Chevy Tahoe SUV gets a reworking

February 26, 2006|by JEFF MELNYCHUK/Wheelbase Communications

You might not recognize the face, but at least the name is familiar, which is just the point when it comes to the new 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe.

It's quite literally the "face" of change, but deep down inside, where it counts, the Tahoe is still, first and foremost, one hard-working sport-utility vehicle, even if its architecture is completely different.

The Tahoe, which just happens to be the best-selling full-size SUV in the United States, is one of more than a dozen or so products to sprout from the new "GMT900" truck platform.

It's followed by other new Chevrolets wearing Silverado, Suburban and Avalanche badges and their GMC and Cadillac siblings.

Rightfully stated, General Motors says the Tahoe is one of the most important new-product launches in the company's history, vital to both "The General" and its dealers. Trucks generate profit and loyalty, so building them "right" right out of the box is critical. The good news is that this first iteration of the new GMT900 is a considerable improvement over the previous version. The new Tahoe rides and handles better, is noticeably quieter and both the steering and brakes are a big step forward. It's more fuel efficient and, while casting a similar-sized shadow, is roomier inside than the outgoing version.


When it comes right down to it, the frame, suspension, engine and body for the 2007 Tahoe are all new. The only major structure carried over from the previous version is the floor pan, albeit with some modifications. Visually the new Tahoe is cleaner, swoopier (thanks to a more steeply raked windshield) and the narrower body gaps and the reduced number of panels add to the impression of a more upscale vehicle. The front track (the distance between the wheels) has been increased by three inches and the whole thing sits one inch closer to the ground (half an inch on 4x4 models). Seventeen-inch wheels and tires are standard and 20-inch units optional.

The front bucket seats offer improved support and more second-row knee room because the chair backs are thinner. The second-row seats effortlessly flip and fold out of the way for access to the third row. An optional power flip-fold feature is available and works with the touch of a button.

The third row can be a bench or a two-seat unit with a distinct console to keep the little ones separated. It also flips and folds out of the way with one-hand operation or can be removed and carried out with a built-in handle.

GM is placing heavy emphasis on improved fuel economy for the new GMT900 platform. The 2004 Tahoe led the full-size SUV segment at 18.6 mpg (combined EPA city/highway rating), the 2005 version pushed that to 19.8 and the new 2007 has attained 21.3 mpg. Part of the credit goes to improvements in aerodynamics, but the biggest contribution comes from a new 5.3-liter V-8 that features "displacement on demand." GM is now referring to the system as active fuel management, which shuts off four cylinders under low- and no-load conditions. The engine alone is given credit for improvement in highway mileage of one to two mpg.

The four-speed automatic transmission and optional four-wheel-drive systems are carried over from the previous model. Despite the fuel economy improvement, the new 5.3 V-8 puts out 320 horsepower, 25 more than the outgoing unit. Later in the model year, a 290-horsepower 4.8-liter V-8 will be available on two-wheel-drive Tahoes.

Safety is a big deal to sport-utility buyers who regularly use their rigs for carrying the whole family. Electronic stability control (which keeps the Tahoe traveling in the intended direction) with new roll-over mitigation technology (to help prevent roll-overs) is standard on all models along with larger anti-lock brakes. Two-phase air bags (small crash equals small bag; big crash equals big bag) and side-curtain air bags that cover all three rows of seats are standard fare. The impact sensors used to snug the belts tight and position the seat occupants for maximum protection, are also employed in the new Tahoe for side and rear impacts providing a 360 degree safety perimeter.

The 2007 Tahoe, on sale now, is available in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels with a Z71 offroad, heavy duty and other versions to follow.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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