Entirely new for 2000, the Chevrolet Tahoe shed its previously boxy styling in favor of a more curvaceous body. Well, as curvaceous as a full-size SUV can get. The earlier generation’s two-door model was retired. But over its run, the 2000 to 2006 Tahoe gained some significant advantages, including more powerful engines, an off-road Z71 package and, on later models, the addition of StabiliTrak stability control.
If cross-shopping the Tahoe, also look at early-model Ford Expeditions, but you won’t find the same horsepower or tow ratings until the later model years. Also check out the slightly smaller (though less reliable) Dodge Durango, or the similar-sized but more expensive Toyota Sequoia.
Why you want it
Chevrolet’s Tahoe is the truncated version of the company’s popular Suburban. Nearly identical from the rear seat forward, the Tahoe shares the Suburban’s roomy interior, powerful V8 engine (although the larger 6.0-liter V8 and 2500 model are not available on the Tahoe) and feature-rich options list.
Due to its ability to hold up to eight passengers and to tow up to 8,800 pounds, the Tahoe appeals to big families with big toys, but not acres of garage space. Models with the available third-row seat feature a 50/50 split bench seat that can be folded (although not flush – as in the 2003-and-newer Expeditions) or removed to create a larger cargo area.
As with all vehicles in this class, fuel economy is going to be in the low-to-mid teens. But Chevrolet’s V8 engines have a good reputation for durability and longevity, so buying a high-mileage used model shouldn’t be worrisome.
Notable features and options
The Tahoe wears a Chevrolet badge, but it can be equipped like a Cadillac. Standard features on the LS include power windows, mirrors and locks; a 40/20/40 split-bench front seat or captain’s chairs; tri-zone air conditioning; front side-impact airbags; AM/FM stereo with cassette or CD (depending on year) and anti-lock brakes.
Vertical split rear doors are standard, but most people opt for the no-charge two-piece liftgate with rear defroster and wiper. LT trims gain alloy wheels, captain’s chair front seating and electronic climate control. Among the many cool options are Bose audio, navigation, leather seating, heated front seats, a power sunroof, rear seat DVD entertainment system, removable third-row seat, StabiliTrak stability control, automatic load leveling suspension, and power adjustable pedals.
Off-road enthusiasts should look for models with four-wheel drive, a trailer tow package and the Z71 package that adds tubular side steps, upgraded 17-inch wheels and tires, upgraded shocks, color-keyed grille, and OnStar. Two-wheel-drive models offer a Traction package that includes traction control, a locking differential and tow hooks.
2000: An all-new model debuts with new sheetmetal, more powerful engines and more safety features.
2001: The Z71 package debuts, while two-tone paint packages are dropped. OnStar is now available on the LS trim.
2002: LS models gain more standard equipment, including heated power mirrors, six-way power driver and front passenger seats, fog lamps, assist steps, rear heat, rear window defroster, and Homelink universal transmitter. The 5.3-liter V8 is now E85-compatible.
2003: StabiliTrak stability control is offered on both two- and four-wheel-drive Tahoes. New entertainment choices include satellite radio, Bose audio and a rear seat DVD player. New options include power adjustable pedals, second-row leather bucket seats and electronic climate control.
2004: A tire pressure monitoring system is made standard, as are Hydro-Boost brakes and new 16-inch wheels.
2005: A two-piece rear hatch is now standard, while navigation is offered for the first time. StabiliTrak stability control is made standard on all trims.
2006: No major changes as the all-new 2007 model prepares to debut midway through 2006.
Engines and performance
The base model features a 4.8-liter V8 engine, good for 275 horsepower. The 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 makes just 10 more horsepower, but offers significantly more torque (325 pound-feet compared with 290). For this reason, the 5.3-liter is the best engine for the Tahoe. It feels strong at all times, offers nearly identical fuel economy to the base engine and, on later models, is E85-compatible.
Because it’s a big, tall vehicle, don’t expect the Tahoe to handle like a car. But in ordinary driving situations, it proves surprisingly confident. The steering is direct and on-center body roll is not excessive. On models with StabiliTrak stability control, aggressive cornering and emergency maneuvers are tackled with ease. The brake pedal feels rather soft, with lots of travel before the brakes take hold.
Four-wheel-drive models feature Chevy’s Autotrac full-time system that operates in two-wheel drive until it senses wheel slippage, at which point the all-wheel-drive system kicks in. Once traction is regained, the system reverts to two-wheel drive. The system can also be set into 4HI, 4LO and 2HI.
Recalls, safety ratings and warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2000 to 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe.
2000: Possible brake line failure and possible defective airbag that may not deploy in the event of a frontal crash.
2000/01: Defective or missing rear wheel housing plugs that could allow exhaust fumes to enter the rear wheel housing.
2000/02: Possible defect that could affect the anti-lock braking system due to road salt.
2001: Possible cracks in the second- and third-row seatbelt mechanisms.
2003: Possible defective welds on rear upper door hinges.
2003/04: Possible defective O-ring in the braking system’s relief valve that may make it harder to steer and brake.
2003/05: Improper fitting for rear seat lap belts.
2005: Possible defect that could cause the shift lever parking indicator not to illuminate. Possible missing brake pushrod retainer, which could cause brake failure.
2006: Possible defective power steering hose that could rupture under pressure and cause the loss of power steering assistance.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety-wise, the NHTSA gives the 2000 to 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe four out of five stars for the driver and front seat passenger in its front-impact crash tests, but only two out of five in the rollover roof strength test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did not test the Tahoe.
The 2000 to 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe comes with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty and a six-year/100,000-mile corrosion warranty. The 2000 to 2006 Tahoe is too old to qualify for the Certified Pre-Owned program and as such, will not have any kind of warranty protection.
Word on the web
We’ve been surfing the web to see what consumers and consumer advocates have to say about the Tahoe. Sites such as CarComplaints.com don’t have much praise, but those observations are based on only a few hundred reports. Consumer Reports, which has a much larger data pool, generally give the Tahoe high marks in the areas of engine, transmission and electrical system, but only average grades for the drivetrain (4WD components, driveshaft and vibration), body hardware (windows, locks, latches, etc.) and climate system.
Owners, on the other hand, praise the Tahoe overwhelmingly for its smooth and quiet ride, comfortable cabin, and plentiful power. They often complain of poor fuel economy, though, especially when the vehicle is fully loaded or towing, and the lack of a side-curtain airbag. There are also some complaints about vibrations and knocking felt through the steering column.
Auto Trader recommendations
Go for all the bells and whistles, like the loaded LT2. The most important reasons being safety, comfort and reliability. Look for a 2005 or 2006 model with StabiliTrak and Autotrac four-wheel drive if you live in snowy climes. Those who venture off-road or live in more rural settings might want to track down a good-condition LS with the Z71 package.