Join Date: Mar 2001
Test Drive: 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD (CanadianDriver.com)
Test Drive: 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD (CanadianDriver.com)
Introduced early in 2006 as a 2007 model, the full-size Tahoe SUV continues to evolve into a more 'car-like' and less 'truck-like' vehicle (even though it is based on a body-on-frame truck chassis).
The new Tahoe's smoother, more aerodynamic exterior styling, classier, better-finished interior, and quieter, more comfortable cabin, signal a move away from its rough truck heritage.
Yet, it would be wrong to say that the new Tahoe is less capable as a truck: for 2007, it offers a stronger frame, more horsepower, improved handling, better steering, a higher payload capacity, more cargo room, and even better fuel economy with the 5.3-litre V8 engine thanks to a new cylinder deactivation system.
However, the Tahoe's curb weight, which was already pretty hefty in 2006, has increased for 2007. The 2007 Tahoe 2WD's base curb weight has risen by 130 kg (287 lbs) to 2374 kg (5265 lb). The 2007 Tahoe 4WD is 142 kg (314 lb) heavier, with a curb weight of 2512 kg (5524 lb).
Despite this weight gain, fuel economy has improved when equipped with the 5.3-litre V8 (standard on 2WD Tahoes) and the optional 5.3-litre 'flex-fuel' (ethanol-capable) V8 engine (standard on 4WD models). The reason is the addition of Active Fuel Management (AFM) to both 5.3-litre engines. This automatic cylinder deactivation system allows the engine to run on only four cylinders when coasting or under light load situations, thereby saving fuel.
With the new 5.3-litre V8 flex-fuel engine running on gasoline, the official average (combined) fuel economy rating for a 2007 2WD Tahoe is 12.8 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp.). That's a significant improvement over last year's 14.4 L/100 km (20 mpg) for 2WD Tahoes without AFM. 2007 4WD models with the 5.3-litre flex-fuel engine average 13.1 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp.) compared to 15.1 L/100 km (19 mpg Imp) in 2006. As you will soon see though, real-world fuel consumption is considerably higher.
A 4.8-litre V8 engine without Active Fuel Management became available in August, and its published fuel consumption is about the same as the previous 4.8-litre engine, averaging 13.3 L/100 km. You can order this engine on 2WD models for $1,125 less than a 5.3 model.
It's interesting to note that the new 5.3-litre V8 engines with AFM get better fuel economy than the 4.8-litre powerplant.
However, when using E85 fuel (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) in the 5.3-litre V8 flex-fuel engine, fuel consumption increases dramatically, averaging 17.2 L/100 km (2WD) and 17.6 L/100 km (4WD). This is because ethanol doesn't have as much energy per litre as gasoline does and burns less efficiently. The upside is that ethanol is made from domestically grown corn and other crops which can help make North America less dependent on foreign oil. Currently however, there are very few E85 filling stations in Canada.
Interestingly, Chevy will be introducing a new 'Two-mode Hybrid' Tahoe in 2008 that should get much better fuel economy.
In terms of its size, the 2007 Tahoe has the same (2946 mm/116 in.) wheelbase as the 2006 model, but its overall length has increased by 81 mm (3.2 in.). Its width is about the same as its predecessor, but the track has been widened substantially: in front by 81 mm (3.2 in.) and at the rear by 26 mm (1.0 in.). In addition, the standard tire size is now 17-inch rather than 16-inch, and new 18-inch and 20-inch tires are now available. The Tahoe's wider track and larger tires combined with a new coil-over-shock independent front suspension provide more stability when cornering and noticeably improved handling and ride.
Another benefit of its stronger frame is increased payload capacity: 2WD models now have a maximum payload capacity of 832 kg (1835 lb) compared to 690 kg (1522 lb.) last year. The 2007 Tahoe 4WD now has a payload capacity of 806 kg (1776 lb.) compared to 721 kg (1590 lb) in 2006.
However, maximum towing capacities have dropped slightly from 2006. 2007 Tahoe 2WD models have a maximum towing capacity of 3402 kg (7500 lb) compared to 3493 kg (7700 lb) for 2006 models. 2007 Tahoe 4WD trucks can tow up to 3720 kg (8200 lb) vs 3810 kg (8400 lb) last year.
