line with what we'd expect to pay for the competition, but it's still a large chunk of change. Stay away from the option checkboxes and it's possible to squeeze in a 4WD Tahoe LT under $38,000-- go with a 2WD drivetrain and LS trim to knock the price down to a touch under $34K. High-rollers going the other direction can option a top-of-the-line LTZ well into the $50,000 range, obtaining features such as Autoride suspension, a rear-seat entertainment system, rain-sensing wipers and heated washer fluid.
Join us for the next installments of this Autoblog Garage feature, where we'll poke around the new interior to see if GM has improved on what is arguably the previous Tahoe's biggest weakness: the interior. Later, we'll hit the streets to investigate claims of improved fuel economy and better road manners. Stay tuned.
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.
It's now time to bring our review of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT to a close. We've looked over the fresh sheetmetal and crawled around the all-new interior, but before rendering a verdict we have to get behind the wheel and see if the redesigned SUV has the driving dynamics to back up its looks.
[Click through for pics, commentary, and our final thoughts on the new Tahoe...]
Under the Tahoe's hood, we find the GenIV version of the company's long-running line of small-block V8 engines. The 325 HP 5.3L engine features Displacement On Demand (DOD), which shuts down half of the cylinders under light-load conditions. This reduces the pumping losses, thus improving fuel economy. We observed 15 MPG while driving in "mixed" conditions (what we considered to be a fairly even mix of urban, two-lane highway, and expressway travel), and pulled down just over 17.5 MPG while cruising at 75 MPH on the expressway. Those are great figures for a full-size SUV, but we didn't exactly feel like we were saving the planet, either. The Tahoe is capable of running on E85 (despite our tester's lack of a yellow gas cap), but as ever, the trick remains finding a gas station that carries it.
The 5.3L delivers sufficient power, although there's no doubt that it's tasked with moving around a substantial amount of mass. The engine makes some interesting noises as it goes about its business, with an almost musclecar-like exhaust note replacing the wheezing sounds we expect to hear from this type of vehicle. In fact, some may even find the V8 rumble to be a bit too much for their liking (not us, but hey...).
Backing up this fine engine is GM's 4L60E four-speed automatic. While we expect most of our readers to focus on the number of available gear ratios (or lack thereof), that really wasn't the main source of our complaints. Rather, it was the transmission's complete and total lack of willingness to downshift that frustrated. We've experienced this gearbox in several dozen other applications and haven't had this problem to the same extent, so we chalk it up to matter of electronic calibration problem rather than a fundamental flaw of the hardware. Regardless of the cause, expect to file paperwork (in triplicate, signed, and notarized) if you want to trigger a 4th to 2nd downshift. Putting the trans into the Tow/Haul mode helped slightly, but then the upshifts were delayed far longer than prudent (probably the result of being optimized for, uh, towing and hauling). On the positive side of things, the shift feel was generally quite good. If we owned one of these, it'd be receiving an immediate reflash of the transmission shift points.
Rounding out the drivetrain is GM's Autotrac transfer case, which offers the driver a choice of 2WD, full-time 4WD (achieved via the use of a progressively-locking clutch pack, not a center differential), and part-time 4WD Hi and Low modes. We think that it's an ideal arrangement for such a vehicle, although having an available low range seemed a bit odd for a vehicle that will drag its air dam on parking-lot curbs.
A solid axle is hung from a set of four trailing arms out back, while the front of the truck receives an updated version of GM's SLA independent suspension. Gone are the torsion bars; in their place lie a set of coil springs. Aluminum lower control arms replace the previous generation's ferrous bits, and front-mounted rack-and-pinion steering equipment is used in lieu of the recirculating-ball gearbox that has been a GM hallmark for several decades.
Over most road conditions - even the Midwest's famed cratered spring pavement - the GMT900's improved rigidity almost makes it possible to ignore that one is driving a body-on-frame vehicle-- believe it or not, the solid rear axle behaves itself in virtually all situations. It's possible to upset the Tahoe's composure with the right sequence of backroad bumps and ruts, but for the most part, the overall structural integrity is a huge improvement over previous generations. We were also pleased with the spring and damper rates, which do an admirable job of keeping the big truck under control even when thrown around like a car. Get too crazy, and the Stabilitrak stability control system will step in with authority to issue a reminder that this isn't a sport car, and should not be treated as such. We elected not to push things further to see if the system indeed works as claimed, keeping the shiny side up.
