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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,585
Price As Tested                                    $ 31,846
Engine Type                             5.7 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 350 cid/5733 cc
Horsepower                                   255 @ 4600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               330 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  117.5"/76.8"/199.6"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4825 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    30 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/75R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/two-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            14/18/15
0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
Max. pay load                                   1500 pounds
Max. towing capacity                            6000 pounds
   * Sequential fuel injection

Don't look now, but that Chevrolet Tahoe sport/utility vehicle behind you could sport a law enforcement officer behind the wheel.

Since the demise of the Caprice police package, GM has dressed special Tahoes in black-and-white, slapped on some heavy-duty parts and police-specific features, and is shopping them to police agencies across the country. "Civilian" Tahoes, however, come in either Base, LS or LT trim, and this week we test a two-door, two-wheel-drive LT version.

OUTSIDE - Where its four-door Tahoe and Suburban stablemates can be characterized by sheer bulk, Tahoe two-door's size is nicely manageable. It stays with the same basic shape that appeared with its restyle several years ago, back when it was called Blazer and featured a removable half-roof. Tahoe's tall cabin provides lots of glass for a commanding view, especially for those peering from its huge, heavily tinted side windows. The two-door, 2WD model is perfectly suited for aftermarket dressing, as many specialty shops offer suspension lowering and modification kits, ground effects body panels, and bolt-on engine enhancements. The cargo area is accessed by a no-charge (but still an option) flip-up window and fold-down tailgate, while a set of swing-out panel doors is the standard setup.

INSIDE - Blazer's interior was reworked in 1995, and the resulting redesign made a big difference. Our tester's front bucket seats proved firm and comfortable, and its center console transforms itself into a small workstation, complete with a pivoting writing surface, lots of storage compartments and cupholders. Three across in back is fine for adults, but climbing back there takes some maneuvering. All Blazer two-door models come with power door locks, variable-speed intermittent wipers, full instrumentation and an AM/FM stereo. Our heavily-optioned LT-level Tahoe was additionally equipped with such features as leather upholstery, air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering, rear cargo net, and a self-dimming inside rearview mirrors that carried a built-in compass.

ON THE ROAD - Tahoe is powered by a re-engineered version of the venerable 5.7 liter V8 engine. It produces an impressive 255 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to push Tahoe quickly to speed. General Motors chose to forgo the current, expensive trend of using overhead camshafts and all-alloy engine blocks, instead sticking with a tried-and-true basic design that traces its roots back to 1955. Its roots may be archaic, but the updated version uses an aluminum/ composite intake manifold, high-compression cylinder heads, roller valve lifters and sequential fuel injection to provide a sophisticated-yet- simple way to produce lots of power from a small package. Its four-speed automatic transmission has been improved for 1998 with the addition of a deeper fluid pan, an electronically-controlled torque converter and special computer software, all of which give smoother gear changes. The transmission's fluid doesn't need replacing for 100,000 miles.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Blazer is all truck. It rides on a full perimeter frame with a boxed front section to support the powertrain. Cross- bracing adds critical stiffness where it's needed most, and it uses independent short/long arm front suspension with coil springs and 46 mm Bilstien-brand tube shocks. The rear solid axle rides on two-stage leaf springs with a stabilizer bar and the same special shock absorbers. Our test model was built to pull, and came equipped with optional heavy- duty trailering equipment, which allowed a 6000-pound towing capacity. It also uses a variable-rate steering system that bases the amount of power steering boost on the vehicle's speed. This makes it easier to turn the steering wheel while parking, yet gives a more solid feel at highway speeds. Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes, with standard four-wheel anti-lock braking (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact protection and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - The LT package is $5,719, while the towing package adds $445. The comfort package ($910) adds heated front seats and mirrors, reversible floor mats, special shocks and a HomeLink transmitter.