2015 Chevrolet Tahoe
MSRP
$46,300 - $64,085
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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Expert Review:Autoblog

Remember the SUV-asaurus? As a character in an ad campaign, it made us chuckle, the general gist being that the huge sport-utility vehicles of years past were hopelessly out of date, falling prey to higher gas prices and a shifting consumer attitude toward more efficient transportation, namely the car-based crossover. While no specific manufacturer was targeted (besides Suzuki, of course, as it was the brand that paid for the ad campaign), there were a few fullsize SUVs clearly wearing crosshairs – most obviously the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and their corporate Yukon and Yukon XL twins from GMC.

Humorous as it may have been to poke fun at a would-be dodo, it seems the grave meant for the fullsize body-on-frame SUV may have been dug rather prematurely (ironically, the burial plot ended up being for Suzuki itself, at least here in the States). Proof positive can be seen in the 2015 Chevy Tahoe that is the subject of today's feature. It's a completely redesigned machine, and it holds an important place in the automaker's lineup – according to General Motors, fullsize SUVs make up 1.6 percent of the US vehicle market (2.2 percent if you include luxury nameplates), and GM owns a whopping 74 percent of that chunk. Add it all up and that equals 263,948 sales in 2013. What's more, these aren't low-dollar sales, with an average transaction price of $53,000, and they are known to have particularly huge profit margins.

So, we've established that fullsize SUVs aren't yet dead, Chevrolet and GMC are two of the biggest players in the segment and, importantly, that the market is lucrative. It was with these facts in mind that we slid behind the wheel of the 2015 Chevy Tahoe. Just who is it that are buying up these massive utilities, and what are the specific virtues that lead to their continued success? Let's find out.
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To our eyes, it looks more purposeful than pretty.

When looking through an out-of-focus lens, just about any fullsize body-on-frame sport utility is going to appear mostly like a big box on wheels. Fortunately, Chevy has gone to great lengths to give the Tahoe a distinctive look. Whether it's an attractive vehicle, though, is certainly up for debate. To our eyes, it looks more purposeful than pretty, with a handsome profile that's a bit spoiled by the strangely shaped headlamp clusters and massive, upright chrome grille. If you don't like the look of the Tahoe, remember that there's a probably a GMC dealer close by with a sales floor full of Yukons, which we think look quite a bit prettier.

The good news is that its long, straight lines and vertical stance mean its interior is large, bright and airy. Seats are comfortable, and the leather surfaces of our LTZ tester were soft and supple. In front of the driver sits a cluster with easy-to-read gauges, including a large tachometer on the left, a matching speedometer on the right and a row of four smaller ancillaries in between. A reasonably sized LCD sits below those smaller gauges, offering the driver basic information that includes trip odometers and fuel mileage readouts. When optioned up properly, all the surfaces you can touch are covered in a soft-ish leather substitute in either gray or brown shades with attractive stitching. Similarly, the steering wheel is nicely covered and easy to put into a comfortable position.

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The center console is dominated by an eight-inch LCD screen in LT and LTZ models, with a cubby hidden behind. That touchscreen features Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, which includes, among other things, Bluetooth, Pandora and, when so equipped, navigation. As many as six USB ports and six power outlets can be found inside the Tahoe for today's totally connected families – that's 12 devices drawing power from the Tahoe at once. All in, some 10 separate devices can be linked to the infotainment system.

Some 10 separate devices can be linked to the infotainment system.

And that leads us to the Tahoe's first easily discernible virtue: size. There's no getting around the fact that the Tahoe is a large vehicle, measuring in at 204 inches in length on a 116-inch wheelbase. It is 80.5 inches wide, with a 68.7-inch track. If that doesn't mean anything to you, consider this: maximum seating capacity sits at nine, and even when fully loaded with people, there's still 15.3 cubic-feet of storage space in back, which is comparable to the trunk size of a midsize sedan. If you don't need all those seats, fold the third row flat (a new feature for 2015) and you'll be rewarded with 51.6 cubes with which to fill. Fold all but the front seats flat and the Tahoe will swallow a truly impressive 94.7 cubic-feet of stuff. Besides other fullsize SUVs like the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia, the only kind of passenger vehicle with comparable specs would be a minivan, but those have their own set of limitations.

