2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 20, 2009

The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe isn't your ordinary Jurassic SUV: it's capable, and the Hybrid edition gets better city fuel economy than most German sedans.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven both the latest Chevy Tahoe and the Tahoe Hybrid, and have written this road test summary from firsthand experience with both. Editors have compared the Tahoe and hybrid with other SUVs to help you in the decision process. TheCarConnection.com editors also condensed opinions from other Web sites into the companion full review to give you the most comprehensive resource possible for the 2010 Tahoe.

Are full-size sport-utility vehicles a thing of the past? With tough fuel economy rules coming, you may think so-but the Chevrolet Tahoe soldiers on into the 2010 model year as one of the best-performing SUVs available, even in fuel economy, thanks to the recently added, 22-mpg Tahoe Hybrid. With a base price of about $38,000 for the Tahoe and about $51,000 for the Tahoe Hybrid, the big sport-ute's primary competition includes gas-powered utes like the Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, and Nissan Armada; among hybrids, it takes on the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class with the clean BlueTEC diesel and the BMW X6 Hybrid, but more likely, GM's own Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and Yukon Hybrid.

The Tahoe's styling takes traditional SUV cues and updates them smartly. The design was new in 2007, and GM's stylists have done good work in giving the Tahoe a distinct identity from the Cadillac Escalade-though it's pretty close in appearance to the similar GMC Yukon except up front. The Tahoe's grille and nose carry Chevrolet's latest design theme, with twin horizontal grilles split by a big gold bowtie badge and flanked by large, square headlamps. The Tahoe's glass and sheetmetal are in good proportion, there are subtle flares at the fenders, and the tailgate is simply shaped, with a minimum of cutlines and fuss. The Tahoe's interior is simplified, too, and seems very appealing. A wide band of trim sits high on the dash-it looks better in metallic paint than in glossy wood grain-and gives the cabin a spacious appearance. Large, well-marked gauges are framed by a big steering wheel, and a wide center console encases simple, clearly marked secondary controls. A more work-oriented interior is fitted to the base Tahoe, but the well-trimmed LTZ's interior could have been lifted from a premium German sedan. The Hybrid model has several subtle modifications that improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, along with a number of Hybrid badges and a different display on the console's LCD screen.

A single V-8 engine powers most Tahoes, but in Hybrid models, a bigger V-8 is augmented with electric motors and battery power. Traditional SUV buyers get a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, a seamless duo that provide steady and smooth acceleration with a hint of muscle car sound. The 5.3-liter has plenty of power to move the big Chevy with authority. On a special XFE edition, a taller final-drive ratio helps boost fuel economy from the usual 14/20 mpg to 15/21 mpg. The engine now sports variable valve timing and E85 flexible-fuel capability, along with cylinder deactivation, which cuts power to half the cylinders in low-engine-load scenarios. In the Tahoe Hybrid, GM's version of the Two-Mode Hybrid it pioneered with BMW, Daimler and Chrysler team a big bin full of gears, clutches, gear sets, and generators to give the Tahoe the ability to drive on battery power alone or a blend of gas-generated and electric power. The combination of a 332-hp 6.0-liter V-8 and the hybrid system's batteries and transmission will allow electric-only driving up to 27 mph; beyond that, both the gas engine and electric power are run in parallel, and the gas engine deactivates cylinders to save gas. All told, the rear-drive Tahoe Hybrid is rated at 21/22 mpg-a 50 percent boost over the standard Tahoe's city fuel economy. Four-wheel-drive models fall to 20/20 mpg.

Review continues below

Both the Tahoe and Hybrid can be ordered with rear- or four-wheel drive. The Tahoe offers standard single-ratio four-wheel drive, with a dual-range system available. The Hybrid's system is a more sophisticated, electronically switched system.

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. 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. Because of this, TheCarConnection.com vastly prefers the 17- and 18-inch tires to the 20-inchers. 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. It holds the road fairly well, considering it is a tall, heavy vehicle with a solid rear axle, though passengers will know when the rear wheels hit a rough patch. The Hybrid models have a similar, but particular driving feel. The steering is electrically assisted and almost without real feedback-it's simply an eerie feeling to pull away in the Tahoe without much of a sound. Regenerative braking gives the pedal a bit more resistance and masks some of the braking feel-not something the Tahoe's known for, in any case. It still rides comfortably, but the slight measure of driving satisfaction the Tahoe affords is wiped away by the Hybrid's electronics.