Quite simply, the Tahoe steers with precision not expected of a 5800-pound SUV with a waist-high center of gravity. We'd prefer less power assist - the efforts seemed tuned towards those who like to hold a cell phone in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, but at least every bit of wheel movement translates into a meaningful response from the vehicle.
The same magic has been carried over to the brakes, which may possess the best pedal feel we've ever experienced on a mass-market body-on-frame SUV. The takeup is immediate, with virtually no lash, and the amount of boost provided dead-nuts perfect. It does take a fair bit of shove on the pedal to bring the Tahoe to a rapid stop, but that's to be expected with nearly 3 tons of mass (we prefer this situation than to have pads that are excessively grabby). As usual, GM's ABS system works well, although the lack of traction provided by the OEM tires ultimately limits the effectiveness of the braking hardware.
So, you ask... what's the verdict? While GM has done an admirable job of improving every aspect of the Tahoe's performance, the operational envelope of full-size SUVs was long ago described by Sir Issac Newton. The main competition for the Tahoe and its stablemates isn't so much the Ford Expedition or Toyota Sequoia, but rather the laws of physics. Viewed in the context of its full-size SUV competition, there is little question that GM has hit a home run, and we think it will deservedly continue to command the lion's share of its segment.
New Car Test Drive
New Hybrid model added to lineup.
The next-generation Chevy Tahoe lineup was rolled out for the 2007 model year and it's among the best of the full-size SUVs. For 2008, a new gas-saving Hybrid model has been added.
The Chevy Tahoe has been the best-selling vehicle in its category since 2001, accounting for more than 25 percent of all full-size SUV registrations in the United States, and it's easy to understand why. It hauls loads of passengers and gear, it can pull heavy trailers, and it holds up well to abuse and rugged terrain.
Tahoe can accommodate five to nine passengers, and the first two rows offer spacious, even luxurious, seating. Fold the second and third rows of seats and the Tahoe offers nearly 109 cubic feet of cargo space. A properly equipped Tahoe is rated to tow up to 8,200 pounds; based on the same platform as the Suburban and Silverado, the Tahoe makes a stable rig for pulling trailers.
With its rigid chassis, the Tahoe feels taut, the steering is precise and responsive, and the brakes are responsive and smooth. The ride quality is generally smooth, even with the available 20-inch wheels. At highway speeds, the Tahoe is quiet and comfortable.
The 5.3-liter V8 engine features GM's Active Fuel Management technology to save gas, but you can't even feel it switching between four and eight cylinders whether on the highway or around town. The 5.3-liter V8 provides all the power most customers will need, and there's a less-expensive 4.8-liter V8 available.
The new Hybrid model works seamlessly. It offers more power and drastically improved fuel economy compared to other models, but tows about a ton less. The Hybrid model provides an answer for those who want the size and capability of a full-size SUV without the poor fuel economy.
Autotrac four-wheel drive is available, a full-time system that can be left engaged on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing. It comes in handy for rugged terrain and serious snow and ice, but it's also handy for yanking a boat up a slippery boat ramp or pulling a trailer out of a silty, sandy parking area, those momentary needs that can be so crucial.
Be they families with children, empty-nest couples with active lifestyles or individuals who simply have cargo to carry securely or trailers to tow, some people really do need the all-weather practicality of a full-size sport utility vehicle. For those who need to tow, the Tahoe is a fine choice. Those who don't tow might be better served by one of the big, new crossover SUVs, such as the GMC Acadia.
The 2008 Chevy Tahoe comes LS, LT, and LTZ trim levels, plus the new Hybrid model. All models, including the Hybrid, are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or Autotrac four-wheel drive (4WD). All have a four-speed automatic transmission.