Got a boat? A family-size travel trailer? Dirtbikes, jet skis or a classic car? No problem. The 2015 Chevy Tahoe can tow as much as 8,600 pounds (minus 200 lbs for 4x4s), far exceeding that of any minivans on the market. It's also available with real, honest-to-goodness four-wheel drive, which means it can find traction in adverse conditions and can get places where less-capable machinery has to find a place to park.

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Much of the Tahoe's machoness comes from its pickup-based genetic makeup. While most utility vehicles on the market today have long since abandoned a perimeter frame, opting instead for lighter unibody construction, Chevrolet continues to bolt the body, powertrain and suspenders of its fullsizer to a fully boxed steel frame. This, while hopelessly out of fashion in today's automotive world, has a few benefits, not the least of which is its ability to haul heavy loads, as previously discussed.

The Tahoe can tow as much as 8,600 pounds.

Drawbacks, however, are often seen as outweighing factors – (usually) poorer efficiency due in part to higher weight (in this case, 5,466 pounds with two-wheel drive or 5,683 with four-wheel drive), and, due to the fact that they require multiple pieces to make a whole (as opposed to a single unibody structure), a rougher ride and a general sense of shimmying and shaking. Starting with the latter, we're happy to report that GM has done an excellent job of assuaging those on-road jitters.

The 2015 Chevy Tahoe rides rather well, with a quiet confidence on rough roads that feels like at least a match for any of its competitors. The Tahoe's ride and handling have been improved over its predecessor thanks to a number of engineering refinements that include a wider rear track and revised suspension geometry that includes a new cross-axis ball joint, more high-strength steel, shear-style body mounts and available Magneride magnetic ride control. Most of these updates are inherited from the latest Silverado and Sierra pickup trucks, but the magneto-rheological shocks, which come standard in LTZ trim, is worth mentioning. The technology, well known for its appearance on Chevy's own Corvette as well as Ferrari models, is capable of adapting its damping characteristics in as little as 10 milliseconds in response to changing road conditions. Suffice it to say that the technology works as advertised, offering a smooth ride and responsive handling in one package with no extra work required of the driver.

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Buyers who choose LS or LT models receive much more basic twin-tube shocks and coil springs that are as much as 30-percent stiffer than before, while the Z85 package that comes with a heavy-duty trailering package benefits from a load-leveling rear suspension. Neither of these suspension systems is as fancy or functional as Magneride, but they certainly do a fine job of isolating passengers from the most jarring of roadway infractions. Eighteen-inch wheels come standard with P265/65R18 tires, and buyers with a thing for bling can option those all the way up to 22 inches in diameter. That said, we would recommend exercising some restraint in that department, as the 20-inchers of our LTZ test car struck a fine balance between looks, ride and handling. The 2015 Tahoe is also commendably quiet, though the Yukon is a bit quieter still due to its more extensive use of sound-deadening glass.

Chevy has done an excellent job of tuning the steering for its latest fullsize SUVs.

New for 2015 is an electronic steering system that replaces the old tried-and-true hydraulic setup. While enthusiasts sometimes bemoan these variable units, we found that Chevy has done an excellent job of tuning the rack for its latest fullsize SUVs. Little effort is required to turn the wheel at low speeds, as when maneuvering in a parking lot, and the effort stiffens admirably at higher speeds, giving a solid feel of straight-ahead steadiness.

Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon buyers will all benefit from Duralife brake rotors inherited from the company's fullsize pickups. GM says these units are far more durable than conventional rotors, making them extremely resistant to warpage that can be felt through the brake pedal, if not the steering wheel. We found the brake pedal reassuringly firm, and that's comforting when piloting such a large vehicle full of precious cargo... like seven human beings. We also appreciated the power-adjustable brake pedals fitted to our LTZ test vehicle, though we noted that the brake pedal was positioned unusually closer to the driver's foot than the gas pedal. We got used to the arrangement in short order, and we don't imagine anyone doing any heel-toe action in the big SUVs as there's no clutch pedal, but your mileage may vary. GM includes a full suite of driver assistance technologies as standard equipment, including StabilliTrack, ABS, trailer sway control and Auto Grade Braking, which downshifts on long descents to help preserve the brakes while keeping vehicle speed in check.