A trailer towing package is standard equipment on all Tahoes. It includes hitch platform, trailer receiver, seven-wire harness, and electric brake controller jumper harness.
As well, all Tahoes include a standard four-speed automatic transmission with a push-button 'Tow-Haul' mode that adjusts shifting points to accommodate a heavy trailer, and a standard transmission oil cooler.
Pricing and trim levels
For 2007, Tahoe 2WD and 4WD models come in LS and LT trim, while top-of-the-line LTZ models come in 4WD only. Base LS 2WD models start at $43,105 with the 4.8-litre V8 engine, and $44,230 with the 5.3-litre V8. Base LS 4WD models start at $47,450. Mid range LT Tahoes start at $45,580 (2WD) while the new LTZ 4WD Tahoe goes for $61,075.
My test vehicle, a mid level LT 4WD model had a base price of $48,525, but a host of options raised this price considerably. My loaded truck was equipped with $14,725 worth of options, and its as-tested price with Freight and A/C tax came to $64,590.
One of the biggest improvements to the Tahoe is its stylish new interior. It's much more car-like than the previous model, and better finished too. The attractive round gauges have a pleasant green/blue backlighting, and the dark dash plastic is relieved by generous amounts of wood trim on the dash, doors and central instrument panel. The centre-dash controls and bright-green displays are easy to see and use.
The Tahoe can be ordered with seating for six to nine persons, depending if you want bench seats or buckets. A three-person 40/20/40 split front bench seat with a folding centre armrest is standard, as is a second-row 60/40 split three-person bench seat with centre armrest. Optional are first and second row bucket seats (second row with folding inboard armrests), and a third row split bench seat that can be a two or three-seater, and is removeable and flippable. Seat heaters are available for the first and second row seats, and heater/A/C controls for the second row are also an option.
My test truck had two front bucket seats, two centre buckets and a two-person third row seat, for a total of six seats. I found the driver's seat comfortable on long drives and it includes adjustable height and lumbar support. A huge armrest/storage bin between the front seats is big enough to store a laptop. The second row buckets are also very comfortable with plenty of head and legroom, however I noticed that the second row windows only roll-down about half way. The third row seat is not very comfortable because of the raised floor, and there's very little cargo space behind it. If you want a third row seat with decent legroom, and adequate cargo space behind, I would recommend you buy the longer Suburban. However, if you only use the third row seat occasionally, and you need a vehicle that's easier to park, the Tahoe is the better bet.
Cargo room has been increased slightly in the 2007 Tahoe. One or both split third row seats can be tumbled forwards, or removed entirely, and the second row bucket seatbacks can be folded flat, leaving a flat surface that's big enough room to slide in a 4X8 sheet of building material.
I liked the remote key fob with a push-button tailgate opener and rear window opener. This solves the problem of having to fumble for the door latch while carrying grocery bags or other items.
The step up into the driver's seat is quite high (56 cm/22 in.), but my vehicle had running boards, a feature I'd recommend unless you're planning on off-road driving. LTZ models even offer running boards that automatically lower when you open the doors. The driver sits up high in the driver's seat and has good visibility, with the exception of the rear three-quarter view that is partly blocked by the second row head restraint.
My vehicle had optional leather seats which come as part of a $7,395 LT3 Preferred Equipment Group which also included tri-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable pedals, ultrasonic rear parking sensors, remote starter, MP3 compatible CD player, XM satellite radio, Bose speakers, universal remote, side curtain airbags, power heated folding mirrors with curb tilt, and ground illumination. My Tahoe also had the optional $2,915 Navigation system/radio with voice activation, and iPod auxiliary input jack. The navigation screen doubles as a touch screen for some radio functions, and it also functions as a rear-view camera display if you order that option.
A rear DVD player and screen is also available on LT and LTZ models.
Front airbags are standard but side curtain airbags are optional and seat mounted side airbags are not offered. On a vehicle in this price range, I think side and curtain airbags should be standard equipment.
