2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 8, 2008

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe stands out as a stylish, accomplished, and usable full-size sport utility vehicle.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Chevy Tahoe to help you decide which reviews to trust and to add opinions where they give better, clearer information. This review also compares the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is based on the GMT900 truck platform and was introduced in its current form in late 2006 as a 2007 model. The 2008 Chevy Tahoe comes in LS, LT, and LTZ trims and either rear- or four-wheel drive. StabiliTrak stability control, ABS, traction control, and curtain airbags for all rows are standard on every trim level. These features, combined with the Chevrolet's curb weight of over 2.5 tons, should make you feel very safe and secure.

For 2008, the Tahoe engine lineup includes three V-8s: a 4.8-liter with 295 horsepower, an optional 5.3-liter with 320 horsepower V-8 and E85/flex-fuel capability, and a 6.2-liter with 380 horsepower. The smaller engines are offered with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the 6.2-liter gets a heavy-duty six-speed automatic. Our test vehicle was equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8, and this engine moved the big Chevy with authority. All engines feature fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, and this feature is totally imperceptible as it turns off cylinders when full power isn't necessary.

The big Tahoe rides smoothly on its coil-spring suspension, but be aware that as you move up in wheel and tire size, ride quality suffers. We vastly prefer 17-inch and 18-inch tires to the 20-inchers because of this. With the smaller rims, the Tahoe is as responsive as any 5,600-pound vehicle can be and feels much more maneuverable than it should.

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Inside, the up-level Tahoe LTZ features a beautiful interior that could have been lifted from a premium German sedan. The overall quality of the materials is very good. The switchgear also works well and is easy to use. (GM's corporate non-navigation radio, by the way, is among the most intuitive and simplest to use--period.) Comfort for the first two rows is excellent, and a three-person front bench seat is available; however, the optional third row is not so great. Unlike in other SUVs, this seat is a pain to remove (it doesn't fold into the floor like the Honda Pilot's), and the remaining mounting tabs stick up from the floor and can scratch cargo.

A more work-oriented interior is fitted to the base Tahoe, so don't expect to find fancy faux woods in the LS editions. However, what the base interior lacks in visual appeal, it makes up for in everyday function.

If your favorite color is green, you can pony up some additional greenbacks to drive the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, an interesting study in the melding of enhanced efficiencies and environmentalism.

When facing off against the two full-size SUV imports, a properly equipped 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe can tow four tons, besting the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada in this important category. These imports are both larger than the Tahoe and could also be compared against the larger Chevrolet Suburban. With Chevy's improving excellence, don't write off the Tahoe because of quality concerns. This truck is designed and built to run among the best of the best.

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe

Styling

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe matches a conservative, but attractive, exterior with a world-class interior design.

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe enters Chevy showrooms in a form that is virtually identical to its 2007 incarnation. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that this isn't such a bad thing, since Car and Driver praises the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008's "handsome exterior and interior design."

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is a large SUV from Chevrolet that is available in three trims, which Cars.com lists as "base LS, LT, and top-of-the-line LTZ trim levels." The term most frequently used by reviewers to describe the 2008 Chevy Tahoe is "handsome," and the Tahoe Chevrolet is indeed deserving of the moniker. Kelley Blue Book reviewers report that "despite the slightly conservative exterior styling, the Tahoe is still handsome," and ForbesAutos approves of the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008's "handsome, conservative exterior" as well, calling it "unashamedly big and boxy, though slightly more aerodynamic looking than the previous generation's." When viewing the exterior of the 2008 Chevy Tahoe, Cars.com reviewers first notice the "large clear-lens headlights [that] flank a wide grille bisected by a thick horizontal member with a large Chevy bowtie logo." Kelley Blue Book agrees "the face of the Chevrolet Tahoe is its most distinctive exterior feature," but also mentions that "the steeply-angled windshield, wraparound fascia and faired-in headlights help contribute to a best-in-segment 0.363 coefficient of drag." For 2008, Cars.com states that Chevrolet has added "two paint colors, a blue and a ruby metallic," to the exterior color options of the Tahoe Chevrolet.