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The 6.2 was optional in the Tahoe for a few years, but buyers almost never wanted it.

All 2015 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban models are equipped with the latest version of GM's trusty 5.3-liter V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that pretty much carries over from the last generation. There's 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque on tap, and that feels like plenty of power in the Tahoe... until you take the Yukon Denali for a drive and experience the 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of its 6.2-liter V8. We asked Chevy why the 6.2 isn't at least optional in the Tahoe and were told that it was for a few years, but buyers almost never wanted it. So there you go...

In any case, GM's 5.3-liter V8 engine offers lots of technology to keep it current, including direct injection and variable valve timing, which, along with active cylinder deactivation that turns this V8 into a V4 when ultimate power isn't required, equals EPA-estimated fuel mileage ratings of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 highway for two-wheel-drive models (22 on the highway with four-wheel drive). Due to improved efficiencies across the entire Tahoe platform, we noticed that the 5.3-liter engine was able to operate on four cylinders much more often and for longer periods than past systems from GM, and the switch between the two modes was truly seamless. As an interesting little factoid, GM notes that its very first small-block V8 engine appeared on the scene in 1955, displacing 4.3 liters and putting out 145 hp and 238 lb-ft as an option in the '55 Chevy Suburban.

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It's also worth noting that Chevy offers different power ratings for its 5.3 engine when run on E10 fuel and when run on E85. When filled with 85-percent ethanol, the V8 spits out 380 horses (35 more than on E10) and 416 lb-ft (33 more torques). Score one for the higher octane ratings offered by ethanol, eh? There aren't separate fuel economy listings on the differing fuels, though, and we'd expect Tahoe drivers to lose a few mpg on E85.

The 2015 Tahoe is easily the leader of the fullsize body-on-frame SUV pack.

Several paragraphs back, we mentioned some key competitors, namely the Expedition, Armada and Sequoia. With a starting price of $45,595, the Tahoe is priced in line with its segment, though it's easy to push the LTZ, which starts at $60,490, up into the low $70s with all its many option boxes checked (and for that price, we'd be keen to look at the Yukon Denali). These vehicles offer a similar size and a similar number of seats to the Tahoe, and they offer powerful V8 engines, just like the Chevy. But none of them have the polish or poise of the Bowtie's big SUV, and neither can they claim anything near the Tahoe's 16/23 estimated mpg (all three of those competitors scores just 13 or 14 mpg in the city, and highway ratings range from the Toyota's 17 mpg to the Ford's 20).

Put simply, if what you need is a big sport utility vehicle to haul your family, your stuff or some combination thereof, the 2015 Tahoe is easily the leader of the fullsize body-on-frame SUV pack. And, with its newfound comfort and efficiency, we imagine that the beastly SUV-asaurus will manage to evade its grave for several more years, at least.

The following review is for a 2013 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

Ready for a weekend of trailering.

Introduction

Chevrolet Tahoe offers good towing capabilities and can haul up to nine passengers or two passengers and a mountain of cargo or anything in between. 

Inside, the first two rows offer legroom and head room comparable to most sedans but more shoulder and hip room because of Tahoe's six-and-a-half foot width. Fold the second row of seats and remove the third row and the Tahoe offers nearly 109 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Towing capacity is up to 8,500 pounds. Based on a platform similar to the Suburban and Silverado models, the Tahoe makes a stable rig for pulling trailers. 

With its rigid chassis, the Tahoe feels taut for its size, steering is precise and responsive, and the brakes are capable and smooth. The ride quality is generally smooth, even with the available 20-inch wheels. At highway speeds, we found the Tahoe quiet and comfortable. 

Engine choices are a pair of 5.3-liter V8s that feature GM's Active Fuel Management to save gas; you can't even feel the switch between four and eight cylinders, which generally occurs with your foot off the gas or steady-state cruising. The major difference between the two engines is that one has a cast-iron block and the other an aluminum block; each delivers 320 horsepower, is matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and provides all the power and performance most customers will need. The engines are also E85-compatible, which means they will run on 85-percent ethanol fuel. EPA fuel economy ratings (on gasoline) are 15/21 mpg City/Highway. 

