Familiar with the Tahoe large SUV from Chevrolet? There’s a fair-to-good chance you think this type of vehicle is just too big, and an even better one you’re guessing it doesn’t really sell. And yet, according to figures published on the internet, no fewer than 3,062 Tahoes sold in Canada in 2016, up from 2,364 sold the previous year.
Fact is, thanks to relatively stable gasoline prices, sales of the Tahoe have been steadily climbing in this country since 2012. What’s more, the model has spawned near-clones at Chevrolet itself as well as at GMC, only contributing further to its gain in popularity.
There’s a slightly elongated version of the Tahoe, known to consumers (since 1935) as the Suburban, and which sold 2,173 units across Canada in 2016. And at GMC dealers you can find a nearly identical twin, the Yukon, the elongated version of which goes under the name Yukon XL. The two GM models sold 2,842 and 2,604 units, respectively, last year.
You’ll notice that we haven’t included the Cadillac Escalade in this list, even though it is based on the same chassis as the Tahoe. This is simply because, by dint of its identity, it is distinct from the others – if we include it in our total, that makes another 2,800 units sold in the category in 2016. The main competitor of the Tahoe, meanwhile, is the Ford Expedition, which racked up sales of more than 3,700 units last year.
The segment also includes the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia and Mercedes-Benz GL. Add it all up and you see that the Tahoe and its ilk are more popular than their critics might think!
All this is to say that the term “too big” is a relative one. Of course you might ask yourself, just who really needs such an oversized vehicle? Generally they are consumers who want a sturdy vehicle able to transport 5 to 8 passengers with their luggage tucked safely away from the elements. They might well have gone for a pickup, but the large SUV seems to them more “civilized” and better adapted to transporting human beings.
The Tahoe and its equivalents also offer interiors that are in many cases more luxurious. They also generally come with rugged pickup-grade mechanics – think twin-differential 4x4 and all-wheel drive, for instance. And as these SUVs are generally built on a pickup chassis, they can pull some serious weight.
The object of our focus here is the (new) Premier version of the 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe large SUV. Of course, since it’s based (theoretically) on the Silverado pickup, the Tahoe features a similar front end to that of the Chevy truck – notice the Chevrolet emblem painted in black, a $185 option – although only from a distance, as the grille and wings are different. The Tahoe was modified in 2015, and the body resembles nothing so much as that of a large 4-door family sedan with a rear hatchback. The Tahoe version provided to us is able to accommodate 7 passengers.
The interior is inspired by the Silverado’s, but with distinct finishes, especially in the case of the Premier model. It’s not quite as elaborate as what you’ll get in the GMC Yukon Denali, but the absence of the wood elements does make it a tad more discreet than that model. The dashboard is derived from the Silverado as well, with the Premier version featuring a central 8-inch screen for the MyLink system. This screen also gives access to the navigation system map and the rear-view camera – a highly useful accessory for a vehicle this hefty. Incidentally, GM added 4G LTE connectivity to this Tahoe.
The front- and middle-row seats are heated, with the front-row ones also being fitted with ventilation; the steering wheel is also heated! Those first two rows of seats (in the middle of which is a huge lockable storage bin fitted in the centre console) offer passengers comfortable seating, with lots of legroom as well as generous headroom, even with the optional glass moonroof included.
On the other hand, the third row, spacious though it may appear, offers less legroom than the Ford Expedition, for example, due mainly to the floor there being elevated to accommodate the rigid-axle rear suspension below it (the Ford has a less-intrusive independent suspension).
Once you fold down that row using the electric command, however, you get very acceptable cargo capacity, accessible via the electrically-powered hatchback. Obviously, thanks to the large windows on all sides of the vehicle, visibility for all passengers is first-rate.
As for the mechanics, as mentioned the Tahoe is based on the Silverado chassis. One difference is in regards to the rear suspension, which is not a leaf-spring like with the truck but rather a double wishbone suspension with coil springs. This gives the large SUV a more supple behaviour on the road. The only available engine set-up with the Tahoe is GM’s legendary 5.3L small-block V8 that produces 355 HP and 383 lb-ft of torque. It’s wedded to a 6-speed automatic transmission (the GMC Yukon Denali, in comparison, is available with a 6.2L V8 and an 8-speed transmission).