In either the 2010 Chevy Tahoe or the Tahoe Hybrid, seat comfort is a strong suit. In standard versions, the first two rows have wide, cushy seats and plenty of head- and legroom for adults. Adding middle passengers in the front two rows isn't the best idea, despite the Tahoe's size and the availability of bench seat in front and in the second row. There's a third-row seat available as well, and it's one of the more difficult of its kind. It's tough to clamber into, since the second-row seats only move forward a little, and legroom in the third row is slashed by the Hybrid's battery pack, which is mounted under the second-row seats. For cargo space, the two-row Tahoe is a champion, with 60.3 cubic feet available. Flip up a third-row seat in either version, and the cargo space shrinks to 16.9 cubic feet. All Tahoes have a wide center console, a huge glove box, lots of door-panel storage, and cup holders that outpace the Brady Bunch in count and size.

When it comes to safety, the 2010 Tahoe performs well. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) awards it five stars for all crash tests, save for a three-star rollover rating. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has not yet tested any of the big GM utes. Standard safety features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags that cover all rows of seats; traction and stability control; OnStar; and tire pressure monitors. A rearview camera is an option, as are rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system.

The 2010 Chevy Tahoe has moved steadily up the price ladder since its introduction in the 1990s. Today's Tahoe sports a base price of about $38,000 and includes features such as an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 player with USB input; cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wheel-mounted audio controls; and express-down windows. Bluetooth is optional, as are rear air conditioning; a DVD navigation system with rear audio jacks; real-time traffic; a rear-seat entertainment system; power-adjustable pedals; remote starting; leather upholstery; and a sunroof. Upscale versions add standard ventilated seats and various trim and wheel packages upsized from the standard 17-inch rims. The Tahoe Hybrid starts at about $51,000 and gets much more standard equipment, including the DVD navigation system; the third-row seat; and Bluetooth. Hybrid options include three-zone climate control; a premium audio system with hybrid displays built in to the LCD screen; the rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a rear-seat console; the rearview camera; a sunroof; and remote starting.

7

2010 Chevrolet Tahoe

Styling

A simple but attractive exterior teams with upscale interior styling in the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe.

The Tahoe's styling takes traditional SUV cues and updates them smartly. The design was new in 2007, and GM's stylists have done good work in giving the Tahoe a distinct identity from the Cadillac Escalade-though it's pretty close in appearance to the similar GMC Yukon except up front. Car and Driver praises the "handsome exterior and interior design."
The Tahoe's grille and nose carry Chevrolet's latest design theme, with twin horizontal grilles split by a big gold bowtie badge and flanked by large, square headlamps. Cars.com observes "large clear-lens headlights flank a wide grille bisected by a thick horizontal member with a large Chevy bowtie logo." Kelley Blue Book says that face "is its most distinctive exterior feature," and explains "the steeply-angled windshield, wraparound fascia and faired-in headlights help contribute to a best-in-segment 0.363 coefficient of drag." The Tahoe's glass and sheetmetal are in good proportion, there are subtle flares at the fenders, and the tailgate is simply shaped, with a minimum of cutlines and fuss. As Kelley Blue Book concludes, "despite the slightly conservative exterior styling, the Tahoe is still handsome." Car and Driver notes the Hybrid's "attractive exterior" includes "reworked front and rear fascias, running boards, and D-pillar moldings [that] help reduce the drag coefficient from 0.36 to 0.34."

The Tahoe's interior is simplified, too, and seems very appealing-it's a "handsome, well-tailored cabin," Edmunds says. A wide band of trim sits high on the dash-it looks better in metallic paint than in glossy wood grain-and gives the cabin a spacious appearance. Car and Driver asserts that the "modern and uncluttered interior gives the Tahoe a luxurious look." Large, well-marked gauges are framed by a big steering wheel, and a wide center console encases simple, clearly marked secondary controls. 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." A more work-oriented interior is fitted to the base Tahoe, but the well-trimmed LTZ's interior could have been lifted from a premium German sedan; Kelley Blue Book agrees "the instrument panel with LED backlighting is fit for a luxury sedan." The Hybrid model has several subtle modifications that improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, along with a number of Hybrid badges and a different display on the console's LCD screen.
Edmunds contends the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2009 "looks like any other [late model] Tahoe on the inside, except for the metallic trim in place of faux wood accents."

