General Motors has fast-tracked its all-new, full-size sport/utility range to get these large-volume vehicles to dealers more quickly than originally planned, staving off continued competition from fresher vehicles and entering a market complicated by increased fuel prices. The new trucks replace the longest-running models in their respective segments, giving GM its time to shine, touting much-needed improvements across the board.
The Chevrolet Tahoe leads the public charge, showing the new levels of packaging refinement, evolved exterior shape, significantly improved interior, and upgraded powertrains that will be exhibited by its brethren. Along with the Tahoe, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade will be available in the first quarter of 2006, followed the next quarter by the Chevy Suburban, Chevy Avalanche, GMC Yukon, Yukon XL Denali, Cadillac Escalade ESV, and Escalade EXT.
The new SUV platform will be offered in two wheelbases (116 and 130 inches), three body styles, and 12 different models. While the portfolio may resemble the 2005 lineup, there will be more product differentiation with the upcoming vehicles. The Cadillacs, for example, will now have unique doors in order to better carry a distinctive front-fender design down the side of the vehicle.
Despite that it has topped the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey for five years, the Tahoe trailed competitors in driving dynamics and interior execution. No surprise, these shortcomings were specifically addressed with the redesign. As with all 2007 full-size GM SUVs, the Tahoe benefits from a stiffer, fully boxed frame with a coil-over-shock front suspension and increased front/rear track width. This combination lays the foundation for more sure-footed on- and off-road performance. Attention to noise and vibration with the chassis speaks to efforts to quiet the cabin.
The interior benefits from underhood measures to reduce NVH, such as a quiet-tuned alternator and acoustically engineered engine cover, as well as aerodynamic enhancements to minimize wind noise. The interior itself features a noise-reducing headliner, door seals, and gap-filling foam.
The interior design is much improved over the outgoing model, with tighter panel fit and more car-like presentation. The net effect is to feel more upscale, and the available equipment roster reflects this premium turn. Standout features include power-release fold-and-tumble second-row seat, remote vehicle starting system, first- and second-row heated seats, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, rearview camera system, touch-screen navigation system, power-articulating running boards, and DVD rear-seat entertainment system with larger, 8-inch screen.
The Tahoe exterior reflects a more modest evolution, with softer lines and the new Chevrolet face seen in a large Chevy gold Bow Tie, centered on a twin-port horizontal grille and flanked by jewel-like headlamps. The front fascia apron gives the new Tahoe a distinctly sporty visage that eliminates the traditional crude truck bumper on previous models, while maintaining clear familial cues with the TrailBlazer. The Tahoe comes standard with 17-inch wheels and 20-inchers are available. Available later in 2006, the Z71 trim uses a specifically designed three-piece fascia with a protective, platinum chrome skidplate. It has larger tow hook openings; more prominent foglamps; and specific grille texture and platinum chrome grille trim. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires also are part of the package.
Motivating this sharpened SUV is a revised family of seven engines that see power and fuel economy increase over '05. The base Gen IV small-block 4.8L V-8 produces a prodigious 290 hp, and that's just the beginning. The 5.3L V-8s boast Displacement On Demand cylinder-deactivation technology, giving the 320-hp engines the ability to achieve a 20.5 mpg combined EPA rating, based on preliminary tests. The 6.0L heavy-duty engines boast 350- and 355-hp, with the top aluminum-block 6.2L touting variable-valve timing ranging from 380 to 400 horsepower, dependent on application. The engines are teamed with automatic transmissions, including a new 6L80 six-speed gearbox. Tow ratings will range from 7200 lbs to 9800 lbs, on long-wheelbase models.
Beyond the strengthened structure, the Tahoe boasts a range of safety improvements, including the standard Stabilitrak stability control system, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, OnStar, tire-pressure monitor system, daytime running lights, and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Additional available equipment includes roof-mounted head curtain side airbags, remote vehicle starting system, power-adjustable pedals, automatic windshield wipers, and heated windshield wiper fluid reservoir.
On sale early 2006, the 2007 Tahoe will be built at the Arlington Assembly Plant, in Arlington, Texas. Other full-size models will be introduced at auto shows through the season.