With the price of crude oil hovering around $100 per barrel, certain auto analysts are once again questioning the existence of the large SUV. And why not? Not everyone understands these big rigs, some of which can haul eight passengers and tow 10,000 pounds, that tout large-displacement, heavy-hauling V-s 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 backcountry and romp around in, but next to these 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 the least legroom, 12.3 inches less than that of the Expedition. And if you need to tote gear with a full passenger load, the Tahoe trails again, offering only 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row. And our tester didn't come equipped with the power-operated fold-and-tumble second row, a useful feature included with LTZ Tahoes.

Of course, it's not like the Chevy is without merits. Despite the Z71 off-road suspension package, the Tahoe provided an impressively compliant highway ride as well as a surprisingly hushed cockpit, even at near-triple-digit speeds. Moreover, the interior, while comparatively Spartan and monotone, did offer the comfiest front bucket seats and the most front headroom. Plus, with Active Fuel Management that switches between V-8 and V-4 power, the Tahoe, at 13.4 mpg, tied with the Toyota for best-in-test 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 8200 pounds, there are better options.