Crucial Cars: Chevy Tahoe

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without. In this installment, the Mechanic Next Door takes on the feature-rich Chevy Tahoe.


Red Chevy Tahoe 1

A familiar name

1995 Chevy Tahoe 1995 Chevy Tahoe
Source | Consumer Guide The first gen Chevrolet Tahoe ('91-'99), while it generally can only be traced back to 1995 when it was officially introduced, is actually four years older. Originally the Chevy Blazer, the Tahoe was a full-size, two-door SUV, introduced as a four-door in '95, named after the rugged and scenic area around Lake Tahoe, at the border of California and Nevada. This name was perfect for this any road vehicle featuring Chevrolet's 5.7 L (350 cu in) LO5 small-block V8. A turbocharged 6.5 L (395 cu in) Detroit Diesel V8 was available beginning in 1994. Shorter than the Suburban, on which the Tahoe/Blazer was based, it shared the Suburban's GMT 400 platform and was built on a truck chassis based on the one used in the full-size Silverado pickup truck. Weighing in at roughly 4,500 pounds for the two-door and 5,500 pounds for the four-door, these vehicles were large and in charge. Even better, they could sit up to nine passengers. Throughout the 1990s, the Tahoe went through minor aesthetic changes but under the hood, you would find three engine sizes within the nine year span including the 5.7 L 350 TBI V8, 6.5 L Detroit Diesel V8, and 5.7 L Vortec 5700 V8 all ranging in horsepower from 180 to 255. In 200, the Tahoe got a facelift.

Second Generation: 2000-2006

2000 Chevy Tahoe Limited 2000 Chevy Tahoe Limited, Source | Car Domain 2000 saw the release of the GMT800, but Chevy produced the 2WD Tahoe Limited and 4WD Tahoe Z71 on the previous GMT400 platform as special edition vehicles. The Limited was based on the Tahoe SS concept made in 1996 and only produced in a black onyx metallic paint. Its unique look was thanks to the factory equipped, monochromatic bumpers and grille painted with the same black onyx paint. In addition, the roof rack was removed while fog lamps were integrated into the front bumper giving this Tahoe individuality from its processor. 2000 Tahoe Z71 2000 Tahoe Z71
Source | Moment Car The Tahoe Z71 also used the monochromatic approach but was available in metallic gray, red, green, or indigo blue. Similar to the Limited, the Z71 differed in that it offered an off-road chassis package, body colored wheel flares, trim, grille and bumpers, inset driving lights built into the center of the front bumper, oversized two row radiator, two tone leather seating surfaces in either a gray or neutral theme, distinctive tail lamp lens covers, black tubular side assist step bars, black brush guard, and distinctive 16 inch Alcoa five spoke 6 bolt polished aluminum wheels. Outside of these special edition Tahoes, the vehicle was redesigned for 2000 on the aforementioned GMT800 platform. Two new engines replaced the old 5.7 L (350 cu in) small-block V8, and while smaller, both produced more horsepower but less torque. Both the two and four-wheel drive models went through pretty significant updates in 2000 including differentiated grilles and headlights as well as interior updates such as new seats, dashboard, and door panels. In 2003, all GM trucks when through an interior upgrade which included new steering wheel and radio controls and other enhancements made with better quality materials. This year was also the birth of StabiliTrack stability control, as well as XM Satellite Radio, Bose audio, and DVD systems. Both engines received 10hp more for 2003 and 2004. The Flex Fuel engine became available first in the 2002 model.

Fourth Generation: 2007-2014

2007 Chevy Tahoe 2007 Chevy Tahoe
Source | Car and Driver For the 2007 model year, GM redesigned the Tahoe on the new GMT900 platform. A hybrid version of the Yukon followed for 2008. The GMT900 sold surprisingly well despite the market weakening as far as SUVs were concerned. This model year saw different front fascias, hood, and tail lights. The Tahoe grille was divided by a body colored bar similar to the chrome bar found on most GMT800 Tahoes. The more angular design gave the Tahoe an upgraded, sophisticated feel than the previous models. That sophistication continued inside the vehicle as well with real wooded trim dashboard with new chrome accented instrument controls. New door panels as well as new seats were also added to the interior and it still maintained its nine-passenger seating availability on LS and SLE models. Improvements were made to just more than appearance. In 2007, GM managed to increase the fuel efficiency of the Tahoe from its former 19 miles per gallon to an impressive 21-22 MPG thanks to the addition of Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation. In 2009, a 395 HP, 6.2 L engine was added as an option to the Tahoe LTZ and a 6-speed 6L80 automatic transmission replaced the 4-speed on all trucks except 2WD models with the 4.8 L engine. The 2010 and later models underwent a mild mid-cycle refresh including a slightly raised bumper, revised door trim, improved side structure, and side torso air bags.

