2007 Chevy Tahoe Review
I say to my driving companions, Whatever they
charge for it theyll have to add an amusement
tax. This delights Gary White in the back
seat. He is chief engineer for General Motors full-size
trucks. With my fellow journalist Ann Job riding
shot-gun we are road testing a product Gary and
his small and diligent team have been re-working
and kneading and tweaking and smoothing. Not that
its required that a large SUV be fun to drive,
but by golly Im having a dandy time in this
redesigned Chevy Tahoe, current best seller in the
large SUV segment with a quarter of the market to
itself and looking to more than hang on with this
2007 model. It is now in showrooms.
We are driving on a sinuous and scenic unpaved road
that follows the rim of Lake Roosevelt in the mountains
east of Phoenix. The road surface offers tenuous
grip at best; think Kitty Litter on a tiled floor.
I am playing with the Tahoes light but precise
steering as we follow the twists holding to just
enough variance in slip angles of the front and
the rear wheels to approach the sensation of skiing
in balance. If that isnt worth a tax nothing
I did not expect the swell of fondness I feel toward
this most certainly big machine. Fond is what one
feels for big-eyed kittens and flop-eared puppies,
but to be honest fond describes my attitude toward
this darned truck. And surprise. And stir in a dash
of at last!
GM has too long replaced adequacy with adequacy
and still succeeded. Buyers habit and the
convenience of many dealerships have managed to
keep the GMs SUV at the top of that market
and allowed the General to coast on mere OK-ness.
But competition has sharpened and the General had
either pull up his socks or sit down. The new Tahoe
and other GM SUVs based on the same underpinnings
(Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevy Suburban etc.)
are convincingly demonstrating serious intent.
did the design team do?
expect a new level of, well, authenticity. Off with
the cladding; away with posturing. Yes, the Tahoe
is big. It has to be to haul people (seven or eight)
and stuff (up to 1867 pound payload in the two-wheel
drive, less in the heavier 4x4). And to tow boats
and vintage race cars and trailers full of flea
market largesse (up to 7700 pounds in the 4x4, less
in the 2x4.) But it doesnt accentuate its
size, which is somewhat bigger all around than the
previous model. Its not a body builder with
an oiled chest; its a sizeable, competent
performer in a tailored jacket.
new Tahoe is a clean package communicating capability
and strength without bluster. Its new demeanor has
more an affinity with moving air rather than a blatant
contest. Designers have pared off the superfluous
(even the lip on the fuel filler door) to make this
large SUV as slippery to the air stream as a Corvette
of a few generations ago. That means using less
fuel. This large SUV is rated at 16 mpg city, 22
highway for the two-wheel drive version, but even
the 4x4 is stickered at 15/21. And regular, not
premium, fuel is recommended.
the doors and climb inside. Change is evident, more
explicitly: great improvement. GM interiors have
long seemed unimaginative, cost-conscious or unevenly
Materials were chosen without consideration
for tactile attributes. My prescription has been
sit designers in an Audi or VW for an hour a day.
It seems that they may have done it. Anyway, previous
monolithic dullness now glows with that corner-office
ambiance the Germans are so good at. In this new
Tahoe both hand and eye have been catered to. And
no fudging the fit with framing or other tricks.
A truck this may be but its a coolly sophisticated
that its usefulness as a truck has been compromised.
Flexibility is offered for the three-row interior:
bench or bucket seats are a choice for all rows.
And a unique power system means the second row of
seats can flip and fold at the touch of a button.
And look good either way. No undergarment hardware
shows. And no floor tracks glint when the seats
slide. Listen, they actually sweated the details
instead of sloganeering about it.
The third row of seats is much easier to get into
than in the current Tahoe model. In cargo mode,
the seats continue to fold flat and tip forward
out of the way as in earlier models. The choice
was not to redesign the rear suspension to allow
the seats to disappear below floor level as they
do in the Ford Expedition. Surveys apparently indicated
this wasnt a deal maker or breaker. That point
will be made clearer when the new Expedition arrives
later this year.
Tahoes front row seats recline if resting
the bod is on the agenda. Theyre comfortable
and supportive in underway mode.
