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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT Review by Carey Russ


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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT Review by Carey Russ

It pulls like a truck and drives and rides like a car

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

               • SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Research and Buyers Guide


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Chevy Tahoe? Isn’t that so very Nineties? Haven’t crossovers killed the body-on-frame SUV? No. The Tahoe is the best-selling full-size SUV, and for good reasons.

The Tahoe name dates to the mid-90s, when it was applied to what had previously been the full-size Blazer, which by then had morphed from a two-door utility vehicle to a four-door SUV. It was and still is basically a short-wheelbase Suburban, “short” being relative at 116 inches to the Suburban’s 130. Since that time, following market trends and desires, Chevrolet had had a number of crossovers. Currently, its largest is the Traverse. At 203.7 inches in length on a 118.8-inch wheelbase, the Traverse is equivalent in size to the Tahoe. So why would anyone want a Tahoe?

Many reasons there. Let’s start with towing. With a 5.3-liter, 355-horsepower V8, the Tahoe can tow up to 8600 pounds in two (rear)-wheel drive form, or 8400 with 4WD. The front- or all-wheel drive Traverse is good for 5200. Not bad, but not comparable. And then there’s front- versus rear-wheel drive, still plenty of partisanship there. Not to mention V6 versus V8. One would think the Traverse would demolish a Tahoe on fuel economy. One would be wrong. At an EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 24 highway, an FWD Traverse is not all that much thriftier than a 16/23 2WD Tahoe.

Different choices for different people, really. And after a week with a mid-level two-wheel drive 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT, I wouldn’t rate it lacking in comfort and civility either. It may be a real truck, but that does not preclude it from being as comfortable and civilized as any mere crossover. Or car, for that matter, and a good one at that. And if serious towing is in your needs, the Tahoe is serious about that. Basic trailering necessities like hitch, seven-wire harness, and two-inch receiver are standard, as are engine and transmission oil coolers. A heavy-duty towing package is available.

New for 2015, with the latest electronic technology standard or available, a new and more-efficient engine, easier access and more functionality, and even greater refinement, the latest Tahoe gets few changes for 2016. An “Enhanced Driver Alert” package with collision-avoidance and security features standard in higher models is now available in the (hardly) base-model LS. An eight-inch color touchscreen in the instrument panel is now standard, for easier systems control. The MyLink phone integration system now incorporates Apple CarPlay. Power, 355 horsepower worth, for all models — LS, LT, and premium LTZ — is from the 5.3-liter EcoTec V8, to the rear or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

A well-equipped rear-wheel drive Tahoe LT was my test transportation for the past week. Yes, it was and is big, but is also surprisingly nimble around town or on backroads and rock-stable on the highway, even in strong winds. With that 355 hp, and more importantly 383 lb-ft of torque, merging into fast traffic on a short onramp was easy, and the brakes brought it down from speed quickly when necessary, with no drama. It may technically be a truck, but you’d never know riding in it — its smooth comfort, minimal mechanical, tire, and wind noise rival the ride comfort of many a car. The 16-mpg average fuel consumption I got for the week was good considering the size and power, with maybe 20 percent of those miles on the highway. A Tahoe is not for everyone, but if you need a luxury tow vehicle, or need the space, or both, it’ll do the job.

APPEARANCE: Yes it is the box it came in. The Tahoe is big and burly but not absurdly so — think heavy cruiser instead of nuclear aircraft carrier. (The metallic gray color scheme of my tester made that Navy reference irresistible.) It has Presence, cap intended. The corners and edges are rounded and no panel is truly flat, but swoopy is not the style here. And all the better for interior volume for that. The large, chrome twin-port grille and bowtie logo establish it as a Chevrolet and there is plenty of clearance underneath, 7.9 inches.

