Don't buy a new vehicle without driving the redesigned and re-engineered Chevrolet Tahoe for 2007.
Capable of carrying up to nine passengers and towing up to 7,700 pounds, the new Tahoe is so much a cut above its predecessors and many competitors, it's destined to top several "best full-size sport-utility vehicle" lists.
In showrooms as of January 2006 as an early 2007 model, the Tahoe now looks trimmer than ever and has a pleasing, quiet interior with a well-organized, upscale appearance as well as supportive seats that are comfortable even for ample-sized people.
For the first time in a Tahoe, there's a V8 that automatically shuts off four engine cylinders on occasion to save gasoline.
The ride is so well-managed and steering so comfortably accurate that many Tahoe drivers will feel as if they're driving something smaller and nimbler than a large SUV.
Also not to be missed: New, fuss-free, power, fold-and-tumble second-row seats that easily move out of the way so passengers have good access to third-row seats.
Most of the Tahoe is revised for 2007.
Besides new, attractive sheet metal and a well-proportioned, new body, there's a new, fully-boxed, truck frame underneath that's a sturdy, improved foundation for this large SUV. Passengers notice the firmer, more rigid underpinnings almost immediately as the vehicle travels with more refinement and more smoothly than ever before.
The windshield is more raked in this new Tahoe, while outside mirrors are larger than before. Both help provide good views out and around the vehicle. I especially liked the tall ride height that allowed me to see over and around other vehicles, even compact pickup trucks.
The attention to detail on interior quietness is noteworthy in this new Tahoe. Not only were tires selected with an ear toward a quiet ride, the ceiling and door seals are better fortified against noise. There's also an acoustically-tuned alternator and special noise-reducing engine cover under the hood.
Average full-size SUV pricing
Pricing remains in line with other full-size SUVs.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for a base, two-wheel-drive, 2007 Tahoe LS is just over $33,000. A Tahoe with four-wheel drive starts at nearly $37,000.
Chevrolet officials said Tahoe competitors include the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, which have starting MSRPs of just under $33,000 as two-wheel-drive models.
But note that Tahoe prices can reach into the $50,000 range if equipped with four-wheel-drive, the LTZ package and special features are added. Indeed, in early sales of the new Tahoe, the average transaction price was reported at more than $42,000.
The best-selling full-size SUV in the country since 2001, the Tahoe is valued for how many people it can carry—up to nine—and its towing capacity, which tops out at 7,700 pounds.
The Tahoe already has a reputation as a top large SUV, having been named No. 2 in its segment in the annual Initial Quality Study of automotive researcher J.D. Power and Associates for three years, from 2003 to 2005. The longer-wheelbase version of Tahoe, the Chevrolet Suburban, has held the No. 1 spot. Power's IQS measures owner complaints about their vehicles in the early months of ownership.
In 2004, the Tahoe also topped the full-size SUV segment in Power's Dependability Study, which tallies owner complaints over the first three years of ownership.
Building an even better Tahoe
For the 2007 model year, the Tahoe retains what buyers like best and builds on it.
Tahoes keep their V8 power, which is needed for such a large, heavy vehicle that weighs more than 2.5 tons.
But engines now are more powerful. For example, the uplevel, 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 overhead valve LMG V8 in the test Tahoe 4WD LTZ puts out 320 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm.
This is up from 295 horses and 335 lb-ft of torque in the 2006 Tahoe with 5.3-liter V8. And it's more than the 273 horsepower and 314 lb-ft of torque in the 2006 Sequoia.
Horsepower also is more than the 300 of Ford's Expedition, though the Expedition has more torque—365.
The test Tahoe with this engine moved confidently with traffic and easily passed other vehicles. There was a bit of coasting, however, when I'd let up on the gas pedal.
The transmission—the four-speed automatic from the predecessor Tahoe—shifted smoothly, and there was a satisfying, deep-toned, V8 hum when I pressed the accelerator.
This is the first Tahoe engine with Active Fuel Management (AFM), a system that detects when all eight engine cylinders aren't needed to power the vehicle and, during such times, automatically turns off four of them to conserve fuel.
With AFM and the uplevel V8, the best government fuel economy rating is 16 miles a gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for a two-wheel-drive model, which is better than last year's 15/20-mpg rating.
Indeed, it's better than that of any other full-size SUV.
The rating also is impressive because the new Tahoe weighs considerably more than the 2006 vehicle.
The base Tahoe engine, installed on all two-wheel-drive Tahoes, is a 290-horse 4.8-liter Vortec 4800 overhead valve V8 with 290 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. It wasn't available right at the start of the 2007 Tahoe distribution to dealerships.
All Tahoes run on regular unleaded gasoline, though the 5.3-liter LMG engine also can run on E85 fuel that includes ethanol.
Underpinnings form a good vehicle base
The new, stiffer frame underneath the Tahoe provides a stable foundation for this large SUV, and the ride is smooth on many roads. Body motions are well-controlled, and the vehicle's wider track vis-a-vis its predecessors helps convey a more grounded feel.
A test, upper level LTZ, included the Autoride suspension system that uses high-tech sensors to constantly tune the ride for refinement and smoothness. It worked admirably, especially on a lengthy, off-road trail that has segments of washboard surfaces and potholes.
Passengers experience less head bobbing in the new Tahoe than they would in many other SUVs, even smaller ones, and while there's occasional bounciness over rough road and off-road trails, the Tahoe's road manners are exceptional for a vehicle its size.
Tires, which range up to 20 inches in diameter, did squeal during aggressive driving, however.
Longer than its predecessor, the 2007 Tahoe is just as wide as an Expedition and Sequoia.
But at 16.8 feet long, the Tahoe is nearly 3 inches shorter, overall, than an Expedition and 2 inches shorter than a Sequoia. Maybe this helps explain why I backed the Tahoe into my garage with surprising ease.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering for this big vehicle is confidence-inspiring. Going through curves, I set the steering wheel and found it didn't need correcting.
The Tahoe's 39-foot turning circle is noteworthy, too. Consider that the turning circle for a much smaller, 2007 Mitsubishis Eclipse convertible is 40 feet.
The Tahoe's brakes worked strongly, though not with the immediate, tenacious feel of a European vehicle like a Volvo or BMW.
Inside the Tahoe, the "towel bar" handle on the front-passenger dashboard is gone.
Throughout, there's a higher quality appearance to the plastics, and the new radio system has a modern, streamlined look.
Stability control and tire pressure monitor system are standard, but curtain airbags are optional on some Tahoe trim levels.
It's still a big step up to get inside, and loading items into the cargo area requires a significant lift. The cargo floor was at pelvis level for me, and I'm 5 feet 4.
Company officials expect sales to remain mostly stable. During calendar 2005, more than 150,000 of the previous-generation Tahoes were sold in the United States.
Sibling vehicles to the Tahoe are the GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade and the longer-length Chevy Suburban. Of them all, the Tahoe has the lowest starting MSRP.