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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Richard Truett
July 6, 1995
When I play roulette, I like to put my chips on as many numbers as possible to increase my odds of winning. In a sense that's what Chevy has done with its lineup of sport-utility vehicles. Two doors or four. Hardtop or convertible. Small, medium
or large. Diesel or gas. No manufacturer has covered the board as completely as Chevrolet when it comes to sport-utility vehicles. From the $12,000 Geo Tracker soft-top to the $35,000 Suburban that comes fully loaded with four-wheel drive, Chevy has
an off-road vehicle for about every budget. The Tahoe, the latest chip to be put into play, is a V-8-powered full-size sport-utility vehicle that is bigger than the mid-size Blazer but smaller than the gargantuan Suburban. Unlike the Ford Bronco,
Tahoe is available as a four-door. Chrysler has nothing similar in its lineup, and there are no comparable imports. The closest competitor in terms of size and power is the British-made Range Rover, which has a V-8 engine but also has a $53,000 price tag.
A recent test drive in a loaded four-door Tahoe LT left me mightily impressed. And with the market for sport-utilities booming, the success of the Tahoe looks like a sure bet. PERFORMANCE Our bright red four-door Tahoe LT was equipped with a
200-horsepower cast-iron 5.7-liter V-8 engine and an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. This is the standard drivetrain and one of several available. Two-door models are available with the 5.7-liter engine and a five-speed
manual or a turbocharged 6.5-liter diesel engine and an automatic. A heavy-duty four-speed automatic also is available on both. The engine, transmission and transfer case in our test vehicle were about as smooth and quiet as they come. Taking a
cue from Lexus, GM engineers have declared war on noise and vibration. They have learned that a quieter and smoother-running vehicle conveys quality and instills trust in prospective buyers. Quality and trust are the operative words here. When you
fire up the engine and shift the Tahoe into gear, you just know that GM designed this one right. The quiet-running engine delivers crisp low-speed power, so even though the Tahoe is a fairly heavy vehicle at 4,700 pounds, it accelerates with verve
from a stop. However, some of that initial pep disappears once the vehicle gets going. Midrange power at speeds of between 40 and 65 mph is just adequate. I've said before that I think GM makes the world's best automatic transmissions, and the one
in the Tahoe reinforces that belief. The shifts are nearly seamless. Only when you floor the accelerator do you experience some sensation of the gears changing. Our test vehicle came with four-wheel drive; a floor-mounted shifter controlled the
transfer case. To engage four-wheel drive you must stop, shift into park or neutral and then move the lever. A lighted schematic on the floor shows you which wheels
are receiving the power. Tahoe's demeanor doesn't change much with the four-wheel drive system engaged. It loses a bit of its low-speed performance when all four wheels are being driven, but it is not any noisier. On some vehicles, you can hear the
gnashing of extra gears when you switch to four-wheel drive. All in all, the Tahoe's drivetrain comes across as very refined. Fuel economy was respectable at 14 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway - which is slightly better than EPA estimates.
HANDLING I have tested Chevrolet's pickups and other sport-utility vehicles, and I am convinced Chevy's engineers could have tuned the Tahoe's suspension system to provide a very firm and stable ride under all conditions. But they didn't.
When you drive over a large bump at 35 mph or so, you must hang on for dear life because the Tahoe bounces wildly. But I understand the reasoning behind such suspension tuning. Chevy wants to make sure potential buyers f
eel the Tahoe can easily handle rugged off-road terrain. If it feels too soft, customers who like to trailblaze might not feel confident that the Tahoe is up to the task. It is. On bumpy roads and in the sand, the vehicle has a very solid feel.
Unless you deliberately drive over a large bump at high speeds, the suspension system won't surprise you. The Tahoe does not feel like a truck, although its underpinnings have much in common with Chevy's full-size C/K pickups. The power-assisted
steering does not require much effort. It is fast-acting, and there is little free play. However, the 41 1/2 -foot turning radius is a bit wide. The standard anti-lock brake system is operative on all four wheels; there are discs up front and drums in
the rear. The brake pedal has a firm but somewhat heavy feel, and it doesn't travel much before the brakes bite hard. In city driving the Tahoe is very civilized. It corners nicely with the body leaning just slightly in sharp corners. FIT AND
FINISH Our Tahoe came furnished with a superbly designed set of leather-covered captain's chairs up front and folding rear seats. Its user-friendly interior was comfortable and stylish. Chevy has taken most of the visual clutter out of the
switches, controls and gauges, and made most of the items that a driver would touch easy to read and use. Two buttons and two knobs handle the air-conditioning system. The buttons on the radio have been made larger, and now you don't have to press a
separate button to lock in stations on the radio. The dash is cleanly designed and has many useful touches. I particularly liked the pull-out/pop-out dual cup holders. When you pull the cup holder from the dash, another one pops out to the right of
it. Driver and passenger have a convenient place for coffee and soda. User friendliness extends to the two-piece tailgate. Press a button on the key fob and the glass pops open. Then the lower portion folds down flat. That makes loading and unloading
cargo easy on the back. The split rear seats fold forward and down easily and quickly, exposing a large flat area for cargo. Visibility is excellent. Big side mirrors and an unobstructed view out the back make you feel comfortable behind the seat.
And the mirrors fold inward if you brush up against something solid like a garage wall. Our test vehicle started right away and ran well all week. The air conditioner was especially powerful; it cooled the Tahoe's large interior quickly. Electric
windows, seats and door locks helped make the Tahoe a classy vehicle. If you have driven the spate of six-cylinder sport-utility vehicles and decided you need V-8 power, and if you need something larger than the mid-size Land Rover Discovery or Jeep
Cherokee, I suggest you put your money on the Tahoe. It looks like another winning number from Chevrolet. Specifications: 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe LT
Base price: $28,585 EPA rating: 12 mpg city/15 mpg highway Price as tested: $31,457 Incentives: None Truett's tip: Chevy's new Tahoe LT is a full-size sport-utility that blends luxury car smoothness and off-road ruggedness.