- V-8 power
- Good maneuverability
- Serious truck capability
- Spacious, well-designed cabin
- Good choice of options
- People using Tahoes as minivans
- Too-tall ride height
- Third-row seating access
For those who need to get work done, but with some style and comfort, practicality still reigns in the 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe.
The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe is available in LS, LT, LTZ and Hybrid models, in either 2WD or 4WD. All Tahoe models are built on GM’s full-size SUV platform that incorporates features such as a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. StabiliTrak stability control, ABS, traction control, and curtain airbags for all rows are standard on every trim level.
The big news for 2009 is the new Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed transmission that comes standard on all Tahoe models with the Vortec 5.3-liter V-8 and 6.2-liter V-8. By reducing engine rpm at cruising speeds, the new transmission reduces fuel use as well as helping to quiet the SUV's interior. The new Vortec 6.2-liter engine produces 395 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque, and is available on LTZ models. The engine features a lightweight aluminum block and variable valve timing.
The smaller 4.8-liter, 295 horsepower engine is offered with a four-speed automatic transmission. All engines feature fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, and this feature is virtually imperceptible as it turns off cylinders when full power isn't necessary. You can also choose the Tahoe Hybrid (covered in a separate TheCarConnection.com review). It utilizes GM’s patented two-mode hybrid system to deliver a 50-percent-improved fuel mileage in city driving.
Although those planning to tall the heaviest loads might appreciate the 6.2-liter, TheCarConnection.com has driven several Tahoe variants and find the 5.3-liter has plenty of power to move the big Chevy with authority. The big Tahoe rides smoothly on its coil-spring suspension, but beware that as you move up in wheel and tire size, ride quality suffers. TheCarConnection.com vastly prefers the 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.
Inside, a more work-oriented interior is fitted to the base Tahoe. However, what the base interior lacks in visual appeal it makes up for in everyday function. The LTZ's interior is completely different in both design and materials; it could have been lifted from a premium German sedan. 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.) 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.
Special to the LTZ are features such as heated and cooled 12-way memory seats, perforated, leather-trimmed seating surfaces, brushed metal steering wheel trim plate and a rear fascia with chrome accent and trailer hitch cover. For 2009, new features include XM NavTraffic, OnStar 8.0 with Stolen Vehicle Slow Down, Turn-by-Turn navigation, and Destination Download, plus Bluetooth connectivity with specific steering wheel controls. A new backup-camera display built into the inside mirror is newly available.