Inside, the 2008 Chevy Tahoe has "definitely moved up a notch or two when it comes to interior refinement and luxury," according to Kelley Blue Book. Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree, with Edmunds raving about "last year's redesign that introduced a handsome, well-tailored cabin," among other improvements. Car and Driver also approves, proclaiming the "modern and uncluttered interior gives the Tahoe a luxurious look." ConsumerGuide notes "the gauges are generally easy to read, but some testers find the markings too indistinct for best legibility," though they also mention "most controls are logically placed and operate with precision." Both ConsumerGuide testers and editors at TheCarConnection.com love the available navigation system on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, which ConsumerGuide says "has a large, easy-to-read touch screen that absorbs, but does not complicate, audio functions." One final bit of praise comes from Kelley Blue Book, which feels that "the instrument panel with LED backlighting is fit for a luxury sedan."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe

Performance

For a vehicle of its size, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe has decent maneuverability and good power, though you'll have to be satisfied with a four-speed automatic on most versions.

Like most SUVs, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe can burn through fuel at a depressing rate, but at least the Chevrolet Tahoe offers impressive performance for all the gas it inhales. A long list of performance enhancements that debuted on the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe carries over onto the 2008 version and makes this Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 one of the better-performing SUVs on the market.

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe features a choice of three engines: "a 4.8-liter V-8 with 295 horsepower, a 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 horsepower, and a 6.2-liter V-8 with 380 horsepower," according to Car and Driver. Reviews of the three engines read by TheCarConnection.com are positive, and Edmunds states that the "4WD 2008 Chevy Tahoe is fairly quick, getting to 60 mph in just 8.6 seconds." However, Edmunds also notes that "the Tahoe doesn't feel nearly so quick when carrying a full load of passengers or cargo." ConsumerGuide adds that Tahoes "with the 5.3-liter V8 have fine power from any speed," and they mention that E85 ethanol, which "is available in most states and can be less expensive than regular-grade gasoline," can "be used in versions of the Tahoe with the 5.3-liter V8." The big V-8 engines also bring impressive towing capacity to the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008, and Cars.com says that, "when properly configured, the Tahoe can tow up to 8,200 pounds." ForbesAutos reviewers report this is enough to "tow and haul serious loads." The largest engine on the Chevrolet Tahoe, the high-output but thirsty 6.2-liter V-8, is only available on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe in LTZ trim, and only when equipped with two-wheel drive. (The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is covered separately.)

Two transmissions are available on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, along with two drive configurations, and Cars.com notes that both of the smaller V-8s "use a four-speed automatic transmission," while the 6.2-liter version gets an upgraded six-speed automatic. In addition, Car and Driver says "four-wheel drive is optional on all Tahoe models," while "rear-wheel drive is standard." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are pretty critical of the four-speed transmission on the 2008 Chevy Tahoe, and ForbesAutos is disappointed to see Chevrolet continue to offer the transmission "even as the competition offers more sophisticated and smoother five-speed gearboxes." ConsumerGuide nonetheless reports "the transmission shifts smoothly, though some testers complain of delayed downshifts."

One of the biggest problems with a transmission that features only four gears is that it tends to hinder fuel economy. This is definitely true on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, where the official EPA estimates for fuel economy range from 12 mpg city to a maximum of 20 mpg on the highway. The breakdown across the Chevrolet Tahoe lineup is that the 2WD-equipped 4.8-liter engine will get 14 mpg city and 19 mpg on the highway, while the 2WD 5.3-liter engine ups that to 14/20 mpg, and the 6.2-liter engine gets 12/19 mpg. Chevrolet Tahoes equipped with four-wheel drive all get 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Fortunately, Chevrolet has taken steps to address the poor fuel economy on the Tahoe Chevrolet by introducing an Active Fuel Management system that Kelley Blue Book says will cut "the operation of four cylinders when they are unneeded," which "enhances fuel economy."

