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Whether families with children, empty-nest couples with active lifestyles or individuals who simply have cargo to carry securely or trailers to tow, some people really do need the all-weather practicality provided by a full-size sport utility vehicle. Since 2001, the Chevy Tahoe has been the best-selling vehicle in the category, accounting annually for more than 25 percent of all full-size SUV registrations in the United States.
For the 2007 model year, Chevrolet rolls out its all-new and next-generation Tahoe, a vehicle that promises to be updated and improved in seemingly every aspect, including fuel economy. Chevrolet boasts that its 2007 Tahoe is the first full-size SUV to break the 20-mpg barrier in the federal government's combined fuel economy ratings, a feat the Tahoe achieves with both its two- and four-wheel-drive models.
Tahoe can accommodate five to nine passengers, the latter when ordered with the available front bench and third-row seating. All three rows offer spacious seating. Even adults can sit in the third row, but most we wouldn't want to spend a lot of time back there.
Out on the road, the new Tahoe feels taut for a full-size SUV, and the steering is precise and responsive. The brakes are responsive and smooth. At highway speeds the Tahoe is quiet and comfortable. The available 5.3-liter V8 engine features GM's Displacement on Demand technology to save gas, but we weren't ever able to feel it switching between four and eight cylinders whether on the highway or around town.
With the second row in its flipped and folded position, the Tahoe provides 108.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity. With power provided by one of two V8 engines, the Tahoe can tow as much as 7700 pounds.
Chevrolet promises that the new Tahoe models will carry more standard equipment, with several new options, yet will be priced at or below comparable 2006 models, which range from less than $37,000 to around $50,000, depending on the model and its specific content.
The all-new 2007 Chevy Tahoe is available in three versions, LS, LT and LTZ.
The standard engine is a 290-hp 4.8-liter V8. Tahoe 4WD models come standard with a 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 that features GM's Displacement on Demand technology that quiets four cylinders in many normal driving situations. A version of this engine also can run on either E85 ethanol-blended fuel as well as on regular unleaded gasoline.
The LS ($33,115) is the base model and should account for about 15 percent of sales. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning, cloth seating for five people, with power adjustment for the driver's seat, 17-inch wheels, a tire-pressure monitoring system, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock technology, StabiliTrak stability control designed to keep the vehicle on the driver's intended course and to reduce the possibility of a rollover when the vehicle leaves that course. Also included as standard equipment are a steering column that tilts, intermittent windshield wipers, power locks and mirrors as well as windows, side assist steps, an eight-speaker audio system with CD player and a year of OnStar service.
The LT ($34,865) is expected to be the most popular version, accounting for 65 percent to 70 percent of sales. To simplify ordering, the LT offers three variations for the 2007 model year. The LT-1 package adds a cargo shade, floor console, color-keyed door handles, heated exterior mirrors, fog lamps, custom bucket front seats, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls and a sound system with rear audio controls with headphone jacks. The LT-2 adds dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a remote starter system, leather seats, an audio system with a six-CD changer and MP3 capability, Ultrasonic rear parking assist and a universal garage door opener. The LT-3 adds power folding rearview mirrors with turn signals, side-curtain airbags, 12-way power driver's seat with memory, power-adjustable front passenger seat, Bose Premium 9-speak audio with subwoofer and XM Satellite Radio. Based on choices made by current Tahoe owners when they bought their vehicles, Chevrolet expects the LT-3 to be the most popular version.
The LTZ ($43,140) comes with 20-inch wheels, Autoride air-assisted rear suspension, heated windshield washer system, heated second-row seats with a power release to enhance access to the cargo area or standard third-row seat, a locking rear differential, power rear liftgate and rain-sensing front wipers.
Optional equipment for the Tahoe includes an auxiliary transmission cooler, engine block heater, navigation system, rear-seat video entertainment system, rear-view camera system, sunroof and a third-row that seats two people in buckets or three people on a bench. Accessories include specially styled wheels, brush guards for the grille and tail lamps, roof rack cross rails, a cargo tray, deep-ribbed rubber floor mats and hitch-mounted bike and ski carriers.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe features an all-new body with more rounded lines, fully wrapped front lower body fascia that eliminates air-grabbing gaps, doors that wrap over the rocker panels, a more steeply raked windshield (tilted back from 50 degrees on the previous model to 57 degrees on the new Tahoe) and a radio antenna that has moved from an exterior position into the rear quarter-window glass. Such detail was paid to making the new Tahoe more smooth and aerodynamic that even the little lip on the gas fuel filler door has been eliminated.
The result of the more streamlined body is better fuel economy, according to GM. Automotive engineers judge wind-cheating aerodynamics by a factor known as the coefficient of drag. The lower the number, the slicker the vehicle. The 2007 Tahoe has a Cd of 0.363. For comparison, the smaller but extremely sporty Porsche Cayenne emerges from the wind tunnel at 0.38.
In the case of the 2007 Tahoe, a smoother appearance doesn't mean a softer appearance. The new Tahoe is built on a new and wider frame. As a result, the front track (the area spanned by the front wheels) has increased by more than three inches and the rear track has grown by an inch, resulting in a wider, stronger-looking stance. A pair of bulges in the hood enhances the vehicle's visual strength.
