The explosive growth of the fullsize SUV segment may have subsided, but that doesn't mean that these profitable people-movers aren't as important as ever, especially when you consider that the all-new 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe is considered a vital component to Chevy's future business strategy. In order to maintain its status as the number-one-selling fullsize SUV, a distinction the Tahoe has held since 2001, this next generation of Tahoe had to be more than just good. Building on its strengths of power, comfort, and capability, the '07 needed to be efficient and innovative as well as raise the bar in quality.
When we first saw the Tahoe several months ago in a Detroit studio, we thought the design might be a bit too conservative. But by the time Chevy invited us out to drive it, we had changed our minds, noting the design looked very good out in its element. The chiseled look, athletic stance, and beautiful 20-inch wheels really give the Tahoe a flair of elegance, while at the same time looking brawny and capable. The world-class panel fit provides stellar fit and finish, as well as an impressive 0.363 drag coefficient that aids in fuel economy and the suppression of wind noise.
On the inside, the Tahoe shows its softer side. The hushed cabin is trimmed in materials that are more likely to be found in a sports sedan barreling down the Autobahn than an SUV hauling camping gear in the backcountry. With rich colors and textures, the interior is easily best in class for both design and execution. Incredible seats, soft-touch materials, and buttons that feature tactile feedback give this interior a refined feel that is two generations ahead of its peers. Convenience options include touch-screen navigation, rearview camera, XM satellite radio, power fold-and-tumble second-row seats, first- and second-row heated seats, ultrasonic parking assist, 8-inch DVD system, and a power liftgate.
Ride and handling are markedly improved over the already respectable outgoing model, and much of this can be attributed to a refined chassis that includes a fully-boxed frame, a new front suspension that trades in torsion bars for a set of coilover shocks, a wider track, and a precise rack-and-pinion steering system. The upscale LTZ trim level also gets the Autoride adjustable suspension system standard, which makes the lower-profile 20-inch wheel-and-tire package ride like the standard 17-inch wheel-and-tire package without Autoride. Brakes are another area of the chassis that have been substantially revised. No longer does the brake pedal feel mechanically disconnected from the braking system. Drivers will no doubt appreciate the newfound feedback through the pedal and the confidence it inspires.
While an improved Gen IV small-block Vortec 4.8L V-8 will be standard on two-wheel-drive trucks, four-wheel drives will come standard with a 320hp/340-lb-ft of torque version of the familiar Vortec 5.3L V-8 with Displacement On Demand (recently renamed to Active Fuel Management). Both engines are backed by a four-speed 4L60 automatic transmission, and four-wheel-drive models are rated to tow 7,700 pounds. A rear locking differential and 4.10:1 gears are optional, as is the Z71 Off Road package (late availability), which returns with 18-inch wheels and tires, and exclusive suspension tuning.
With improved aerodynamics and an efficient powertrain, the Tahoe leads all fullsize SUVs in fuel economy (the four-wheel drive is rated at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway) and 30 percent of the midsize market, including the Ford Explorer V-6 and Kia Sorento. If fuel economy is your primary consideration for buying a new SUV, the Tahoe has just opened the door for much roomier and more capable choices.
Criticisms are few-and minor. The steering wheel real estate has become crowded with buttons for cruise control (finally moved from the stalk) and radio, so the trip computer buttons have been relocated to the dashboard, which can be a bit of a reach when everything else falls easily at your fingertips. We also felt that the steering, while very precise, is almost a little too quick off center for our tastes and certainly takes some getting used to.
Chevrolet has listened to its customers and created what we feel is easily the best all around fullsize SUV on the market. We predict that this Tahoe will maintain Chevy's sales leadership position in the fullsize segment. While our time off-pavement was limited, we'll fill you in as soon as we get some seat time out on the trail in the Tahoe Z71.
What's Hot:Excellent fuel economy, new suspension, solid chassis, outstanding comfort
What's Not:Too-quick steering
Our Take:The best all-around fullsize SUV
Vehicle model: '07 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD
Base Price: $33,900 (4X2)
Engine Type: Vortec 5300 V-8 with Active Fuel Management
Bore x stroke (in): 3.78 x 3.62
Mfg.'s hp @ rpm: 320 @ 5,300
Mfg.'s torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 340 @ 4,200
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 4L60 four-speed automatic
Axle ratio: 4.10:1
Suspension (f/r): Independent, coilover shock/Five-link with coil springs
Steering: Power assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes (f/r): 13-inch vented disc/13.5-inch disc
Wheels/Tires: 20x8.5-inch polished aluminum/P275/55R22 Bridgestone AL2
Wheelbase (in): 116.0
Length (in): 202.0
Width (in): 79.0
Height (in): 77.0
Curb Weight (lb): 5,537
Ground clearance (in): 9.0
Approach (deg): 17
Departure (deg): 21.9
Max Towing capacity (lb): 7,700
Interior cargo capacity (cu.ft.): 108.2
Fuel Capacity (gal):26
EPA mileage estimates (mpg): 15/21
Seating capacity: 9