Chevrolet Motor Division must be doing something right.Its Tahoe sport-utility vehicle has been named Motor Trend magazine's Truck Of The Year.With Chevrolet bringing to its 1996 SUV lineup a new two-wheel drive, two-door Tahoe to accompany the four-door version, the division now covers the entire spectrum of chassis and body combinations.The Tahoe's ergonomic improvements, technical updates, and adherence to affordability contributed to the sport utility earning the magazine's award.It might be considered somewhat of a misnomer to call the Tahoe a truck. Its virtues lend themselves to passenger-car applications, plus the ability -- with some equipment combinations -- to do things not possible with a standard automobile.The SUV is positioned between the compact Chevrolet Blazer and big Suburban models. The two-door is touted as being at its best during rugged, off-road excursions. The four-door excels at family traveling and towing.Four-wheel drive is available in both two- door and four-door models, with a 4X4 being able to master the lousy winter driving conditions currently being experienced in Indianapolis.Under the hood is a new Vortec 5700 (350-cubic inch) V8, plus new interior and safety features.Whether the Tahoe is regarded as a truck or not, Chevy is doting on driver and passenger comfort with a plethora of luxury features.For example, an illuminated entry feature keeps the interior lights turned on for a timed interval after the last door is closed.Two auxiliary 12-volt outlets are convenient power sources for cellular phones and other electronic accessories. The bench seats include a new center armrest-storage compartment with a writing surface, a lid-mounted map net and a coin holder.Passenger car drivers will feel right at home when introduced to the Tahoe. The driver's cockpit is just like an automobile's except for one additional, essential instrument. The Tahoe carries an oil- pressure gauge, even though the transmission is General Motors' 4L60-E four- speed automatic.A full instrument panel includes speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, voltmeter, fuel, odometer, trip odometer and information lights.The Tahoe is a pretty big sport utility, with 117.5 inches of wheelbase and 199.1 inches of overall length. It also is no lightweight, courtesy of a heavy-duty body on separate frame construction. Curb weight is 5,134 pounds.With bench-type seating (front bucket seats are available) and 76.4 inches of overall width, the Tahoe easily accommodates six people in comfort. And with almost 123 cubic feet of cargo space and a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, it doesn't matter what you have, you can take it with you.Chevrolet's patented Insta-Trac system is standard on 4X4 models. Shifting from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive and back can be accomplished by pushing a button on the instrument panel.It's pretty obvious that if you are on slippery roads, you put the vehicle in four-wheel driv e and leave it there. When dry roads are encountered, just push the button.There is nothing quite like moving 2 1/2 tons of motor vehicle with a certain degree of alacrity. And while the Tahoe wasn't designed to be a drag machine, its updated 350-cubic inch Vortec V-8 makes the sport utility lively on its feet. Zero to 60 mph comes in at about 8 seconds.The 1996 Vortec 5700 is 50-horsepower more powerful than the 1995 5.7-liter V-8. The 5700 puts out 250-horsepower via sequential fuel injection, straight-port cylinder heads, a revised combustion chamber, and a higher compression ratio of 9.4-to-1 versus 9.1-to-1 for the '95 V-8.Torque, which is that all important pulling power, also is up to 335 foot- pounds versus 310 foot-pounds for the '95 engine. The 5700 delivers performance improvement when towing or passing that Tahoe buyers can really feel.Chevrolet also offers an opt ional monster 6.5-liter (395-cubic inch) Turbo-Diesel V-8 for the Tahoe two-door, four-wheel drive model only. This engine produces 180 horsepower. However, the torque is way up at a stump- pulling 360 foot-pounds, and the diesel can provide a substantial improvement in fuel economy over an equivalent gasoline engine.
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