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COMFORT: Looks like a truck, looks and feels like a car inside. And a comfortable and commodious near-luxury one at that in LT trim and with the Luxury Package options in my test example. Stitched leather seating, soft-touch materials on interior surfaces, and metallic-look and woodgrain trim are standard fare. Luxury adds touch-sensitive un/lock and pushbutton start/stop, heated power-release second row, power-folding 60/40 split third row that folds flat with the rear cargo area, power tilt- and reach-adjustment of the steering wheel and a heated rim, and hands-free power liftgate among other amenities. The wide, flat power-adjustable front seats should fit just about anyone, and a three-place bench is available in the LS for maximum passenger capacity. The second-row captain’s chairs fitted here were equivalent to the front, excepting power adjustment and with only limited but useful back angle adjustment. The third row is wide enough for three but a little short on legroom for adults — but it you need that legroom, get a Suburban! Overhead climate control vents keep second- and third-row passengers comfortable — and despite the interior volume, the air conditioning cools quickly, even in 95-degree temperatures. Storage spaces abound, with plenty of cup and drink bottle holders and USB charging ports. An inductive charger is found atop the front console box. Instrumentation is brightly-lit and complete, with extra gauges useful when towing. The center-dash touchscreen is the interface for audio, phone, projection device (?), OnStar Navigation, Pandora streaming audio, and (voice) texting systems. A foot swipe underneath the tailgate starts the opening process; it’s closed by a button on the tailgate. There is a real, full-size spare tire.

SAFETY: One of the more interesting safety systems in the Tahoe is the Safety Alert Seat. Its cushion vibrates to alert the driver to hazards. Given the hazards next to my driveway, it can be used as a massage seat… The LT has Forward Collision Alert and rear sonar park assist standard. The Luxury Package adds front park assist and side blind zone and cross-traffic monitoring alert.

RIDE AND HANDLING: With its body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle you might expect the Tahoe to feel like a truck. It does — but that’s a modern truck, and here one with a carefully-located rear axle with coil springs. Spring and shock damping rates are perfect for the job, with further “air suspension” comfort from the large tires — even with the optional P275/55R20 tires on my test example. The frame is sturdy, for heavy towing, and the body is best thought of as a separate unibody structure on top of that. So there are no squeaks or rattles from flexing. Electrically-assisted steering is not too assisted, and all brake discs are vented for heat dissipation.

PERFORMANCE: There’s still life in the venerable pushrod overhead valve engine, and the new Ecotec 5.3-liter (325 CID) V8 proves that. The block and heads are lightweight aluminum alloy, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation improve emission, power, and economy, and direct fuel injection further improves power, emissions, and economy. Maximum horsepower is 355 at 5600 rpm; maximum torque is 383 lb-ft at 4100, useful for towing. The last Tahoe I tested was back in 2003, and its 5.3-liter V8 was good for 285 hp and 325 lb-ft. I saw 14 mpg from that one, a 2WD LT. This one was good for 16. The six-speed automatic helps acceleration and economy versus the old four-speed as well. A locking rear differential can help gain traction on slippery surfaces such as a boat ramp.

CONCLUSIONS: It pulls like a truck and drives and rides like a car. No surprise, it’s a Chevy Tahoe.

SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT

Base Price $ 52,030

Price As Tested $ 57,930

Engine Type aluminum alloy 16-valve pushrod OHV V8 with variable valve timing and direct fuel injection and Active Fuel Management

Engine Size 5.3 liters / 325 cu. in.

Horsepower 355 @ 5600 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 383 @ 4100 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 116 in. / 204 in.

Curb Weight 5466 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 15.4

Fuel Capacity 26 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline or E85

Tires P275/55 R20 111S m+s Continental Cross Contact

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS standard

Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone with coil springs / solid axle with 5-link location and coil springs Ground Clearance 7.9 inches

Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 23 / 16

0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec

Towing Capacity 8600 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

20” polished aluminum wheels $ 1,400

Luxury Package — includes: keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, heated second-row power-release 60/40 split bench seat, electrochromic outside power-folding mirrors, power-folding 60/40 third-row split bench seat, memory power tilt-and-telescope steering column and heated steering wheel, wireless charging, hands-free power liftgate, fog lamps, front and rear park assist, rear cross-traffic and blind-zone alert, additional 9 months of Sirius/XM radio $ 3,110

Cargo Shade $ 195

Destination Charge $ 1,195