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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe: A Fullsize Legend

Is Chevy’s Tahoe Still A Player?

Lee Lovell
Sep 27, 2016
Photographers: Lee Lovell
The Chevrolet Tahoe is what many consider one of the last survivors of the dinosaur body-on-frame SUV era. We say dinosaur because the crossover-craze asteroid has already impacted and is threatening the existence of these once-staples of the automotive landscape. In fact, only 18 body-on-frame SUVs are on the market today, and six of those belong to GM’s fullsize GMT family.
That decline can be attributed most to the fact that crossovers have gotten so good lately that it’s getting harder to justify the downsides of a body-on-framer. It’s an even harder pill to swallow when you consider our mid-range LT tester’s sticker of more than $59,000 (fully loaded tops $73K). As truck lovers, a traditional ladder frame holds a soft spot in our hearts, but can the Tahoe’s positives convince us to lay down that kind of coin for a purchase? We had a week to find out.
Photo 2/16   |   Chevy Tahoe Front Angle4
As is often the case, capability is a strong justification for these types of SUVs, and the Tahoe doesn’t disappoint. When compared to a unibody crossover, the Tahoe ladder frame triumphs when it comes to towing. With a fully boxed frame, Auto Grade Braking, and a 355hp 5.3L V-8 under the hood, our tester had a tow rating of 8,600 pounds, thanks to the optional Maximum Trailering Package, which swaps in a 3.42 rear axle ratio, trailer brake controller, Z85 air-leveling suspension, and two-speed transfer case on four-wheel-drive models (our tester was rear wheel-drive).
Photo 3/16   |   Chevy Tahoe Front Passenger Area
Photo 4/16   |   Chevy Tahoe Driver Seat View
Interior capability is also another strong point of the Tahoe. This three-row SUV is large and in charge, measuring 204 inches long and 80 1/2 inches wide—and you feel every bit of it behind the wheel. However, those numbers pay dividends inside. The interior is wide, the seats are comfortable, and the center storage cubby can swallow a laptop whole. Very thirsty and want copious cupholders? There are 15 of them. Moving to the second row, there is more than enough room for the long-legged. However, that isn’t the case for the third row, as tight dimensions make it only suitable for children. Cargo-carrying capacity is 15.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 51.7 cubic feet behind the second row, and a massive 94.7 cubic feet with both rows down.
During our time with the Tahoe, we drove from our natural habitat of Los Angeles to San Diego and back. The Tahoe’s suspension (which is a tad floaty) and steering (which is electrically assisted and very light) left quite the impression. While the combination of the two made for a very comfortable highway ride, road undulations and broken pavement would upset this large SUV, causing it to quickly drift into another lane if not careful. We’re curious to see if the LTZ’s standard Magnetic Ride Control would help alleviate this issue.
Photo 5/16   |   Android Auto On 2016 Chevy Tahoe
Those moments aside, we enjoyed our time inside the cabin, which was rather hushed thanks to triple-sealed doors, acoustically laminated glass, and plenty of sound insulation. Chevrolet’s My-Link 8-inch touchscreen infotainment unit was very intuitive and responsive and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. We were also impressed with the various driver assistance features. A backup camera and rear parking sensors are standard, and stepping up to the LT trim equips the Tahoe with Lane Keep Assist, forward collision monitoring, and Safety Alert (vibrating) driver seat. Our tester also had the optional blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, which we found very helpful on vehicle this size.
Photo 6/16   |   Chevy Tahoe Rear All Seats Down
So is the Tahoe worth its sticker price? If spaciousness, towing capacity, and American manufacturing are your top priorities, then absolutely. However, unless maxing out those priorities will be your reality, we aren’t as sure if it’s worth the coin. The closest argument against it is Chevrolet’s own Traverse CUV, which has 21.6 more cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the first row. Ultimately, there many crossovers out there that tow nearly as much, have around the same amount of interior space, get better fuel economy, and are considered more luxurious—all for $10-$20K less than that of our tester. They have gotten that good.
That said, none of those crossovers would be able to tow a boat or toy hauler as well as the Tahoe. There is something reassuring about a rig that will do all that is asked of it without complaint, even if most owners don’t plan to use its full capability. For that reason, there will always be a place for fullsize body-on-frame SUVs, like the Tahoe, on the road—and in our hearts.
Photo 7/16   |   Chevy Tahoe Back Angle
2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 2WD
Vehicle type: 4-door, 7-passenger, body-on-frame SUV
Base price: $47,000
Price as tested: $59,400
Engine: 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Curb weight: 5,466 lbs
Towing capacity: 8,600 lbs
EPA mileage rating: 16 city/23 highway/18 combined
Fuel Economy Observed: 15.4

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