The Tahoe Hybrid has a 6.0-liter V8 of 332 horsepower and a two-mode hybrid system, and works seamlessly. It offers drastically improved urban fuel economy and slightly more power compared to other models, but tows less, weighs more and costs more. The Hybrid model provides an answer for those who spend the week in city traffic but want to tow up to 6,200 pounds and bring the family on the weekend. EPA ratings for the Hybrid are 20/23 mpg City/Highway. 

The available Autotrac four-wheel drive 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. 

Changes for 2013 are essentially limited to two new colors. The current-generation Tahoe was launched as a 2007 model. 

Lineup

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe comes in LS, LT, LTZ, and Hybrid trim levels. All those are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or Autotrac four-wheel drive (4WD). 

Tahoe LS ($40,405) and LS 4WD ($44,465) come with cloth upholstery; tri-zone manual climate control with rear controls; six-way power front bucket seats with console (a split front bench is available for a $250 credit); 60/40 split-folding second-row bench seat; 50/50 split-fold third row; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls; cruise control; Bluetooth; intermittent wipers front/rear; power locks, windows and heated mirrors; remote keyless entry; side assist steps; AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and USB port; XM satellite radio; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; luggage rack side and center rails; front recovery hooks (on 4WD); color-matched door handles; trailer hitch platform with seven-wire harness; six months of OnStar Directions and Connections service; and P265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels. 

Tahoe LT ($45,555) and LT 4WD ($48,405) get leather; 9-speaker Bose sound system with rear headphone jacks and audio controls; fog lamps; heated front seats; heated outside mirrors; three-zone automatic climate control; adjustable pedals; park assist; automatic locking rear differential; and remote start. A Luxury package for LT ($1,575) adds auto-dimming inside and driver mirrors, power folding and heated exterior mirrors with turn signals and reverse-tilt, heated first- and second-row seats, HomeLink, and a power liftgate. Also available is the new HDD navigation ($2,500). 

Tahoe LTZ ($54,260) and LTZ 4WD ($58,270) upgrade to 12-way power perforated leather front seats, heated and cooled; heated second-row bucket seats; driver memory system; Autoride suspension; power liftgate; power-folding heated reverse-tilt mirrors; auto-dimming inside and driver's side mirrors; chrome trim; Bose Centerpoint audio system; new HDD navigation; rear-view camera; XM NavTraffic; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with 275/55R20 tires. A heated steering wheel and Side Blind Zone alert are also new for 2012. 

Tahoe Hybrid ($53,620) and Hybrid 4WD ($56,425) are equipped between the LT and LTZ. The Hybrid does not have roof rails, fog lamps, tow hooks, or a separate glass opening on the liftgate. Hybrid mechanicals are warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles. Hybrid models come with the HDD navigation/audio system with rearview camera, locking rear differential, and P265/65R18 low-rolling resistance tires on alloy wheels. The Hybrid uses a 6.0-liter V8 gas engine, rated at 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, and an electric drive system contained within the transmission. 

Options include polished aluminum 20-inch wheels ($1,795); audio system upgrades; moonroof ($995); retractable side steps ($1,095); trailer brake controller ($200); rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,395); second-row bucket seats ($590); skid plate package ($150); and engine block heater ($75). Tahoes that come with second-row buckets can be ordered with a 60/40 second-row bench at no charge, and larger wheels can often be downsized to standard 17-inch at no cost for bad roads, tire chains, and so on. 

Safety features include dual-stage front airbags; seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front-seat passenger; full-coverage head-protecting curtain side airbags with rollover sensors; four-wheel antilock brakes; StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, trailer sway control and hill start assist; LATCH child safety seat anchors; OnStar; and a tire pressure monitor. Optional safety features include Side Blind Zone alert, rearview cameras, and rear park assist; all are useful and we recommend the cameras particularly to help the driver spot small children and other people when backing up. We also recommend wearing your seat belt. 

Walkaround

The Chevrolet Tahoe features a crisp design with curved edges, fully wrapped front fascia that eliminates air-grabbing gaps, doors that wrap over the rocker panels, and a steeply raked windshield. 

