The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the youngest fullsize SUVs on the market, second only to the all-new Toyota Sequoia. Take the transmission. Paired with a 5.3-liter V-8 whose 320 horsepower, the Tahoe's four-speed proved its Achilles heel at the dragstrip, delivering a weak 0-to-60 time (8.3 seconds) and a slow quarter-mile trap speed (85.6 mph). The Chevy's four-speed struggled on mountain roads, as well, its tall ratios making it difficult to find the ideal gear. Notes editor at large Arthur St. Antoine, "Where you particularly miss the extra cog is rolling briskly downhill, where second is too low and third is too high." Manual mode? Not offered. Note to Chevy: Install the Cadillac Escalade's Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed or, at the very least, its nifty gear-lever-mounted manual-shift buttons.
In addition to the four-speed, the Tahoe also sports an old-school live axle, a feature that behooves off-road maneuvers but tends to degenerate on-road motions. Add in steering that was judged too light and not particularly communicative -- a "Twirl-O-Matic" feel, according to St. Antoine -- and the Chevy's chassis was downgraded further. Per Truck Trend editor Mark Williams, "It's the most fun to take to the back country and romp around in, but compared to other family-friendly haulers, it just doesn't keep up." Further, by eliminating the possibility of a flat floor, the live axle compromises interior efficiency, forcing Chevy to utilize removable third-row seats rather than fold-flat units like the others. Not only is it burdensome to take out those heavy seats, but it's also a burden to sit in them, as they offer little legroom. And if you need to tote gear with a full passenger load, the Tahoe offers only 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row.
Of course, it's not like the Chevy is without merits. Despite the Z71 package, the Tahoe provided an impressively compliant highway ride as well as a surprisingly hushed cockpit, even at near-tripledigit speeds. Moreover, the interior, while comparatively Spartan and monotone, does offer comfortable front bucket seats and ample front headroom. Plus, with Active Fuel Management that switches between V-8 and V-4 power, the Tahoe, at 13.4 mpg, gets reasonable fuel economy.
If you're looking for a solid off-road toy that's still laudable on-road, or a cavernous five-seat sport/ute that can swallow seven in a pinch, the Tahoe won't disappoint. But if you're looking for more from a three-row full-size SUV, like a higher tow rating than 6200 pounds, there are better options.