SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
Sometimes the old way is best. Carlike unit-construction "crossover" sport-utility vehicles may be the hottest trend in the auto business these days, but there are still plenty of folks who need a larger, more rugged, truck-based SUV. They need to go places where "road" may be a figment of a mapmaker's imagination. Or, they may need to tow a heavy trailer - not necessarily on smooth pavement - and have interior capacity as well. For them, a truck- based SUV may be the ideal choice.
And the newest version of the Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the best of the large, body-on-frame, pickup-based SUVs. Little has been left unchanged, with a new chassis, engines, and body styling. It's not exactly compact, but it is short enough to park (as opposed to dock...) easily in most city lots. Five or six people fit easily; an available third-row seat allows seating for up to nine. New V8 engines give it greater towing power.
The 2000 Tahoe is built on the same rigid, sophisticated platform as the latest Silverado pickup, for improved road manners and comfort. It is offered in two- and four-wheel drive form, with three trim levels and a number of specialty option packages allowing custom fit for the wide variety of people who are Tahoe customers. A Tahoe can be a suburban soccer-mom station wagon, luxury transportation, or a rugged, powerful 4x4 for back-of-beyond exploration. Or it can be a combination of those and other descriptions.
Last December, I had the opportunity to drive and ride in several new Tahoes at the regional press introduction in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A Tahoe is a fine vehicle for snow, on pavement or on snow-covered dirt at 10,000 feet. No surprise there. Currently, a Tahoe with the Z71 4x4 off-road package sits in my driveway, baking in triple-digit summer heat. Works great there, too. It's a comfortable, versatile, and very useful vehicle.
APPEARANCE: There's no doubt that the new Tahoe is a Chevy SUV. It's more styled than the old Tahoe, but still fairly conservative. Where the old Tahoe was all lines and angles, the new one has subtle curves. It shares bodywork ahead of the windshield with the Silverado pickup, with the same horizontal chrome grille with bowtie, rectangular headlights, creased hood, and gently- rounded contours on the hood and fenders. The body is slightly raised over the rear wheels, with stylized fender flares, for a jaunty look. With no point of reference for size, its proportions make it look little larger than a compact Blazer. The 4x4 version sits high.
COMFORT: Running boards can be a liability off road. So my 4x4 test vehicle is not equipped with any, and it is a climb up into the cab. Hey, this is a serious off-road machine, although shorter people who don't plan to tackle rocks and extreme breakover angles may want to order running boards. Once inside, the high driving position gives a commanding view of the world, and the seats, even the rear seat, are as comfortable as any found in competitively-priced luxury cars. There is plenty of room for both people and their cargo, although this particular Tahoe doesn't have the third-row seat. The LS trim level package is pricey, but it does give a Tahoe all of the amenities its the luxury-brand competitors with no loss of Chevy ruggedness. It's a cowboy in a business suit, and wears the suit well.
SAFETY: All 2000 Chevy Tahoes have a strong frame and body structure with a safety cage around the passenger compartment. Dual front and outboard front seat side airbags are standard, as are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with dynamic proportioning to help prevent lockup and reduce stopping distance.
ROADABILITY: You won't give up a comfortable ride with the new Tahoe, even in serious Z71 4x4 trim. The stronger, stiffer frame and body structure allow for more precise suspension control. The independent A-arm front suspension has been redesigned for better alignment and steering feel, with a reduced turning radius. Both two- and four-wheel drive Tahoes now have torsion bar springs. Five-link mounting of the live rear axle increases ride comfort considerably. On pavement, good damping means a firm but comfortable ride with little body roll and no harshness over sharp bumps or holes. This carries over off road, with plenty of comfort and well over ten inches of clearance.
PERFORMANCE: No power shortage here. Last year's 5.7-liter V8 had 255 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The new 4.8-liter V8 has 275 hp and 290 lb-ft, and the 5.3-liter V8 in my test truck has 285 horses and 325 lb-ft of torque. It's strong at all speeds, with good acceleration and matched to a smooth dual-mode four- speed automatic set up for heavy-duty towing. The pushbutton- operated "Autotrac" four-wheel drive system is easy to use, and gives the driver a choice of off-road oriented 4-hi and 4-low or automatic four-wheel drive for slippery pavement conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2000 Chevy Tahoe offers power, comfort, and versatility.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe LS 4WD Z71 Base Price $ 27,845 Price As Tested $ 38,127 Engine Type pushrod overhead valve 16-valve V8 Engine Size 5.3 liters / 325 cu. in. Horsepower 285 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic; electronically-controlled 4-wheel drive Wheelbase / Length 116.0 in. / 198.9 in. Curb Weight 5050 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.7 Fuel Capacity 26 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P215/75 Firestone Wilderness AT Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent double A-arm with torsion bars / solid axle with 5-link, coil spring Ground Clearance 10.6 in. Drivetrain front engine, on-demand four-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 18 / 16 0 to 60 mph 8.9 sec Towing capacity 8,800 lbs OPTIONS AND CHARGES LS preferred equipment group - includes: Vortec 5300 engine, 9- speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, remote keyless entry, front and rear air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows, aluminum wheels, dual heated power outside mirrors with ground illumination, body side moldings, and more $ 6,146 Trailer package - includes: trailer hitch platform, 7-lead wire harness connector $ 285 Z71 off-road package - includes: Z71 suspension, high-capacity air filter, skid plates, bucket seats, locking rear differential, P265/75 R 16 tires, OnStar communications system $ 1,373 Reclining bucket seats $ 1,380 Electric sunroof $ 995 Front fog lamps $ 85 Destination charge $ 700