Being a large truck-based SUV, the Tahoe is big and bulky. There’s nothing subtle about it. The grille is imposing, the tires are big and it seems to go on forever.
It’s very similar in design to its GM sibling, the GMC Yukon, in power plant options and design. But it’s shorter than the extended-length Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL models from GM.
There are of course three rows in the Tahoe, with seating for up to nine people depending on the setup you choose. You can also choose setups for as few as 7 people, with captain’s chairs in the middle row. The design with the seven seats was very roomy and offered easy access to the third row, which was lower and mainly aimed at use by children due to the leg room limitations.
Cargo space is impressive in the Tahoe, especially when you fold down the third row into the floor, but it does not top the class. You can do better if you go with some of the other full-size SUV options out there.
This isn’t a peak luxury SUV (you need to go to the Escalade, or Yukon Denali, for that) but it’s still very well-appointed. The Tahoe offers heated leather seats and heated steering wheel, comfortable and quality materials throughout and some attractive wood grain trimming. There’s also a sunroof, though it was snowing during my time with the vehicle so I didn’t get to take much advantage of that feature.
You ride very high in the Tahoe, so you’ll be looking down at most other drivers (and no doubt see some very unsafe behavior in the process). And the key word for me is just “space” in this vehicle. Even your front seat passenger seems far away due to the width of the vehicle, and looking to the third row via rearview mirror is like staring into another ZIP code.
The Tahoe features a powerful 5.3-liter V8 EcoTec3 engine, which pumps out 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. Or you can opt for the newly available 6.2-liter V8, and its 420 horsepower (previously available only on the Yukon), which is what I tested. The more powerful engine has a 10-speed automatic transmission, and the base engine is paired with a 6-speed auto trans.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, but you can opt for the four-wheel drive setup (which I highly recommend).
During my time in the Tahoe, a pretty big snowstorm hit and the roadways were no picnic. Had I been tooling around in a sedan, I might have worried about getting stuck somewhere.
Thankfully, the Tahoe had me cruising along without much worry (responsibly of course, not like some yo-yo in a pickup truck who likes to spray his dust onto everyone’s windshield) while smaller vehicles crept along just hoping to get home. I felt their pain, having been there often in my lifetime, but was glad at the same time that it wasn’t my issue at the moment.
Point blank: This type of vehicle is built to perform well in bad weather and is great to have if you live in area where this is common. Climbing hills is also a strong point.
The only real downside to the driving experience is the weight of the vehicle, which is so much that it just feels heavy when you are making turns and trying to get up to speed.
Towing is another big selling point of the Tahoe. It can pull up to 8,600 pounds if you equip it properly. This towing ability is one of the calling cards of the Tahoe, and you’ll no doubt see a lot of boats behind these things on the roadways come spring and summer.
During my time in the Tahoe, I averaged about 15 miles per gallon. Official numbers on the four-wheel drive Tahoe are 14 city, 22 highway and 17 combined. Not exactly big numbers, but with a vehicle this size, that’s about as good as you’re going to get. The top competitor here for the Tahoe outside GM’s lineup is the Ford Expedition, which also does well on fuel economy.
GM has become a beacon of technology and has stayed ahead of the game, so there’s no question that the Tahoe excels here. While I won’t list everything available, suffice it to say that your safety is covered here about as well as it can be.
The Infotainment system (Chevrolet MyLink) worked well and was easy to master. Voice controls were effective and the placement of volume control buttons behind the steering wheel where your fingers naturally sit was a nice touch. Rearview camera is standard, along with rear parking sensors. Optional features include forward collision warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and more.
Parents of teens will welcome the Teen Driver system that allows you to set limits and monitor how your children are driving the vehicle. And for parents of small children, the “rear seat reminder” feature is a safeguard that can prevent a dangerous situation.
In terms of government crash tests, the Tahoe does very well, with several five-star ratings, and an overall ranking of 4 out of 5 stars. OnStar is also provided, since this is a GM vehicle.
To wrap up the tech tidbits, you get a bevy of USB ports to charge your devices while on the road, an in-car entertainment system is offered so the kids in back can watch a movie (and listen via wireless headphones), and a Wi-Fi hotspot is offered, along with wireless phone charging. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also included.
My test Tahoe finished up just over $78,000, but was pretty much fully loaded; base price starts at $47,450. By comparison, Ford Expedition base prices are also in the $47K range, GMC Yukon prices start about $49K, and the Chevy Suburban and Yukon XL both start over $50K. The Nissan Armada starts a bit lower (around $46K) and the Toyota Sequoia is in the $48K range.
No matter what full-size SUV you buy, it’s not going to be cheap. But you’re getting a whole lot of vehicle that can do a lot for you.
If you have a lot of people and things to truck around, but don’t get what you need from a more standard crossover like the Chevy Traverse or Ford Explorer, you’ll want to consider upgrading to the Chevy Tahoe. It’s a rare breed, but one that succeeds where its target audience needs it to succeed: Space, power, technology and capability in all road conditions.
Price will be the biggest deterrent, as it always can be when you get this high up the food chain, but if the money’s not an issue, you’ll get what you need out of a Tahoe. It’s not as fancy on the inside as some of the competitors, but it delivers where it counts.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.