The Tahoe we drove came with four-wheel drive, which is simultaneously an all-wheel drive. In fact, thanks to a rotating button on the dashboard, the driver can switch from rear-wheel drive to an all-wheel configuration, or to the regular or low-gear four-wheel set-up; the latter can prove to be useful for pulling a boat from the water or for taking on challenging trails (admittedly a task many owners of such a vehicle may never undertake).
The Premier version features superb black 22-inch alloy wheels, though our test drive vehicle (registered in Quebec) came with Bridgestone Blizzak 285/45 R22 winter tires that proved highly effective on snow and on ice, despite their oversized dimensions.
It should be mentioned that when set in all-wheel drive (Auto), and with it being so heavy (some 5,670 lbs), this vehicle has a decided advantage on slippery or snow-covered roads. Also, one reason for it being a preferred SUV for RVing and for pulling loaded trailers is its pulling capacity of 8,400 lbs.
On the road
Climbing into the Tahoe is child’s play when it’s equipped with the optional running board. Once installed behind the wheel, the remote you’ll have placed on your keychain allows you to start the V8 by pressing a button on the dashboard. The instrumentation lights up and the (optional) info centre located between the two large dials fills you in on a host of information to do with the Chevrolet’s operating mechanics.
Getting into gear means being surprised by a quietness not often associated with a truck. Drivers will also quickly come to appreciate the speed indicator reflected in the windshield, as well as the exceptional visibility the Tahoe affords on all sides. This is doubly important because such a behemoth is obviously at a disadvantage when in an urban environment. Drivers will absolutely find the various proximity warning systems not just useful but necessary when on the road or parking at the mall. One caveat: we would have liked to have an option available for a front grille camera as a parking aid.
Once out on the open road, the Tahoe drives like a dream. Still very quiet (something that can actually reduce the fatigue factor when driving), it offers useful lane departure warning and blind-spot detection systems (by producing a vibration on the left or the right in the driver’s seat).
Getting from a stop to 100 km/h takes roughly 7 seconds, and passing time is relatively equal between 80 km/h and 120 km/h. At the same time, sustained cruising speed will incite the engine to switch from V8 to V4 mode, saving fuel. Additional fuel economy can be had by including the optional adaptive speed regulator that was included in our test-drive Tahoe.
The Tahoe is, first and foremost, a truck, and this means you shouldn’t expect a particularly smooth ride on rough road surfaces, although the Magnetic Rode Control system does help. Over long distances on well-maintained roads, however, the Tahoe is just about a limousine. Its steering is fairly precise and its braking quite powerful given the vehicle’s heaviness.
Most of the points made up to now could just easily apply to the regular edition of the GMC Yukon (though not the Denali, which features a more powerful V8 and an 8-speed transmission), as well as the Suburban and the Yukon XL, models whose main distinction is increased rear cargo space. As for their cousin the Cadillac Escalade, it merits an independent evaluation…
Thinking of fuel consumption in all this? The Tahoe, with its 5.3L V8, can average around 10L/100 km/h when driving on the highway, though take note that this climbs to over 16L with city driving. Given that 70% of our test drive was carried out in an urban environment, our Tahoe displayed a consumption figure of 15.4L/100 km/h - although a calculation of our fuel expenditure made that average climb to 16.34L/100 km/h in actuality.
Unsurprisingly, a Tahoe as luxurious as the Premier version we tried out does not come cheap. The base price sits at $72,800, with the options included in our model requiring additional outlays of $1,325 (moonroof), $150 (block heater), $125 (2-speed transfer case), $3,545 (black 22-inch alloy wheels), $185 (black emblems), $995 (info centre on the central dashboard), $165 (polished exhaust pipes), $430 (mudguards) and $1,095 (adaptive speed regulator). This all brings the damage to $80,815, to which of course needs to be added the $1,700 prep and transportation fees and $100 A/C tax, for a grand total of $82,615… before taxes.