Engine and Transmission
the Tahoe looks good in and out. It moves well,
too. Consider the engines. Two V8s are offered.
The smaller one is 4.8 liters in displacement producing
290 horsepower (at 5400 rpm) and 290 pounds-feet
of torque (at 4000 4pm). This engine will be standard
later this year on the two-wheel drive Tahoe.
The bigger V8, 5.3 liters, is rated for 320 hp (5300
rpm) and 340 lbs.-ft. of torque (4200 rpm). The
engine has what is sometimes called d.o.d.
displacement on demand. That means the engine under
the demand of getting away from a stop sign, climbing
a rise or passing a string of 18-wheelers employs
all eight cylinders for power. But when effortlessly
lazing, cruising the road away, the engine seamlessly
shifts to using only four-cylinders with a consequential
lighter thirst for fuel. Thus a reasoned driving
style can pay off at the pumps despite the Tahoes
5.3 liter engine can also be ordered as a flex
fuel one, which means it can use fuel that
is 85% ethanol as well as gasoline. Coming late
next fall, the word Hybrid will be written
on some Tahoe trunks and a gasoline/electric system,
one designed to improve mileage under steady use
and not just stop and go regeneration, will be fitted.
Some 20% improvement in fuel mileage and cleaner
emissions should result. When I asked about the
availability of a diesel engine I got that sort
of noncommittal reply that I took to mean: One
will come no telling what or when. What an
awesome package a clean diesel in this Tahoe would
be: torque, range and great mileage.
Suspension and Handling
LTZ model has a suspension system supposed to alter
the Tahoes ride to best cope with the road
surface of the moment, relaxed on smooth highways
and stiffening to cope with corners and quick maneuvers.
Some of my colleagues found the changes to be too
abrupt. I liked the LT models set-up just fine and
too limited experience with the LTZ. Check them
both out to find your own preferences.
was surprised to find that in a market moving toward
more and more speeds in automatic transmissions
that GM chose to stay with four in the Tahoe, yet
in use I cant say I noticed a short-coming.
Perhaps I was too busy being pleased with the vehicles
look and feel and good manners to notice.
common practice in the industry is for manufacturers
to dissect their competitors and then at least match
them in features and performance. The difficulty
with this approach to benchmarking is that the target
thus hit is one already being changed. The real
competition is moving on. Tahoes designers
this time played the benchmark game like a good
quarterback and factored in a lead. They studied
the competition, found the weak spots, assumed that
these shortcomings were equally obvious to the competition
and thus were apt to be changed in the new models.
The Tahoe was thus aimed at the anticipated new
target. Well see how well this worked as the
new models emerge. The Tahoe may not be revolutionary,
but it has evolved more than a few stages in one
decision was made up front to meet certain goals,
the over 20 mpg was one and five star ratings (the
top) on all safety questions. Single vehicle rollovers
is a scourge of any large vehicle that carries it
center of gravity high. Clearly expecting drivers
to compensate for the obvious has not happened.
So the Tahoe has been lowered and widened to keep
it more firmly attached to the earth in spite of
poor helmsmanship. Without compromising its ground
clearance and ability to get fisher folk to their
headwaters or skiers to their snowy aeries the Tahoe
has earned the five stars it aimed for.
the Job Done
large SUV market took a quick shrink when gas prices
shot upward. Perhaps those who turned to the smaller
and more economical were those who were drawn to
the big ones in the first place by other than need.
Maybe they saw in the size protection and a sense
of strength they could borrow. But there are those
who really need big. To carry, to haul, to tow.
GM has given those who need BIG a big break with
its new SUVs like the Tahoe. Enhanced safety enhanced
spaciousness, enhanced usefulness, enhanced economy,
And somehow enhanced pleasure in driving it. No
wonder Gary White is smiling in the back seat.
| Mid-Size Sedan
LS, LT1, LT2, LT3
Vortec 5300 V8
| Hydra-Matric four-speed automatic
ventilated disc, ABS
(front) 2 (side) 2 (side curtain)
2WD: 16/20 mpg
4x4: 15/21 mpg
325i: $ 30,995
330i: $ 36,995