2009 Tahoe New Car Test Drive
The Chevy Tahoe offers excellent towing capabilities and is configurable for two to nine passengers and a mountain of cargo.
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 8,200 pounds. Based on a platform similar to half-ton Suburban and Silverado, 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 responsive 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.
The 5.3-liter V8 engine features GM's Active Fuel Management to save gas; you can't even feel it switching between four and eight cylinders, which generally occurs with your foot off the gas or steady-state cruising. The 5.3-liter V8 provides all the power most customers will need, there's a less-expensive 4.8-liter V8 available on base-model 2WD, and the top-line LTZ offers a romping 6.2-liter V8.
The Hybrid model works seamlessly. It offers more slightly more power and drastically improved urban fuel economy compared to other models, but tows about a ton 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 5000 pounds and bring the family on the weekend.
Autotrac four-wheel drive is available, a 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.
Tahoe competes primarily against the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, and Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen. Those in need of a Hybrid might consider the Lexus RX, Aspen/Durango, BMW X6, plus the diesel versions of the BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Mercedes ML and GL that provide hybrid-like city economy and superior highway economy.
The current generation Chevy Tahoe was rolled out for the 2007 model year and added Hybrid and XFE versions during 2008. New conveniences and cosmetics, and integrated trailer brake controller, and six-speed automatic for most iterations highlight the 2009 lineup.
The standard engine is a 5.3-liter V8 with 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; except for absolute minimum purchase cost it is better to step up to the 5.3-liter which offers better mileage and better power. Both 5.3- and 6.2-liter are available as flexible-fuel engines that run on regular gasoline or E85 ethanol-blended fuel. EPA ratings on gasoline run 14/19 mpg (or 14/20) except for Hybrid 20-21/20-22 and the 6.2 at 12/19; expect about 75 percent of that on E85.
The 2009 Chevy 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). An XFE (extra fuel economy) package is available on LS and LT 2WD. The base 4.8-liter uses a four-speed automatic transmission, the Hybrid a four-speed EVT, and all others use a six-speed automatic.
Tahoe LS ($36,965) and LS 4WD ($41,025) come with cloth upholstery; dual-zone manual climate control with rear controls; split front bench seat; six-way power driver's seat; 60/40 split-folding second-row bench seat; 05/0 split-fold third row; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls; cruise control; intermittent wipers front/rear; power locks, windows and heated mirrors; remote keyless entry; side assist steps; AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers; XM satellite radio; Bluetooth; 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.
Tahoe LT1 ($39,315) and LT1 4WD ($42,165) get the 5.3-liter V8; six-speed automatic transmission; rear headphone jacks and audio controls, power front bucket seats with console; fog lamps; color-matched door handles; five power outlets; 18-inch wheels and tires; and roof rail cross bars. Going to an LT2 2WD ($41,840) or 4WD ($44,690) adds three-zone automatic climate control; six-disc audio system; adjustable pedals; rear park assist; remote start; and universal garage door opener.
Tahoe LTZ ($48,550) and LTZ 4WD ($51,400) upgrade to perforated leather front seats, heated and cooled; heated second row seats; driver memory system; Autoride suspension; power liftgate; power-folding reverse-tilt mirrors; auto-dimming inside and driver's side mirrors; chrome trim; Bose Centerpoint audio system; locking differential; rain-sensing front wipers; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with 275/55R20 tires. Available only on LTZ is a 395-hp 6.2-liter V8 ($1095) and Side Blind Zone Alert system ($500).
Hybrid ($50,455) and Hybrid 4WD ($53,260) are equipped between LT2 and LTZ. It 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 a navigation system with rearview camera, locking rear differential, and P265/65R18 low-rolling resistance tires on alloy wheels. The Hybrid uses a 6-liter V8 gas engine and electric drive system contained within the transmission that rate 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque.
The XFE economy package is available on 2WD LS and LT Tahoe 5.3-liters and adds 1 EPA mile per gallon for about $200 with no loss in rated tow capacity. The package includes a 3.08:1 axle ratio, light alloy wheels with low-rolling resistance high-pressure tires, lowered suspension, alum front control arms and spare wheel, locking differential, and trailering package.
Options are myriad, dependent on model and other equipment, and frequently cheaper by the package. For 2009, navigation ($2500) is available on LT1 and includes the rearview camera. Options include polished aluminum 20-inch wheels ($1795-$1995); three-zone climate control upgrade ($195); audio system upgrades; and a Luxury package for LT2 ($3,085) with Bose nine-speaker sound, auto-dimming inside and driver mirrors, power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals and reverse-tilt, heated first- and second-row seats, 10-way power front seats, driver's seat memory, and a power liftgate. Other options include a moonroof ($995); retractable side steps ($1095); trailer brake controller ($200); rear DVD entertainment ($1295); Z71 Off-Road package for LT ($1830); second-row bucket seats ($490) 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; full-coverage head-protecting curtain side airbags with rollover sensors; four-wheel antilock brakes; StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation; LATCH child safety seat anchors; OnStar; and a tire pressure monitor. Optional safety features include rearview cameras and rear park assist, both of which we highly recommend to help the driver spot small children and people when backing up. We recommend wearing your seat belt.