With a curb weight north of 5,000 pounds, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe shouldn't handle particularly well, but Car and Driver reports that "the engineering tweaks that it received in 2007 went a long way toward improving the ride, structural rigidity, and driving experience." In terms of handling, Kelley Blue Book praises the 2008 Chevy Tahoe, citing the improved response due to the "fully-boxed frame (for more chassis stiffness), coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering result in a surprisingly maneuverable and tractable vehicle." Edmunds loves the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008's "soft ride" and describes it as "Tahoe's greatest dynamic asset, though the price paid is a somewhat rubbery quality to the steering and handling." ConsumerGuide reports "alert reactions to steering" and that "low-speed maneuverability is aided by a relatively tight turning circle." Furthermore, ConsumerGuide adds that the "brakes feel strong, but some testers want better pedal modulation."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe

Comfort & Quality

A top pick in the SUV category in comfort and quality, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is a good choice for those who want to carry a lot of people or cargo in comfort.

The release of GM's next-generation trucks and SUVs in 2007 ushered in a new era of vastly improved comfort and quality on the GM big boys. The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe continues that newfound tradition of GM quality and offers one of the more comfortable rides available.

When it comes to loading the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe with passengers, Cars.com says the front "two rows of seats hold up to six occupants, with a third row optional on lower trims and standard on the LTZ" that boosts maximum passenger capacity to nine. Inside the 2008 Chevy Tahoe, ForbesAutos suggests that "four or five burly individuals can be seated in comfort with generous leg and head room" in the front two rows, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are very positive when it comes to front- and middle-seat comfort. ConsumerGuide says the "seats are supportive" and there is "generous headroom and legroom," especially up front. ConsumerGuide adds that there is a "spacious 2nd row in all models...[which] can spring forward to ease access to 3rd row, though passage is still tight, and the seats must be manually restored to their original position." Speaking of that third row in the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008, reviews indicate it's probably better left to kids (or pets), and Car and Driver contends the third row is "strictly for the SpongeBob set." ConsumerGuide agrees, reporting the third row's "low-to-floor cushion forces knees-up discomfort" on adult passengers.

Although the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe isn't the largest Chevy SUV (here's to you, Chevy Suburban), it still offers respectable cargo space. ConsumerGuide says cargo room in the 2008 Chevy Tahoe is "spacious with two rows of seats," but that falls to only "adequate for a single row of grocery bags behind the 3rd-row seat." In terms of hard numbers, Cars.com reports "with both rows stowed, maximum cargo volume is 108.9 cubic feet," but "with the third-row bench in place, cargo volume falls to 16.9 cubic feet." In order to increase cargo volume, Car and Driver points out that you can fold "the third row forward" or "remove the row, although each section of the two-piece bench weighs 65 pounds." In addition to the rear storage, ConsumerGuide states that "cabin storage is enhanced by [a] large center console bin" and "roomy door pockets in front."

The interior quality of the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 receives praise from Edmunds reviewers who declare "the newest Tahoe boasts attractive, high-quality materials and tight build quality." That opinion is affirmed in other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, such as the one from ConsumerGuide, which reports "assembly quality on all models tested shows strong attention to detail," adding that "most interior materials feel high-grade, though soft-touch surfaces are scarce." Kelley Blue Book notes that the 2008 Chevy Tahoe has "definitely moved up a notch or two when it comes to interior refinement and luxury, as befitting a vehicle that can cost $40,000 or more," also commenting that their reviewers were "struck by the Tahoe's quiet cabin and its inviting, upscale interior." More praise flows in from Car and Driver reviewers who feel that the interior graining pattern "wouldn't look out of place in a BMW" and point out that "gaps between parts have shrunk to just about nothing, and the Tahoe [they] drove was squeak- and rattle-free."

