Fifth Place: Chevrolet Tahoe LT
Our last-place finisher has passed its freshness date. Now in its fifth year, the Chevy Tahoe is the oldest of the five full-sizers tested. Practical and unpretentious, the Tahoe still tops the full-size SUV sales charts. But other, fresher designs are gaining fast.
Bumper to bumper, the Tahoe measures about a foot and a half shorter than Chevy's super-size Suburban sport/utility, making it considerably easier to fit in a garage. Third-row seating was added as a Tahoe option with the 2000 redesign. Adults in the third row must make do with tilt-your-noggin'-to-one-side headroom, knee-scraping legroom, and a short cushion that makes you feel you're stuck beyond reach of the cranberry sauce at the kids' table. Getting in and out requires stepping on the lumpy, thinly padded backs of the folded second-row seats. Put the kids or adults you don't like in the aft section.
As a five-seater with 63.6 cubic feet of cargo space, the Tahoe works just fine. The Chevy's tall, boxy shape results in generous interior space. Fold the second-row seat cushions forward and the second-row seatbacks down, remove the 50/50 split third-row bench, and you can create a 104.6-cubic-foot bowling alley. The Tahoe's best dynamic qualities are its quiet cabin and settled highway ride.
As one staffer writes, "If I were considering a lot of long-distance Interstate driving, the Chevy would be on my short list." It cruises well. In 965 miles of driving, the 5050-pound Tahoe test vehicle averaged 15.7 mpg--the best of the bunch. But in the cut and thrust of suburban motoring, the Tahoe's numb and sloppy recirculating-ball steering reminded us of how imprecise super-size utility vehicles used to be when turning. There's lots of disconcerting body roll, too. The Tahoe's brakes, upgraded in 2004 from solid to vented rear discs, manage to feel mushy and require extra pedal effort at the end of a stop.