The Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the best full-sized SUVs. It looks good, it rides well, it offers towing capabilities up to 8,500 lbs., and it can haul up to nine passengers, admittedly at a pinch for a couple of them; or two passengers and a bunch of stuff; or numerous variations on these themes. The first two rows—captain’s chairs in the LT and LTZ, split bench in the base LS—are very comfortable and have as much leg- and head room as most sedans but more wiggle room for shoulders and hips, because the hefty Tahoe is 6 ½ ft. wide. If you fold down the second row of seats and remove the third row (not without some heaving and grunting) the Tahoe boasts almost 109 cu. ft. of cargo space.
My test vehicle was an apple-red two-wheel-drive LTZ, stickered at $55K. It cosseted me with 12-way heated and cooled power leather front seats; heated second-row seats, not that I noticed, or needed them (it’s been summer in Texas for weeks already); a driver-side memory system; Autoride suspension; a power liftgate, a gizmo I always enjoy (Up! Wheee! Down! Wheee!); power-folding reverse-tilt mirrors; auto-dimming inside and driver’s side mirrors; chrome trim, not excessive; a fine sonorous Bose audio system; navigation; rear-view camera, that excellent innovation; XM NavTraffic; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. Ready to roll up to the opera house or huff and puff its way up the dirt road to yon old lakeside lodge.
Instead, I abandoned writing desk and set off on a long exploration of South and Southwestern Texas, starting in the old German and Czech settlements, from Schulenburg, nearHouston, farther west, toNew Braunfelsand Boerne. The land is rolling and pleasant and punctuated by farms, not ranches, and the spires of churches, all very reminiscent of the Midwest, or indeed of old Bavaria. Then you head south of I-10 and your landscape changes:Texasis like that. The scrubland and live oaks, many dripping Spanish moss, take over. The little burgs are intersections with a roadhouse on one corner, a tire-repair shop on another, and a corrugated-iron church or (in-)convenience store on the others, where the guys have nothing better to do between beers than gawk at the slowly passing scene. Stump-toothed? Couldn’t tell; didn’t want to know. Dreary places anyway, hidden from time and society. Only Facebook intrudes, along with the occasional apple-red Tahoe. So I sped disdainfully by, feeling like an urban plutocrat insulated in my big square rig, seated on plush leather and cooled by GM’s trademark arctic air. It gets nicer, more open, with a hint of desert, west ofSan Antonio. And speed limits? Don’t make me laugh.
The cockpit of the Tahoe’s a nice place to spend time, with a clean and legible instrument panel and center stack, an attractive and informative gauge cluster, and standard oil-pressure, voltage and water-temperature gauges. Most of the dash is plastic, with some wood inserts that looked so much like the real thing I strongly suspect they were fake. But overall the cabin materials are well-finished and well assembled, with tight tolerances. On deck—the aforementioned Bose sound system–were Ludwig van and a couple other venerable Teutons, with occasional incursions on FM by Cream and the Beatles and local Tejano bands, a pleasant medley to cruise by. Reassuringly, I was never in any danger of getting lost, thanks to NavTraffic’s crisp directions.
Indeed, the Tahoe is an ideal long-distance cruiser. I spent eight hours behind the wheel that day and could happily have put in another couple; it’s that comfortable. I never heard a squeak or rattle or dashboard buzz, no matter how washboardlike or unforgiving the road. Four of the eight cylinders that powered my tester’s 5.3-liter engine, putting out a brawny 320 horses, shut off at highway speeds to save gas, their operation entirely imperceptible to me; I only became aware of the engine’s sound when I stomped my right foot and was thrilled by a mighty roar as the Tahoe leaped forward, bullying timorous life forms out of its path. This is not the best way to save gas, of course. Despite its efforts, the Tahoe is no miser in that area, but it won’t break the bank, not if you can afford one (starting at $37K for the LS) in the first place. According to my vehicle’s on-board readout, I averaged 20.1 mpg during my highway day and a bit less, 18.8, otherwise. Pretty average for a modern SUV, and distinctly better than the old days. Plus, you’ve got a range of 500+ miles per tank.
The truck is wildly popular here with just about everybody, from blue-rinsed grannies to cool dudes with tattoos. (Where do they get the money? Trust funds?) Some, having no taste, overegg the omelette by replacing the handsome factory-supplied alloys with hideous spinning pie-plates and the like. If I had one, I’d leave it just the way it came from the factory; it looks fine that way.
Yes, the Tahoe is my favorite SUV. But stay tuned.
Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for this review.