Speaking of noise levels, ConsumerGuide is pleased to report there's only "moderate highway-speed wind rush...[but] no undue road noise, even with 20-inch tires." Cars.com attributes this to "tight body gaps, foam-filled A-pillars and [a] stiff body-on-frame design" that serve to "reduce cabin noise."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe

Safety

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe has a good safety record made better by new safety features.

With a bevy of safety features now standard in the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, not to mention very strong crash-test ratings, this full-sized SUV is found by reviews read by TheCarConnection.com to be a safe ride.

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had its way with the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008, and the results are heartening. In NHTSA tests, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe earned a perfect five-star rating in both front impact categories, as well as additional five-star ratings for both side impact categories. In fact, the only area where the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe didn't earn a perfect rating was in the rollover category, where it scored a middle-of-the-road three stars. While that rating is unfortunate, it's not entirely surprising given the Chevrolet Tahoe's tall body.

Fortunately, the 2008 Chevy Tahoe offers some features that help to reduce the risk of a rollover. Kelley Blue Book reviewers praise the 2008 Chevy Tahoe's manufacturer for making "StabiliTrak electronic stability control system standard on the Tahoe, because it is potentially life-saving technology that can significantly reduce single-vehicle accidents." Car and Driver notes that across the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe lineup, standard Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 safety features include "dual front airbags, curtain side-impact airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, stability control, ABS, and tire-pressure monitoring, and OnStar emergency service." In a nod to the Chevrolet Tahoe's practicality as a family vehicle, Mother Proof reports that "two sets of Latch connectors" are available on the rear bench for securing child safety seats.

Large SUVs aren't typically noted for their impressive visibility, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show this as a surprising strength for the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008. Car and Driver observes "large exterior mirrors made lane changing easy in the Tahoe." ConsumerGuide also reports that the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 features a rearview camera that "aids aft visibility but distorts distances, compromising its usefulness," although if Chevrolet can fix that problem, then the camera will help greatly during parking maneuvers.

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe

Features

Not only are the features numerous on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, but they're well integrated and easy to use.

Many of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe's competitors offer, for the most part, comparable performance and practicality, so the task of differentiating the 2008 Chevy Tahoe comes down to features. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe shines in this category, as it offers a wealth of both standard and optional features on all three trim levels.

Standard features on the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe vary somewhat across the three trim levels, but ConsumerGuide reports that all Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 models come with "air conditioning w/dual-zone manual controls, rear air conditioning and heater," an "OnStar assistance system," and full power accessories, among others. Edmunds adds that the Chevrolet Tahoe 2008 LS "should please most folks" as it comes with "17-inch alloy wheels" and "an MP3-capable CD player and a trip computer." Those consumers looking for flashier Chevrolet Tahoe trims can opt for the LT, which Edmunds says brings "foglamps, color-keyed exterior trim, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, [and] front bucket seats with a console," while the top-end LTZ "features 20-inch alloy wheels, heated second-row seats, a locking rear differential, [and] power liftgate." Mother Proof reviewers in particular love the power liftgate on the 2008 Chevy Tahoe LTZ since "the gate can be quite heavy to open and close manually."

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe doesn't skimp when it comes to optional features either, which are available in a variety of packages or as stand-alone options. Kelley Blue Book says that some of the "key options" are a "rear-seat entertainment center with DVD player" and "Bose premium nine-speaker sound system." Edmunds states "major stand-alone options for the Chevrolet Tahoe include a navigation system" and a "rearview camera." The navigation system gets strong reviews from both TheCarConnection.com's editors and in other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, with Edmunds reporting "the navigation system is easy to use." In terms of the numerous available packages, ConsumerGuide feels that some of the most desirable are the 3LT Package, which brings "heated 12-way power front seats w/lumbar adjustment" and that "Bose sound system," and the 2LT Package, which includes a "rear-obstacle-detection system, tri-zone automatic climate controls," and "remote engine start."

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