Current generation

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
Source | GM Authority Kelly Blue Book voted the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe The Best Buy of the Year among full-size SUVs. ALG awarded it first place in the full-size SUV category. Car and Driver named it the Editors Choice in Full-Size Crossovers/SUVs, and the Texas Auto Writers Association selected Tahoe as the Full-Size SUV of Texas (doesn’t it go without saying that everything in Texas is full-size?) at the Texas Truck Rodeo. The Tahoe has impressive numbers to go along with those awards and accolades, too. Tahoe sales increased 88 percent in January of 2015 compared to the same time period the previous year, and in the large SUV category, Tahoe sales year-to-date in April were nearly double that of its closest competitor – second-place Chevy Suburban. In the 20 years since Tahoe’s debut, consumer demands and tastes have evolved, as has vehicle technology – so much so that today’s Tahoe bears little resemblance to its first predecessor, other than its name. A quick look inside Tahoe’s interior leaves little doubt what’s front and center on consumers’ wants and needs list, and it’s not just cup holders. We can’t live without our electronics, and Tahoe’s amenities ensure we don’t have to.

Tahoe meets technology

Available 4G LTE Wi-Fi Technology accommodates the simultaneous connection of up to seven devices so every passenger remains connected, even on the road. All those devices need power, which they’ll have no trouble finding, thanks to 13 charging stations (airport waiting area planners, take note) as well as the availability of wireless charging and a three-prong, 110-volt outlet for laptops and larger devices. Six of those 13 charging stations are USB ports and there’s Bluetooth capability that can also attach up to seven devices with Chevy’s MyLink system. Controlling MyLink is accomplished with the swipe of a finger on an eight-inch, color touch screen that features customizable icon locations. Hidden behind the touch screen is a secret compartment for storing small items, accessible only by entering a password on the screen. Yes, Tahoe has class and style, right down to its instrument cluster, which Chevy describes as being “designed after high-end watches.”

Convenience package

When Tahoe drivers need to haul something other than precious human cargo, there are 94.7 cubic feet of cargo space, and second and third-row seats that fold flat. Chevy also boasts that Tahoe has “the fastest power-release second-row and power-folding third-row seats of any competitor.” Because that’s important when you’re in a big hurry to…..remove or fold your seats? In addition to a hands-free liftgate that opens with a gentle kicking motion thanks to a sensor hidden under the rear bumper, Tahoe also features keyless entry as well as starting, bringing the engine to life with just the push of a button. Passengers will have difficulty hearing that engine, or any other external noise for that matter, as Chevy claims this is “the quietest Tahoe ever.” Sound-dampening material has been added pretty much everywhere, including in the engine compartment, wheel liners, dash, and floor, and there’s an “acoustic-laminated windshield” along with triple-sealed inlaid doors. All this peace and quiet and style sit atop available 22-inch aluminum wheels with premium paint and chrome inserts, or 20 inchers or even 18’s on the LS and LT models. Stepping up into a Tahoe – particularly one riding on 22’s – is made easier with the by retractable side assist steps with perimeter lighting. While that lighting is a nice touch, the heavy-duty illumination comes in the form of projector-beam headlamps and rear LED tail lamps that really light up the night, with high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps available on the LTZ model.

Performance and safety

Fuel economy is still top of mind for most drivers, and Tahoe delivers about what you’d expect for a vehicle of this size – EPA Estimated Fuel Economy of 16 MPG around town and 23 or 22 – depending if you’re piloting the two- or four-wheel drive version, respectively – on the open road. That 26-gallon fuel tank is feeding a 5.3-liter EcoTech3 V-8 that features active fuel management which takes four cylinders offline when their power isn’t needed, direct injection for more power and fuel efficiency with reduced emissions, and variable valve timing for maximum power and efficiency. All this engine technology churns out an impressive 355 HP and 383 lb-ft torque that are capable of towing 8,500 lbs. And, let’s not forget what’s most important – safety. Seven airbags, collision alerts, lane departure warnings, automatic front braking, side-blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, rear-vision camera, and a theft-protection package help protect and prevent. Available in three models, an LS, LT, and LTZ, Chevy calls it, “the most advanced Tahoe ever,” and they’re not kidding. But first you’ll have to decide on what you need and what you can afford. MSRP starts at just over $47,000 and there is a list of add-on accessories – 58 to be exact – in nine categories covering everything from interior or exterior cargo management to electronics to security and protection. Tahoe’s all grown up and has class and style, making it a perfect match for drivers with similar qualities. What do you like about the Tahoe? Tell us in the comments.
Last updated June 6, 2018