2011 Tahoe New Car Test Drive
The 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 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 21/22 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 2011 are limited to new colors and available 20-inch chrome-clad wheels on the top-of-the-line LTZ model. And the trailering package now includes an integrated trailer brake controller. The mid-level 2011 Tahoe LT includes an available Bose premium nine-speaker audio, plus standard power-adjustable pedals, remote start, rear park assist, and heavy-duty locking rear differential. The Z71 Off-Road Package is also available on the LT. A single-speed transfer case is standard on four-wheel drive models, with a two-speed case optional.
The 2011 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).
The Tahoe LS ($37,570) and LS 4WD ($41,630) come with cloth upholstery; tri-zone manual climate control with rear controls; split front bench seat; power driver's seat; 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; 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.
The Tahoe LT ($42,420) and LT 4WD ($45,270) get leather; rear headphone jacks and audio controls, six-way power front bucket seats with console; fog lamps; three-zone automatic climate control; adjustable pedals; park assist; automatic locking rear differential; and remote start. A Luxury package for LT ($1,825) 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.
The Tahoe LTZ ($51,055) and LTZ 4WD ($54,160) upgrade to 12-way power 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; navigation; rear-view camera; XM NavTraffic; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with 275/55R20 tires.
The Hybrid ($50,735) and Hybrid 4WD ($53,540) 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 a navigation 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 Navigation ($2,500), 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 ($1,295); 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; 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 belts.