7

2010 Chevrolet Tahoe

Performance

The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe is surprisingly maneuverable and quick for a vehicle its size; the Hybrid is also swift, but has less steering feel and isn't as responsive.

The 2010 Tahoe and Hybrid are strong performers, and the Hybrid is a mileage king in its class. A single V-8 engine powers most Tahoes, but in Hybrid models, a bigger V-8 is augmented with electric motors and battery power.

Traditional SUV buyers get a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, a seamless duo that provide steady and smooth acceleration with a hint of muscle car sound. The 5.3-liter has plenty of power to move the big Chevy with authority. On a special XFE edition, a taller final-drive ratio helps boost fuel economy from the usual 14/20 mpg to 15/21 mpg. The engine now sports variable valve timing and E85 flexible-fuel capability, along with cylinder deactivation, which cuts power to half the cylinders in low-engine-load scenarios. Reviews of the Tahoe's engines read by TheCarConnection.com are virtually all positive, and Edmunds states that the "4WD 2010 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 V-8 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 V-8."

In the Tahoe Hybrid, GM's version of the Two-Mode Hybrid it pioneered with BMW, Daimler and Chrysler team a big bin full of gears, clutches, gear sets, and generators to give the Tahoe the ability to drive on battery power alone or a blend of gas-generated and electric power. The combination of a 332-hp 6.0-liter V-8 and the hybrid system's batteries and transmission will allow electric-only driving up to 27 mph; beyond that, both the gas engine and electric power are run in parallel, and the gas engine deactivates cylinders to save fuel. The result of all the technology is a large, luxurious SUV with abundant torque that drives beautifully. It cruises quietly, and the low-speed electric mode is quiet enough to be almost eerie. According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2009 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid has "plenty of muscle when it's needed" and "can tow up to 6,200 pounds." Edmunds contends "the hybrid has improved throttle response in passing situations" compared to the standard Tahoe. All told, the rear-drive Tahoe Hybrid is rated at 21/22 mpg-a 50 percent boost over the standard Tahoe's city fuel economy. Four-wheel-drive models fall to 20/20 mpg. Kelley Blue Book was able to attain 22.7 mpg in stop-and-go driving only by "feathering the throttle and keeping our speed below 30 miles per hour." Car and Driver's average in a 4WD model was "a respectable 18 mpg over a 250-mile weekend."

Both the Tahoe and Hybrid can be ordered with rear- or four-wheel drive. The Tahoe offers standard single-ratio four-wheel drive, with a dual-range system available. The Hybrid's system is a more sophisticated, electronically switched system. The big V-8 engines also bring impressive towing capacity to the Chevrolet Tahoe 2010, and Cars.com says that, "when properly configured, the Tahoe can tow up to 8,200 pounds."

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. Car and Driver reports "the engineering tweaks that it received in 2007 went a long way toward improving the ride, structural rigidity, and driving experience," while Kelley Blue Book calls it "a surprisingly maneuverable and tractable vehicle." Edmunds loves the Chevrolet Tahoe 2010'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." 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. Because of this, TheCarConnection.com vastly prefers the 17-inch and 18-inch tires to the 20-inchers. 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. ConsumerGuide confirms "alert reactions to steering" and that "low-speed maneuverability is aided by a relatively tight turning circle." Furthermore, the "brakes feel strong, but some testers want better pedal modulation."

The Hybrid models have a similar, but particular driving feel. The steering is electrically assisted and almost without real feedback-it's simply an eerie feeling to pull away in the Tahoe without much of a sound. Regenerative braking gives the pedal a bit more resistance and masks some of the braking feel-not something the Tahoe's known for, in any case. It still rides comfortably, but the slight measure of driving satisfaction the Tahoe affords is wiped away by the Hybrid's electronics. Edmunds feels the Hybrid "handles about the same as the standard Tahoe," but Cars.com finds "it rolls around in corners and it is cumbersome in parking lots," and Car and Driver reports that the "electric power steering is light on effort and even lighter on feel."

8

2010 Chevrolet Tahoe

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe has supersized interior space and storage, but a clunky third row almost spoils the party.

In either the 2010 Chevy Tahoe or the Tahoe Hybrid, seat comfort is a strong suit.

In standard versions, the first two rows have wide, cushy seats and plenty of head- and legroom for adults. Adding middle passengers in the front two rows isn't the best idea, despite the Tahoe's size and the availability of bench seat in front and in the second row. 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. Cars.com remarks, "the heated leather front bucket seats offer OK comfort and thigh support."