One 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 easier air flows over it. The Tahoe has a Cd of 0.36. The Hybrid is even more slippery, with a Cd of 0.34. However, total drag also includes frontal area, and the Tahoe's substantial frontal profile means it isn't as low-drag as a smaller vehicle with a higher Cd. 

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, on cars so equipped, flanked by fog lights. The sides of the Tahoe have little ornamentation, yielding a smooth design. Windows aren't shrunk in the name of style and offer a decent view; unlike the Suburban the rear side windows do not roll all the way down. And at the rear, the liftgate has separate opening glass to offer easier loading of small items and the bumper top is ribbed for safer roof loading. 

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 Tahoe LTZ can be distinguished by its standard chrome accents on the door handles and grille inserts. 

The Hybrid model has several distinct characteristics. To offset the added weight of the hybrid system (the Hybrid Tahoe weighs about 250 pounds more than a standard Tahoe) and reduce drag, the front end features an aluminum hood and front bumper beam, a lowered air dam, and a slightly larger grille opening to offset the blocked off fog light and tow hook openings and smaller lower air inlets. 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 side pillars, roof spoiler and center high-mounted stoplight have a unique shape, the tailgate is made of aluminum and has fixed glass, and LED tail lights. The wheels are more aero efficient and the tires have lower rolling resistance. The spare tire and jack have been replaced by a tire inflation kit. Hybrids also carry H logos with a printed-circuit board-like center. Thankfully, the substantial Hybrid wallpaper that ran along the doors of earlier models was stripped off in 2011. 

Interior

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-green numbers; the tachometer scale ends where redline would otherwise be marked. Oil pressure, voltage and water temperature gauges are standard, providing data many other vehicles leave to warning lights. 

While largely plastic, the cabin materials are finished well and fit together with tight tolerances. With the available leather upholstery, the look is upscale; we find the lighter colors look more luxurious, the black very businesslike. 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. 

The Hybrid gets a modified instrument panel. The tachometer has an AutoStop position between 0 and 1000 rpm to show when the gasoline engine is off but the car is still on, the oil pressure gauge moves to the voltmeter position, and an Economy gauge goes top left. In theory this gauge is to give a quick-glance indication of how efficiently you're driving, but unlike the others that swing right to show more the Economy gauge swings right when you're using the most fuel, not getting the best economy. It also doesn't always agree with the screen. 

Hybrids have navigation as standard, in part so you can use the screen (if desired) to watch power flow amongst the gas engine, battery pack and electric motors. When you lift off the gas to coast or slow the center screen shows the battery being charged but the Economy gauge stays planted in its default center position. Only when the brake pedal is pressed does the Economy gauge needle move left and the screen shows battery charge. The screen display could be distracting, so just keep the Economy gauge from swinging right and you'll be efficient. 

The touch-screen navigation/audio systems work well and easily; we never had to consult the owner's manual to get what we wanted. If you're subscribed you get XM radio and real-time traffic data as well, and non-navi cars have options with OnStar. The switchgear is clearly labeled and arranged, the rotary light and drive switches both default to automatic, and the rear wiper switch is cleanly integrated onto the turn signal stalk. 

The spacious interior of the Tahoe can be enjoyed from any of the three rows of seats. The driver sits up high with a good view of the road; steering wheel/seat/pedal/instrument placement is such that the eye is drawn to right of center. With tilt wheel, power seat (with manual backrest adjustment on some) and available adjustable pedals most drivers should find a proper, safe driving position. Roof pillars are narrower than on a Hummer but they are still substantial; taller drivers mentioned the top of the left windshield pillar and shorter drivers the pillar behind the right side door and the third-row seat which should be left folded when not occupied. 

Front and second row leg and headroom is (for the most part) a couple of inches better than in Chevrolet's shorter-outside Malibu and Impala sedans, but it's the Tahoe's roughly ten inches more in hip and shoulder room that makes three-across in the second row a realistic proposition. It's worth noting that the Hybrid's lighter-weight front seats are also thinner; they don't feel any less comfortable than the standard seats but they add more than an inch to rear seat knee room and we'd like to see them standard everywhere. 

