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Chevy Tahoe 4WD Z71

by Annabelle Frankl

I've always felt a little, well, little in the height department. Not quite the long, supermodel legs I had in mind. However, I have found the vehicle that is guaranteed to overcome all feelings of vertical inadequacy and will have you towering over everyone on the road, including other SUVs. Of course, actually getting in can prove less than ladylike (and is not really recommended in a skirt) but once you're up there, it's views for miles!

The Z71 has been designed with off-roading in mind, which there's not much of in LA, but I think I could do a fairly good impression of a monster truck in some of the more congested parking structures. No spaces left? Simple, just park on top of the car that's already there! The great thing about the Tahoe is that while it is a huge truck, it doesn't feel unmanageable (although I did have to pull in the wing mirrors and drive rather precisely to enter and exit my parking garage). It has a good turning circle and with speed sensitive steering, driving at speed needn't be an exercise in body-building.

The 5-link rear suspension is designed with superior cushioning and ride dampening in mind, so even the most unwelcoming of terrains need not be a worry. Featuring 2 upper and 2 lower control arms, along with a track bar that controls side-to-side movement, plus an enhanced rear axle, along with a 3-section modular frame, the Tahoe's off-road performance seems a sure, sturdy bet.

Added to this is a hugely powerful, plus smooth and quiet, 5300 Vortec V8 engine, which offers 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. The Tahoe's engine really is a joy - endless acceleration and the knowledge that this behemoth has bags of power under the hood and is not the least bit under-powered. The driver also benefits from the Autotrac system, allowing immediate adjustment to varying road conditions. 2HI allows for 4WD to be completely disengaged, for better fuel efficiency. Auto 4WD detects rear-wheel slippage and automatically shifts into 4WD, plus 4HI for ice, snow and mud and 4 LO for more aggressive off-roading. Plus, if you do get stuck, which seems unlikely, you can always hit the Onstar button and ask to be rescued!

Rugged driving ability need not detract from interior comfort in a cavernous space that can easily accommodate 5 (or 6) passengers. Leather seating surfaces and 6-way power bucket seats, a driver message center, front and side driver and passenger air bags, AM/FM/CD with rear controls, leather wrapped steering wheel, with tilt adjust, rear cargo net and oodles of room for bags and storage, are just some of the features.

The Tahoe offers a commanding view of the road, with a slightly raised seating position for rear passengers. Barreling along on 17" cast aluminium wheels and 17" off-road steel-belted radials, the Tahoe holds the road well. I would have preferred rather more punch from the 4-wheel disc brakes. Given a curb weight of 5050 lbs, the inertia generated by the vehicle after minimal acceleration, on a flat surface, was impressive and thus a bit more punch in stopping power would have been reassuring.

With fuel consumption of 14/17, city/highway, even with a 26 gallon tank, fill-ups will be frequent and costly. This average seemed rather low, but upon checking on consumption for both the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, they are all at the same level. Evidently, if you're getting into the Full-size SUV market, this is what you should be prepared for; a rugged yet luxurious, spacious yet manageable off-roader, which is unlikely to leave you spinning your wheels in the mud but will leave you high and dry in the city, no doubt with envious onlookers turning their heads as you pass by, or over, them!

Facts & Figures

Base Price          $27,857
As tested           $39,111

Engine              Vortec 5300 V8 SFI
Transmission        4-speed automatic
HP                  285 @ 5200
Torque              325 lb-ft @ 4000
Brakes              4-wheel disc ABS
Suspension          Z71 package

Off-Road Preferred Equipment Group ($9,559) includes:
5300 Engine, AM/FM/CD, 9-speaker plus subwoofer system, cruise control, keyless entry, ISRV mirror w/ compass & temp, front & rear A/C, leather wrapped steering wheel, dual power OSRV mirrors w/ ground illumination, body side mouldings, wheel flares, limited slip differential, skid plates, 17 x 7.5 aluminium wheels, Z71 suspension, luggage rack, fog lamps, tubular assist steps, Onstar communication system.

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