All models except the base and Hybrid come with a 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 with GM's Active Fuel Management technology that shuts down four cylinders under light engine loads. The base engine in the 2WD LS model is a 295-hp 4.8-liter V8. A flexible-fuel version of this engine is available that runs on regular gasoline or E85 ethanol-blended fuel.
The LS ($34,094) and LS 4WD ($37,895) come with cloth upholstery; tri-zone manual climate control with rear controls; split front bench seat; six-way power driver's seat; split-folding second-row bench seat; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls; cruise control; intermittent windshield wipers; power locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry; heated outside mirrors; side assist steps; AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers; XM satellite radio; auto-dimming rearview mirror; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; roof rails; front recovery hooks; trailer hitch platform with seven-wire harness; one year of OnStar service; and P265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels.
The LT ($36,145) and LT 4WD ($38,950) are the most popular, accounting for the majority of sales. To simplify ordering, the LT offers three variations. The base LT-1 package comes with a cargo shade, front bucket seats, front center console, color-keyed door handles, fog lamps, rear audio controls with headphone jacks; and OnStar's Directions and Connections plan which includes audible directions. The LT-2 package ($2,095) upgrades with leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, power-adjustable pedals, remote engine starting, six-disc CD changer, Ultrasonic rear park assist and a universal garage door opener. The LT-3 package ($3,155) includes the LT-2 package plus power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, reverse tilting, and driver's side auto-dimming; heated first- and second-row seats; 10-way power front seats; driver's seat memory, and a Bose Premium nine-speaker audio system with subwoofer.
The LTZ ($44,780) and LTZ 4WD ($47,585) add to the LT-1 leather upholstery; tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls; heated first- and second-row seats; second-row seat power release; three-passenger split folding third-row seat; power-adjustable pedals; remote engine starting; memory for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors; power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, reverse tilting, and driver's side auto-dimming; Bose Premium nine-speaker audio with subwoofer and six-disc CD changer; heated windshield washer system; power rear liftgate; rain-sensing wipers; GM's Autoride suspension with adjustable shocks and automatic rear load leveling; a limited-slip rear differential; Ultrasonic rear park assist; and P275/55R20 tires on polished aluminum wheels.
The Hybrid comes with a 6.0-liter V8 mated to GM's new Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT) that has two electric motors and four fixed gears. The Hybrid system makes 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. The Hybrid model is equipped much like the LT-3, but also has a locking rear differential, rearview camera, a navigation system with touch screen, three-passenger split folding third-row seat; and P265/65R18 tires on alloy wheels. Compared to the LT-3, the Hybrid does not come standard with fog lamps, roof rails, six-disc CD changer, power adjustable pedals, or front recovery hooks.
Options include navigation ($2,250), DVD entertainment system ($1,295), sunroof ($995), and rearview camera ($250) when the separate navigation system is ordered. The Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package ($3,790) includes the navigation system, rearview camera, rear DVD entertainment, and sunroof. The Z71 Off-Road Suspens.
The Chevy Tahoe features a clean design with rounded lines, fully wrapped front fascia that eliminates air-grabbing gaps, doors that wrap over the rocker panels, and a steeply raked windshield.
The result of the streamlined body is optimal fuel economy, according to GM. Automotive engineers judge wind-cheating aerodynamics by a factor known as the coefficient of drag. The lower the number, the slicker the vehicle. The Tahoe has a Cd of 0.363. And the Hybrid model is even more slippery, with a Cd of 0.34. For comparison, the smaller but extremely sporty Porsche Cayenne emerges from the wind tunnel at a less slippery 0.38.
Up front, the Tahoe features a clean interpretation of Chevrolet's two-tier front grille with a central bowtie logo. Tow hook openings flank the license plate frame and they are, in turn, flanked by fog lights. The sides of the Tahoe have little ornamentation, yielding a smooth design. Tall side glass allows for an unobstructed view of the road. And at the rear, the liftgate has separate opening glass to offer easier loading of small items.
The smooth appearance doesn't mean the Tahoe looks soft. Built on a wide frame, this is a commanding vehicle with a strong stance. A bulging hood enhances its visual strength. Further boosting the muscular look are standard 17-inch wheels, with 18s and 20s available.