There's a third-row seat available as well, and it's one of the more difficult of its kind. It's tough to clamber into, since the second-row seats only move forward a little, and legroom in the third row is slashed by the Hybrid's battery pack, which is mounted under the second-row seats. It's probably better left to kids (or pets); 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. 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."

For cargo space, the two-row Tahoe is a champion, with 60.3 cubic feet available. Flip up a third-row seat in either version, and the cargo space shrinks to 16.9 cubic feet. ConsumerGuide says cargo room in the 2010 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." All Tahoes have a wide center console, a huge glove box, lots of door-panel storage, and cup holders that outpace the Brady Bunch in count and size. 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."

Refinement in the Tahoe's interior is greatly improved from the last-generation SUV. Kelley Blue Book notes that the 2010 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 are "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." ConsumerGuide 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." However, the "look and texture as well as the fit of the plastic panels is fine," says AutoblogGreen, and "the quality of some of the materials seems lower than you might expect in a vehicle costing over $50,000."

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2010 Chevrolet Tahoe

Safety

The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe performs well in crash tests; TheCarConnection.com advises buyers choose the optional rearview camera on non-Hybrid Tahoes for better visibility.

When it comes to safety, the 2010 Tahoe performs well.

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) awards it five stars for all crash tests, save for a three-star rollover rating. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has not yet tested any of the big GM utes.

Standard safety features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags that cover all rows of seats; traction and stability control; OnStar; and tire pressure monitors. Car and Driver notes that standard 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, MotherProof reports that "two sets of Latch connectors" are available on the rear bench for securing child safety seats. Kelley Blue Book praises GM 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." Cars.com says the Tahoe Hybrid has "brackets attached to the front of its frame...designed to help it better engage with the structure of a smaller vehicle during a crash."

Visibility is an issue. AutoblogGreen points out "plenty of blind spots" and "changing lanes or pulling into tight parking spaces...requires extra care." However, a backup camera and side mirrors with curb tilt are also standard equipment on the Hybrid. That rearview camera is an option on the standard Tahoe, as are rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system. ConsumerGuide reports the rearview camera "aids aft visibility but distorts distances, compromising its usefulness." Car and Driver observes the "large exterior mirrors made lane changing easy in the Tahoe."

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2010 Chevrolet Tahoe

Features

The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe can be outfitted with the right features for about any truck buyer's need-including a few you might not expect in a Chevy.

The 2010 Chevy Tahoe has moved steadily up the price ladder since its introduction in the 1990s.

Today's Tahoe sports a base price of about $38,000 and includes features such as an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 player with USB input; cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wheel-mounted audio controls; and express-down windows. ConsumerGuide reports that all Tahoes 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 the Tahoe "should please most folks" as it comes with "17-inch alloy wheels" and "an MP3-capable CD player and a trip computer."

Bluetooth is optional, as are rear air conditioning; a DVD navigation system with rear audio jacks; real-time traffic; a rear-seat entertainment system; power-adjustable pedals; remote starting; leather upholstery; and a sunroof. Upscale versions add standard ventilated seats and various trim and wheel packages upsized from the standard 17-inch rims. MotherProof reviewers in particular love the available power liftgate, since "the gate can be quite heavy to open and close manually."

The Tahoe Hybrid starts at about $51,000 and gets much more standard equipment, including the DVD navigation system; the third-row seat; and Bluetooth. According to AutoblogGreen, "To help minimize the loss, the system is installed on well-equipped vehicles that people are willing to spend more for." ConsumerGuide says the navigation system "has a large, easy-to-read touch screen that absorbs, but does not complicate, audio functions." Edmunds reports "the navigation system is easy to use."

The Chevy Tahoe Hybrid's instrument cluster includes an auto-stop position to indicate when the engine is off for fuel-saving purposes and other displays to show it at work in Hybrid mode. The Detroit News describes the unique instruments that inform the driver of what mode the Tahoe Hybrid is operating in: "To the right, an economy gauge helps maintain an efficient driving style, and the standard navigation system screen can display a real-time status of how power is flowing between the engine, batteries, and motors."

Hybrid options include three-zone climate control; a premium audio system with hybrid displays built in to the LCD screen; the rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a rear-seat console; the rearview camera; a sunroof; and remote starting.

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