Pros: 9-passenger capacity; refined and powerful engine; truck-like capability; plush ride; well-crafted interior.

Cons: Less maneuverable than most large crossovers; limited space in the third row; too big for city driving.

What's New: Powertrain braking in normal transmission mode; three new exterior colors.

Year after year, the Chevrolet Tahoe proves itself, both as a consummate people mover and as a capable workhorse in the large utility category. It can seat up to nine people and tow 8,500 lb. There are very few offerings that can claim those two things together.

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe earns its traditional SUV credentials from its sturdy body-on-frame construction and all-terrain prowess. What's more, the Tahoe offers a superb expanse of cargo space and a comfortable, content-rich cabin for large broods to enjoy. Plus, for those seeking a greener approach to the utility vehicle, there's the Tahoe Hybrid.

Although the Tahoe is strong on functionality, it lacks by some practical measures. Those wanting better fuel economy and more car-like handling might find a better fit with a large crossover--Chevrolet's own Traverse, for example.

For 2013, the Tahoe receives just one minor upgrade. A powertrain-grade braking feature, which slows the SUV on a descent using the engine's torque, is available in the Normal transmission mode, not just the Tow/Haul mode.

For carting people comfortably, towing a boat competently and treading harsh road conditions confidently, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe is clearly a top choice. For all of these attributes plus even more cargo space, buyers might want to go with the Tahoe's older brother, the Suburban.

Comfort & Utility

The first thing a potential buyer will notice when climbing in is the Tahoe's excellent fit and finish. This cabin is handsome, well crafted and intelligently laid out with lots of useful storage compartments.

Prominent gauges and controls serve as the face of this interior. Most switchgear has a solid and tactile feel; even the steering wheel offers an excellent grip for piloting this vessel. The only drawback is the lack of a telescoping feature.

The large, chunky seats are supportive and comfortable all the way around, and the Tahoe can be configured to haul eight or nine passengers. The 8-person setup trades the 9-passenger model's 60/40 split second-row bench for a pair of well-contoured bucket seats. In the very back, the third-row seat accommodates three passengers but is tighter than that of some other large SUVs. The third row includes a 50/50 split feature. However, the seat doesn't fold flat and must be completely removed to expand the rear cargo area.

The maximum storage area is voluminous at 109 cu-ft. But with all seats up, there's an almost unusable 18 cu-ft of rear cargo room. As an alternative, Chevrolet's longer Suburban has quite a bit more rear cargo room.

The Tahoe is available in three trims: LS, LT and LTZ. Standard convenience features for the base LS include power-adjustable front seats, tri-zone climate control and a 6-speaker stereo. The midlevel LT adds leather upholstery, driver's-side memory functions and an available Luxury Package, which adds heated seats in front and second rows. The range-topping LTZ comes richly equipped with ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs and a premium 10-speaker audio system.

Technology

Technology amenities on the base LS are limited to Bluetooth, USB connectivity and an optional backup camera system. The uplevel LTZ features a new hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage. Both LT and LTZ models offer an optional DVD system for second- and third-row passengers.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2013 Tahoe comes in two versions: gasoline-powered and hybrid. Both are available in 2- and 4-wheel-drive configurations. The Tahoe's 4-wheel-drive system utilizes either a single-speed transfer case or a more traditional 2-speed mechanism. Maximum towing capacity is 8,500 lb.

The conventional Tahoe is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 producing 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque. Energy is managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy ratings are 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway in both 2- and 4-wheel-drive setups.

The Tahoe Hybrid is propelled by a 6.0-liter V8 in combination with a 2-mode electric drive system. Total output is 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway.

Safety

Occupant protection comes from six airbags and OnStar telematics. A new blind spot warning system is optional on the LTZ.

The Tahoe also comes equipped with ABS and stability control with newly added trailer sway control and hill start assist.

Driving Impressions

The Tahoe's engine delivers power in a strong but smooth manner. It feels refined, even under harder acceleration. The same is the case with the Tahoe Hybrid, which feels powerful in an even more seamless and quiet way.

Sharing the same architecture as the venerable Chevrolet Silverado pickup, the Tahoe is extremely capable. But this utility vehicle benefits from a more yielding rear suspension that makes for a plusher ride for carting the family. The LTZ's Autoride suspension with load-leveling calms the ride even further. And specific sound-deadening characteristics shield the Tahoe's cabin from wind, road, and engine noise.

As for handling, the Tahoe drives like a truck. It's not as maneuverable or carlike as many large crossovers that benefit from unibody construction. The Tahoe also exhibits noticeable body roll in corners. Its large size is apparent from behind the wheel and must be managed accordingly.

The Tahoe's wheels range from 17 inches to the Trailering package's 22-inchers. For those who want a trail-ready performer, there's a Z71 off-road package that brings a resprung suspension, beefier shocks, skid plates and special all-terrain wheels and tires.

Other Cars to Consider

Toyota Sequoia - The Sequoia and the Tahoe are very comparable in both performance and functionality.

Ford Expedition - The Expedition is less capable than the Tahoe in towing capacity. Its third-row seat, however, is more sensibly designed, allowing a fold-away feature.

Nissan Armada - The Armada falls short of the Tahoe with less overall cargo space and a more truck-like ride.

AutoTrader Recommends

Our choice of Tahoe is the well-equipped LTZ model with 4-wheel drive. If you're going to shell out for a big SUV, you're going to want it to have all the bells and whistles that make it the ultimate family hauler. Its price premium justifies all that it has to offer. And 4-wheel drive is a no-brainer when opting for a truck-based SUV. We suggest adding optional DVD entertainment as well as the Z71 Off-Road package to this formula.

Although the Tahoe Hybrid is a well-intentioned addition to the model line, it is much too pricey for the little bit of additional fuel economy.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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