The LTZ model can be distinguished by its standard 20-inch polished aluminum wheels and use of chrome accents on the door handles and grille inserts.
The Hybrid model has several distinct characteristics. To reduce weight and drag, the front end features an aluminum hood, a lowered air dam, a slightly larger grille opening, and blocked off fog light and tow hook openings. Along the sides, the running boards are tapered front and rear for improved aerodynamics and the wheel flares are slightly reshaped. At the back, the rear pillars and center high-mounted stoplight have a unique shape, the tailgate is made of aluminum and has fixed glass, and LED taillights replace the standard bulbs. The wheels are more aero efficient and the tires have a lower rolling resistance. The spare tire and jack have been replaced by a tire inflation kit.
The Chevy Tahoe instrument panel and center stack are cleanly designed and easy to use. The gauge cluster is attractive and informative, dominated by the large, easy-to-read tachometer and speedometer in black with blue numbers. Oil pressure, volt meter and water temperature gauges are also standard, providing data many other vehicles leave to warning lights.
While largely plastic, the dash materials are finished well and fit together with tight tolerances. With the available leather upholstery, the look is upscale. Small items storage space is abundant, with a large center console, map pockets in the doors, a big glovebox and a handy tray below the center stack.
New for 2008, the Hybrid gets its own gauge cluster with a special tachometer and an economy gauge. The economy gauge has a green bar that represents a zone drivers can aim for to maximize fuel economy. The tachometer has an Auto Stop reading to indicate when the gasoline engine is shut off. The Hybrid comes standard with a navigation system and a 6.5-inch screen that also shows a graphic representation of the hybrid system's power flow. Like in Toyota products, this screen shows if the power is coming from the electric motors, the gasoline engine, or both, plus when regenerative braking is charging the batteries. The system also shows whether in 2WD or 4WD. It's fun to monitor the Hybrid's additional information displays, but be aware this can distract attention from the road.
The spacious interior of the Tahoe can be enjoyed from any of the three rows of seats. The driver sits up high with a commanding view of the road. Visibility is good all around, though the right side third pillar creates a blind spot, and third row seat blocks the lower portion of the rear window. Available power-adjustable pedals help fit the Tahoe to drivers of varying statures. The front seats move far back to maximize leg room for tall front seat occupants. Even so, tall passengers have room in the second row because the front-seat backs are sculpted to allow optimal room.
We sat in the third-row seats and found that adults fit, though they might not want to ride back there for much longer than a short drive from the office to lunch. The Tahoe we tested was equipped with the two-person third-row seat setup that comprises two separate seats, each with its own cup holder and storage area.
The second-row seats can be equipped with a power fold-and-tumble feature to provide easier access to available the third-row seating area or for loading or unloading cargo. The third-row seats can be removed to take full advantage of the Tahoe's cargo carrying capabilities. Some competitors, however, have third-row seats that fold to create a flat load floor, which is much easier than removing the Tahoe's heavy seats.
Cargo space is aplenty: 108.9 cubic feet behind the first row with second row folded and no third row, 60.3 cubic feet behind second row with no third row, 16.9 cubic feet behind third row.
The Tahoe's aerodynamic body not only cuts through the wind, but it minimizes wind noise. Occupants can hear each other when speaking in normal conversational tones while cruising down the highway.
While big inside, the Tahoe doesn't feel as big on the road as full-size GM SUVs have felt in the past.
The Tahoe uses a coil-over front suspension and a five-link rear suspension that combine to offer decent handling and a supple ride. It is available with the standard (ZW7) Smooth Ride suspension, or with GM's Autoride (Z55) air suspension providing real-time dampening on the LTZ. A special off-road (Z71) suspension package is also offered. The Z71 suspension tends to make the Tahoe bound over bumps. We couldn't detect much of a difference with the Autoride suspension, but the rear load leveling is a great feature for towing.