Further boosting the Tahoe's stance are standard 17-inch wheels. The 2005 Tahoe rode on 16-inch wheels. But not only are 17s standard on the new Tahoe LS and LT, but 20-inch wheels are standard on the LTZ and optional on the LT.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe offers 4.3 more cubic feet of interior cargo capacity than the previous model, and that interior space has been enhanced by sculpting out the interior door panels, the backs of the front seats and by redesigning the headliner. Even the optional, ceiling-mounted rear-seat DVD entertainment system has been redesigned to take up less space. The new dashboard and instrument panel have been lowered and moved forward under the base of the more steeply raked windshield.
The result is a spaciousness that can be enjoyed from any of the three rows of seats.
Those seats have a more finished look with enclosed bases rather than exposed hardware. The second-row seats can be equipped with a power fold-and-tumble feature to provide easier access to the third-row seating area or for loading or unloading cargo. Third-row seats can be removed quickly to take full advantage of the new Tahoe's cargo carrying capabilities.
Power-adjustable pedals help fit the Tahoe to drivers of varying stature. So does an extra inch of fore/aft travel for the driver's seat. But even with more front-seat travel, a tall person has room in the second row because of the sculpted front-seat backs. We sat in the third-row seats and found that adults fit, though they might not want to ride back there for much longer than a short drive from the office to lunch. The Tahoe we tested was equipped with the two-person third-row seat setup that comprises two separate seats, each with own cup holder and storage area.
Whether the third row seats two or three people, there are 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space between the third-row seat back and the closed rear liftgate.
Even in its standard form, the Tahoe's interior is comfortable and roomy, and that room can accommodate all sorts of optional equipment and accessories, from rear-seat DVD to Bose audio to side curtain airbags, a navigation system and a sunroof.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe's more aerodynamic body not only cuts through the wind, but it reduces wind noise. With new acoustic dampening measures and better aerodynamics, the new Tahoe is 20 percent quieter inside, according to Chevrolet engineering tests. Our measure of quiet is that occupants can hear each other while speaking in normal conversational tones while cruising down the highway.
Chevrolet engineers like to say that their new Tahoe lives larger inside but drives smaller outside. By that they mean that while the vehicle feels big inside, but has a taut feeling on the road so the driver doesn't necessarily feel like he or she is at the wheel of a full-size SUV.
That taut feeling starts with the new ladder-style frame that is nearly 50 percent stiffer overall and 90 percent stiffer in its forward section. As one GM engineer put it, although the new front end is only two inches longer, it provides the equivalent of 17 more inches of crush capacity in the event of a collision. Standard StabiliTrak should enhance the driver's ability to avoid many accidents, but should they happen, side curtain airbags are available. The new Tahoes are equipped with front seatbelt pretensioners that activate to hold the driver and front-seat passenger in proper position not only in a frontal crash, but also in a severe rear impact. GM says the Tahoe is the first vehicle to use this new rear-impact safety system.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe rides on a new coil-over front suspension geometry and has a revised five-link rear suspension. The Tahoe is available with its standard (ZW7) Smooth Ride suspension, with its Autoride (Z55) air suspension providing real-time dampening on the LTZ. A special off-road (Z71) suspension package will also be available.
All new Tahoes have four-wheel disc brakes with 55 more square inches of swept area and 50 percent stiffer calipers. It used to be that when you stepped on the brakes of a Tahoe you got a swoosh sound but didn't feel the brakes grabbing until the pedal had traveled well down toward the floorboard. Now, on the new Tahoe, the brakes not only are silent, but you feel them as they begin to slow the vehicle immediately.
This is just one aspect of the Tahoe's improved responsiveness that instills a new sense of confidence in the driver. A new rack-and-pinion steering system, with its rack mounted on an engine cross member, provides more immediate and precise response when you turn the steering wheel.
The Tahoe we tested was an LT-3 with the larger V8 engine and four-wheel drive. We would have preferred more than four gears in the transmission, especially when climbing some long mountain grades northwest of Phoenix, but we liked the fact that we couldn't feel the transitions when the Displacement on Demand shut off or turned back on four cylinders as needed during highway cruising. The system even works in normal city driving, though the only way we could tell was to see the indicator lights change on the driver information panel on the dashboard.
We drove on regular gasoline, but a flexible-fuel version of the Vortec 5300 is available that operates on either gasoline or on E85 ethanol fuel while providing the same horsepower, torque and fuel economy figures. Both versions of the Vortec 5300 meet GM's new 200,000-mile durability requirements (compared to 150,000 for earlier engines).
Our test truck was equipped with the standard 17-inch wheels and tires. The ride was comfortable but not at all soft or spongy. The 20-inch wheels might look nice, but they come with tires with nearly three inches less sidewall area and thus provide much less cushion for absorbing bumps along the way.
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe is all-new, a full-size SUV that gets more than 20 miles per gallon. Chevrolet introduced the Tahoe nameplate in the mid-1990s as the full-size version of what had been the Blazer, a two-door sport utility vehicle. Tahoe's popularity soared in 2000 when it became a purpose-built, full-size four-door and family-oriented SUV known within GM as the GMT 800. Now, for 2007, comes the next generation, so new and improved that even its internal designation has changed to GMT 900. The 2007 Chevy Tahoe has better steering and braking response, Displacement on Demand engine technology and enhanced safety features that make it an attractive choice among full-size SUVs.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall filed this report from Phoenix, Arizona.
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We have information you must know before you buy the Tahoe.
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