Chevrolets top-selling full-size Tahoe sport utility vehicle is based on the Silverado pickup truck. The Tahoe is the less-gargantuan kid brother of the king-size Suburban, and GMC produces a near twin called the Yukon. Both models compete against the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia. According to Automotive News, Tahoe sales have risen sharply from less than 150,000 units in 2000 to 202,319 units in 2001.
The Tahoe comes in LS and LT trim levels. A Z71 Off-Road Package is available on the 4x4 LS, which includes a specially tuned suspension, 17-inch tires, tubular side steps, skid plates, wheel flares and lower-body moldings. The Z71 also gets GMs OnStar communication system as well as color-keyed mirrors, bumpers and grille. OnStar is standard on the top-of-the-line LT model and optional on the LS.
Changes to the Tahoe are considerable for 2003. StabiliTrak, GMs electronic stability system, is now optional for Tahoes equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Adjustable pedals come with or without a memory feature. XM Satellite Radio, a Panasonic DVD backseat entertainment system and a new family of Radio Data System (RDS) radios are now offered. Tri-zone climate control is available on the LS and Z71 editions, and an electronic control feature is offered with the LT. The Tahoes engines gain electronic throttle control, and the turn signals are now displayed in the glass of outside mirrors. An enhanced driver information center works with up to 34 functions. Second-row bucket seats are now optional for models equipped with leather-upholstered front bucket seats.
A Premium ride suspension became standard for the 2002 model year, except in the Z71 edition, which features a specially tuned offroad suspension. Preferred-equipment groups are offered in order to suit specific owner requirements.
For most shoppers, the four-door Tahoe has one clear advantage over the Suburban: smaller, more manageable dimensions, which translates to easier maneuverability. The Tahoe rides a 116-inch wheelbase and measures 198.8 inches long overall thats 7 inches shorter than the newly redesigned Expedition and more than 20 inches shorter than the Suburban.
In four-wheel-drive (4WD) form, the Tahoe stands more than 76 inches tall and stretches 78.8 inches wide; its ground clearance is 8.4 inches. Buyers get the choice of swing-out rear cargo doors or an aluminum liftgate. An optional roof rack holds up to 200 pounds. Cast-aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires.
As many as nine occupants can fit into the Tahoe, when it is equipped with the optional three-place rear bench seat. The front and middle bench seats also hold three passengers each. Front buckets are optional, which drops the total capacity to eight. The Tahoes middle and rear seats fold down and can be removed with the help of integral wheels. The third-row seat is split 50/50.
The Tahoes cargo volume is 104.6 cubic feet with the middle and rear seats removed, but that dimension drops to 16.3 cubic feet when the optional rear seat is in place.
Under the Hood
A 275-horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 serves as the base engine, while the LT gets a 285-hp, 5.3-liter V-8. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Tahoe may be equipped with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or Autotrac 4WD, which engages automatically, when necessary, to regain or maintain traction on slippery surfaces. Optional trailer packages give the RWD models a 7,700-pound towing capacity, while the 4WD Tahoe can haul up to 7,400 pounds.
All-disc antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard. StabiliTrak is offered as an optional feature on models equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine.
Unlike some full-size SUVs that constantly give the impression of immensity from behind the wheel, both the Tahoe and its Yukon cousin come across as tolerable in size for most journeys. Not only is the Tahoe easy to drive, but it can actually be enjoyable, which is more than can be said for some large SUV models.
The Tahoe is roomy and comfortable inside, and it maneuvers better than its external dimensions suggest. The Tahoes performance is abundant and the ride is reasonably smooth, but the action gets harsher if a model is equipped with the Z71 Off-Road Package. But in offroad treks and trailer-towing tasks, the Z71 delivers a wholly satisfying experience.