We prefer the 17-inch wheels over the 20-inch wheels. The ride was comfortable but not at all soft or spongy with the taller tires on the 17-inch wheels. The 20-inch wheels might look nice, but they come with tires with nearly three inches less sidewall area and thus provide much less cushion for absorbing bumps along the way. We recommend you try the 20s before you buy.
The strong frame, wide track, coil-over-shock front suspension and multi-link live axle rear suspension combine to make the vehicle handle well for a large SUV. Still, the Tahoe's large size makes it prone to body lean in turns and slow reactions in quick changes of direction. While the Tahoe's steering is somewhat slow, it feels more direct and precise than it has in the past. That's thanks to the rack-and-pinion steering system, with its rack mounted on an engine cross member. The turning circle is also pleasantly tight for such a large vehicle. All Tahoes have four-wheel disc brakes. The brake pedal has a good feel, and the brakes work quickly and confidently.
We drove a Tahoe LT-3 4WD and found the 5.3-liter is a good engine that moves the Tahoe well around town. It has enough grunt to tow up to 8200 pounds, but we would have preferred more than four gears in the transmission, especially when climbing some long mountain grades northwest of Phoenix. We liked the fact that we couldn't feel the transitions when the Active Fuel Management shut off or turned back on four cylinders as needed during highway cruising. The system even works in normal city driving, though the only way we could tell was to see the indicator lights change on the driver information panel on the dashboard.
We drove on regular gasoline, but a flexible-fuel version of the Vortec 5300 is available that operates on either gasoline or on E85 ethanol fuel. Note, however, that fuel economy suffers by as much as 25 percent when E85 is used. Both versions of the Vortec 5300 meet GM's 200,000-mile durability requirements. With four-wheel drive, the 5.3-liter V8 is EPA-rated at 14 mpg in the City, 19 mpg on the Highway.
We drove the Hybrid model and found the two-mode hybrid system worked seamlessly. The system uses two electric motors in GM's new Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT) that has four fixed gears. The EVT is mated to a 6.0-liter V8 that also has Active Fuel Management. Total output is 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. One of the motors aids power at low speeds and the other lends a hand at highway speeds. Under light throttle, the electric motor can propel the Tahoe up to 30 mph. With heavier throttle, the gasoline engine starts up smoothly, with only a little shudder. Like other systems, the gasoline engine turns off at stoplights and restarts as soon as it's needed.
The Hybrid's fuel economy makes the almost three-ton Tahoe as fuel efficient as a typical sedan. With 2WD, the Tahoe Hybrid is EPA-rated at 21 mpg in the City and 22 on the Highway. With 4WD, it gets 20/20 mpg City/Highway. While the Hybrid has considerably less towing capacity at 6000 pounds with 4WD and 6200 pounds with 2WD, that's still enough for many towing needs.
The 2008 Chevy Tahoe offers lots of cargo space, comfortable passenger accommodations, and a big towing capacity. It's a full-size truck and handles like one, but the Tahoe offers a smooth ride and a pleasant interior. With the addition of the Hybrid model, it can get sedan-like fuel economy. The Hybrid is a good choice for a daily driver with a lot of cargo and passenger carrying capacity, and the other models are excellent choices for those who need to tow.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall reported from Phoenix, Arizona; with Kirk Bell reporting on the Hybrid in Chicago.
Chevy Tahoe LS 2WD ($34,094), LS 4WD ($37,895); LT 2WD ($36,145), LT 4WD ($38,950); LTZ 2WD ($44,780), LTZ 4WD ($47,585); Hybrid, Hybrid 4WD.
Options As Tested
LT-3 package ($3,155) with leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, power-adjustable pedals, remote engine starting, six-disc CD changer, Ultrasonic rear park assist, universal garage door opener, power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, reverse tilting, and driver's side auto-dimming, heated first- and second-row seats, 10-way power front seats, driver's seat memory, Bose Premium nine-speaker audio with subwoofer; Convenience package 2 ($600) with power liftgate and rain-sensing front wipers; navigation system ($2,250); rear DVD entertainment ($1,295); power fold-and-tumble second-row seats ($425); two-passenger third-row seating ($760); sunroof ($995).
Chevy Tahoe LT 4x4 ($38,950).
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