A yank on the second-row seat lever (or push on the optional button) flips the seat up for access to the third row. We sat in the third-row seats and found that short-to-average adults fit, though they will likely feel insulted if kept back there more than 10 or 15 minutes. The Tahoe's rear suspension design means there is no foot well behind the second row; the seats sit on the cargo deck like very well upholstered beach chairs. 

Like the second-row bench, the third-row seats have three seatbelts but no center headrests. They are split 50/50; the backrests fold down, the whole seat can be folded up against the second row, or they can be pulled back and lifted out. Unlike most of the competition big loads in the Tahoe require leaving the third row out of the truck somewhere. 

With the third row out and second row folded Tahoe has full-size cargo space of 108.9 cubic feet, 60.3 cubic feet behind the second row and 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row. The load height is about the same height as a typical pickup bed. 

Driving Impression

The Chevy Tahoe rides quite well for a big, heavy utility and drives much less like a truck than you might expect. We won't say it drives like a car, at least any car designed this century because those have also advanced. 

The Tahoe uses independent front suspension and five-link rear suspension with coil springs at both ends. There is noticeable body roll, some pitching on frost heaved interstates and nose-dive under heavy braking, but these characteristics are expected in a truck and do a good job of communicating how hard you're pushing it while maintaining stability. Multiple suspension tuning choices are offered, with a smooth ride setup standard on most, Autoride providing real-time damping and self-leveling rear on the LTZ, and the Z71 package for off-road use. The Z71 is firm and set up more toward speed over rough terrain than softness for ultimate articulation, and the Autoride proves useful on variable road surfaces or when towing; do remember automatic leveling on the truck is not a substitute for a proper weight-distributing hitch. 

We prefer the smaller-diameter 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, and a truck with 20s got us along a winding road only slightly faster than 18s and that difference is easily attributed to the 20-inch tire being more performance oriented. 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 Tahoe's steering is among the best in big, truck-based utilities, nicely weighted and void of free play and any wander. Three-ton trucks more than six feet tall don't change direction like cars and if you approach a corner too fast the Tahoe understeers and scrubs off speed; the predictability and consistency are ideal for the average Tahoe driver. 

The 5.3-liter V8 and its 6-speed automatic are plenty for the Tahoe, and the 6-speed lets the engine use its four-cylinder mode to best advantage; it takes fuel to make power and move the Tahoe down the road, regardless of the number of cylinders being used. 

The transmission will make the right gear decisions, and it has a tow-/haul mode for use pulling a substantial trailer. It also offers a manual mode via a shift button on the stalk but you must first move the lever to the M position. Engaging tow/haul mode changes the one-touch lane-change signal from three blinks to six, a useful feature. 

Maximum tow capacity is listed at 8,500 pounds, but that's assuming you go alone in an empty truck. If you plan on bringing friends, gear and any trailer more than 6,500 pounds, we recommend checking into a Suburban. 

It sounds oxymoronic but driving the Tahoe Hybrid is both different and the same. You don't do anything different to drive it, and the gas-electric drive system controls everything automatically. Turning the key always switches it on but doesn't always start the gas engine like you're used to; that happens more often at temperature extremes and ours more when we chose Reverse than when we went to Drive. 

At very low speeds in the Hybrid propulsion is by electric power only, and you have to watch for people walking out in front of you in parking lots since there is only tire noise. The system will do 30 mph on electric power alone in ideal circumstances but in most cases the gas engine is on by 10 mph. The system usually shuts off the gas engine when the vehicle is stationary and the majority of the time your foot is on the accelerator pedal it is a combination of the gas engine and electric motors powering you. 

If you step on the pedal hard as you might to get across a busy street there is a moment, some fraction of a second, before the gas engine starts and the system delivers its full 367 pound-feet of torque, so you should try that in the open a couple of times to know exactly how the truck will respond. There's enough power to get the Hybrid (and a 4,000-6,000 pound trailer) going easily, though it may sound odd at first as the gas engine goes to a certain rpm and stays there while the truck catches up with it. 