I found the optional back-up sensors to be very useful when parking. A series of yellow and red lights at the rear of the cabin, and audible beeping tones tell the driver how close they are to an object behind the vehicle. Red lights and a continuous tone indicate the vehicle is only about 20 cm away from a solid object.
I also found the Tahoe's large side mirrors - the right one is convex for spotting cars in the blind spot - very handy. This is a big vehicle, and it's a good idea to know where other cars are around you.
During the week that I had the Tahoe, I found myself continually surprised at how easy it was to drive. It may be smaller than a Suburban, but it's still a massive vehicle, particularly if you're driving downtown in busy traffic. Still, I found it relatively easy to manoeuvre and easy to park if I could find a big enough parking space. The steering is light and accurate, the visibility is pretty good (the back-up sensors really help), the engine has plenty of power, the brakes are very responsive, the transmission is smooth and responsive, the ride is comfortable, and the handling is quite stable. The cabin is surprisingly quiet, and of course very roomy.
Admittedly, the Tahoe seems to take up the whole lane that you're driving in, and from the look on other driver's faces, it appears to be very intimidating purely by virtue of its bulk, because it's not that bad looking. Being almost six and a half feet tall, the Tahoe looks like it's going to scrape the roof of some underground parking lots, and I found myself involuntarily ducking. And in a car wash, the side mirrors need to be folded in to avoid damage.
With 320 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque (up from 295/335 in 2006) the 5.3-litre V8 provides snappy acceleration, even for a vehicle this heavy. The switch from eight cylinders to four cylinders is virtually undetectable and doesn't affect performance, but there is an instrument display that shows you instant fuel economy readings in V8 and V4 modes. The standard four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, and includes the push-button Tow-Haul mode which generally keeps the transmission in lower gears for longer periods to compensate for the weight of a trailer. The transmission has a column-mounted shifter that frees up space in the centre console area for storage.
The V8 engine's new Active Fuel Management system does work to reduce fuel consumption but I was only able to average 19.4 L/100 km (15 mpg Imp) in the week that I had the Tahoe, much worse than its advertised 13.1 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp). The instant fuel economy gauge revealed wild variations in fuel consumption in V8 and V4 modes (see photos). Coasting downhill in V4 mode, the engine sips as little as 2 L/100 km (140 mpg Imp.), but accelerating uphill in V8 mode, fuel consumption can go over 50 L/100 km (6 mpg Imp).
My 4WD truck had GM's Autotrac 4WD, an electronically-selectable system which allows the driver to choose between 2WD High (rear-wheel drive), 'Auto' (full-time 4WD) which varies torque between the front and rear wheels and can be used on dry or slippery surfaces; 4WD High (part-time 4WD) for slippery surfaces only; 4WD Low, a low gear for creeping over severe inclines and poor surfaces; and Neutral. With all these choices, Tahoe drivers have the type of 4WD traction they need for most types of roads. As well, all Tahoes have standard all-speed traction control and StabiliTrak stability control with a roll-over avoidance system designed to automatically compensate for understeer and oversteer, and help prevent rollovers.
The Tahoe's new front coil-over-shock suspension (replacing torsion bars) provides a comfortable ride and good damping, even with the optional 20-inch 275/65R tires, and in combination with the Tahoe's new rack and pinion power steering (replacing re-circulating ball) provides sharper steering response and cornering stability. However, the Tahoe's turning circle of 11.9 metres (39.04 ft.) is slightly wider than the previous Tahoe (11.7 metres (38.3 ft.). Standard on LTZ models is the Autoride air suspension, a damping control system that automatically adjusts to road and driving conditions, based on body and wheel motion sensors. I didn't have the opportunity to try this suspension, but I found the basic suspension plenty good enough.
All in all, this is a very satisfying vehicle to drive, but it's disappointing that even with Active Fuel Management, it sucks gas like a pig (although I've never actually seen a pig suck gas). For full-size SUV owners, this is the price to be paid for a hefty towing and hauling capacity, a roomy cabin, a generous cargo capacity, and occasional off-road ability.