For the 2007 model year, Chevrolet rolls out its all-new and next-generation Tahoe, a vehicle that promises to be updated and improved in seemingly every aspect, including fuel economy. Chevrolet boasts that its 2007 Tahoe is the first full-size SUV to break the 20-mpg barrier in the federal government's combined fuel economy ratings, a feat the Tahoe achieves with both its two- and four-wheel-drive models.
Tahoe can accommodate five to nine passengers, the latter when ordered with the available front bench and third-row seating. All three rows offer spacious seating. Even adults can sit in the third row, but most we wouldn't want to spend a lot of time back there.
Out on the road, the new Tahoe feels taut for a full-size SUV, and the steering is precise and responsive. The brakes are responsive and smooth. At highway speeds the Tahoe is quiet and comfortable. The available 5.3-liter V8 engine features GM's Displacement on Demand technology to save gas, but we weren't ever able to feel it switching between four and eight cylinders whether on the highway or around town.
With the second row in its flipped and folded position, the Tahoe provides 108.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity. With power provided by one of two V8 engines, the Tahoe can tow as much as 7700 pounds.
Chevrolet promises that the new Tahoe models will carry more standard equipment, with several new options, yet will be priced at or below comparable 2006 models, which range from less than $37,000 to around $50,000, depending on the model and its specific content.
Chevy Tahoe LS ($33,115), LT ($34,865), LTZ ($43,140)
The result of the more streamlined body is better fuel economy, according to GM. Automotive engineers judge wind-cheating aerodynamics by a factor known as the coefficient of drag. The lower the number, the slicker the vehicle. The 2007 Tahoe has a Cd of 0.363. For comparison, the smaller but extremely sporty Porsche Cayenne emerges from the wind tunnel at 0.38.
In the case of the 2007 Tahoe, a smoother appearance doesn't mean a softer appearance. The new Tahoe is built on a new and wider frame. As a result, the front track (the area spanned by the front wheels) has increased by more than three inches and the rear track has grown by an inch, resulting in a wider, stronger-looking stance. A pair of bulges in the hood enhances the vehicle's visual strength.
Further boosting the Tahoe's stance are standard 17-inch wheels. The 2005 Tahoe rode on 16-inch wheels. But not only are 17s standard on the new Tahoe LS and LT, but 20-inch wheels are standard on the LTZ and optional on the LT.
The result is a spaciousness that can be enjoyed from any of the three rows of seats.
Those seats have a more finished look with enclosed bases rather than exposed hardware. The second-row seats can be equipped with a power fold-and-tumble feature to provide easier access to the third-row seating area or for loading or unloading cargo. Third-row seats can be removed quickly to take full advantage of the new Tahoe's cargo carrying capabilities.
Power-adjustable pedals help fit the Tahoe to drivers of varying stature. So does an extra inch of fore/aft travel for the driver's seat. But even with more front-seat travel, a tall person has room in the second row because of the sculpted front-seat backs. We sat in the third-row seats and found that adults fit, though they might not want to ride back there for much longer than a short drive from the office to lunch. The Tahoe we tested was equipped with the two-person third-row seat setup that comprises two separate seats, each with own cup holder and storage area.
Whether the third row seats two or three people, there are 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space between the third-row seat back and the closed rear liftgate.
Even in its standard form, the Tahoe's interior is comfortable and roomy, and that room can accommodate all sorts of optional equipment and accessories, from rear-seat DVD to Bose audio to side curtain airbags, a navigation system and a sunroof.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe's more aerodynamic body not only cuts through the wind, but it reduces wind noise. With new acoustic dampening measures and better aerodynamics, the new Tahoe is 20 percent quieter inside, according to Chevrolet engineering tests. Our measure of quiet is that occupants can hear each other while speaking in normal conversational tones while cruising down the highway.
That taut feeling starts with the new ladder-style frame that is nearly 50 percent stiffer overall and 90 percent stiffer in its forward section. As one GM engineer put it, although the new front end is only two inches longer, it provides the equivalent of 17 more inches of crush capacity in the event of a collision. Standard StabiliTrak should enhance the driver's ability to avoid many accidents, but should they happen, side curtain airbags are available. The new Tahoes are equipped with front seatbelt pretensioners that activate to hold the driver and front-seat passenger in proper position not only in a frontal crash, but also in a severe rear impact. GM says the Tahoe is the first vehicle to use this new rear-impact safety system.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe rides on a new coil-over front suspension geometry and has a revised five-link rear suspension. The Tahoe is available with its standard (ZW7) Smooth Ride suspension, with its Autoride (Z55) air suspension providing real-time dampening on the LTZ. A special off-road (Z71) suspension package will also be available.
All new Tahoes have four-wheel disc brakes with 55 more square inches of swept area and 50 percent stiffer calipers. It used to be that when you stepped on the brakes of a Tahoe you got a swoosh sound but didn't feel the brakes grabbing until the pedal had traveled well down toward the floorboard. Now, on the new Tahoe, the brakes not only are silent, but you feel them as they begin to slow the vehicle immediately.
This is just one aspect of the Tahoe's improved responsiveness that instills a new sense of confidence in the driver. A new rack-and-pinion steering system, with its rack mounted on an engine cross member, provides more immediate and precise response when you turn the steering wheel.
The Tahoe we tested was an LT-3 with the larger V8 engine and four-wheel drive. We would have preferred more than four gears in the transmission, especially when climbing some long mountain grades northwest of Phoenix, but we liked the fact that we couldn't feel the transitions when the Displacement on Demand shut off or turned back on four cylinders as needed during highway cruising. The system even works in normal city driving, though the only way we could tell was to see the indicator lights change on the driver information panel on the dashboard.
We drove on regular gasoline, but a flexible-fuel version of the Vortec 5300 is available that operates on either gasoline or on E85 ethanol fuel while providing the same horsepower, torque and fuel economy figures. Both versions of the Vortec 5300 meet GM's new 200,000-mile durability requirements (compared to 150,000 for earlier engines).
Our test truck was equipped with the standard 17-inch wheels and tires. The ride was comfortable but not at all soft or spongy. The 20-inch wheels might look nice, but they come with tires with nearly three inches less sidewall area and thus provide much less cushion for absorbing bumps along the way.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe is all-new, a full-size SUV that gets more than 20 miles per gallon. Chevrolet introduced the Tahoe nameplate in the mid-1990s as the full-size version of what had been the Blazer, a two-door sport utility vehicle. Tahoe's popularity soared in 2000 when it became a purpose-built, full-size four-door and family-oriented SUV known within GM as the GMT 800. Now, for 2007, comes the next generation, so new and improved that even its internal designation has changed to GMT 900. The 2007 Chevy Tahoe has better steering and braking response, Displacement on Demand engine technology and enhanced safety features that make it an attractive choice among full-size SUVs.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall filed this report from Phoenix, Arizona.