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.