The Hybrid system uses an Atkinson-cycle 6.0-liter V8 engine and dual electric motor/generators inside a transmission with four conventional gears because in certain high-load conditions those are the most efficient; the 300-volt battery pack is beneath the second-row seat so it uses no cargo space. 

That battery pack is charged by the motor/generators when the gas engine runs and when you are moving with your foot off the pedal, such as descents and approaching stop signs. Energy that would normally be turned into heat by the brakes is used to recharge the battery pack which is why the Hybrid's fuel economy advantage is primarily in the city. 

Although the nav-screen display shows the battery being charged when your foot is off the accelerator pedal, the Economy gauge does swing to the charge side until the brake pedal is pressed, and it doesn't go far right until the pedal is pressed hard. This makes the brake pedal a bit touchy in maneuvering and makes most drivers stop with more lurch because energy being recaptured for charging decreases with speed so the brakes have to take over. This is typical behavior of hybrids and practice will eventually smooth things but it's difficult to match a non-hybrid Tahoe for braking smoothness. 

We found that manually downshifting to control speed on long descents did not appreciably increase the charge rate like we expected it to; gas engine compression helped but needing the brakes at all surprised us. The battery could have been at full charge (unlikely after the climb up the hill) but we never noticed battery charge level on the screen. We also found that if you got on the brakes hard there was a momentary delay before the needle-swing to heavy charge rate so the brakes would smell at the bottom of a tight, winding hill. In comparison, a standard gas-engine Tahoe where we could use the tap shifter and extra gears for ideal control didn't have smelly brakes at the bottom of the hill. 

We don't think the standard Tahoe's 250-pound weight advantage over the Hybrid made the difference there, but it probably played some part in the Hybrid feeling a bit more ponderous than the standard Tahoe. The Hybrid's low rolling resistance tires didn't handle any less competently than other same-size all-purpose tires, although they feel like 20-inchers on some sharp, small impacts (like lane-divider dots) and we suspect they run higher pressure than the standard Tahoe. The Hybrid uses a 42-volt motor to drive the steering pump and while steering feel is as good as a regular Tahoe we like that this keeps up better in repeated maneuvering, like trail rides or backing a trailer, and that the Hybrid's engine compartment is very clean and uncluttered. 

On level urban highways our 4WD Hybrid's trip computer showed 20.3 mpg; around town without any gridlock or jams, it showed 16.5; and in a mixed, relaxed drive it recorded 19.8 mpg (the gas pump and GPS backed up these numbers). When we drove a similarly-equipped non-hybrid 5.3-liter with the 6-speed automatic in the same places, conditions, speeds and times, it bettered the Hybrid on the highway at 21.2 mpg, did 13.3 around town and the mixed route at 17.7. 

The Tahoe Hybrid is ideal for people who spend all week plodding around in a city but take the family and a 4,500-pound trailer out on a weekend. Without the city use the standard Tahoe will serve as well, and if you don't tow a trailer a minivan or larger crossover will have more room, drive more comfortably, offer the higher seating position, be just as safe, and get better mileage. Given our test results and the fact that the Hybrid has a slightly smaller fuel tank, long-distance cruising range might be better on a non-Hybrid. 

Summary

The Chevrolet Tahoe offers cargo space, passenger accommodations, and towing capacity. It's a full-size truck and handles like one, offers the versatility of real low-range four-wheel drive, while delivering a good ride and a pleasant interior. The Hybrid model gets decent mileage in the city and the standard version is a better highway-cruiser value. 

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale reported from Los Angeles, with Kirk Bell in Chicago, Larry Edsall in Phoenix. 

Model Lineup

Chevrolet Tahoe LS 2WD ($40,405), LS 4WD ($44,465); LT 2WD ($45,555), LT 4WD ($48,405); LTZ 2WD ($54,260), LTZ 4WD ($58,270); Hybrid 2WD ($53,620), Hybrid 4WD ($56,425). 

Assembled In

Arlington, Texas. 

Options As Tested

Sun, Entertainment & Destinations Package ($4,935) includes power sunroof, premium stereo with DVD player and DVD-based navigation, rear-seat entertainment system, additional 9 months of XM radio and NavTraffic service, interior auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rearview camera. 

Model Tested

Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD ($48,405). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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