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The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe is, in some respects, a relic—a body-on-frame sport-utility vehicle with solid truck underpinnings. But on closer look, especially in its upper trims, it's a luxury vehicle through and through. And with great chassis tuning, top-notch powertrains, good safety, and a sophisticated, 23-mpg Tahoe Hybrid model, it's not completely lost in the past.
The Tahoe carries over styling that's now several years old, but even if it's not the freshest face among full-size utes it's well-sculpted and not too overwrought. There's not much to distinguish the Tahoe Hybrid model, but it does have several subtle modifications that improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, along with a number of Hybrid badges and, inside, a different display on the console's LCD screen.
Most 2011 Chevy Tahoe models are powered by 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 engine 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.
All Tahoe models are built on GM's full-size SUV platform, with a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. At its best, the Tahoe is as responsive as any 5,600-pound vehicle can be and feels much more maneuverable than it should. It's more maneuverable than it might suggest, and it holds the road fairly well, considering it is a tall, heavy vehicle with a solid rear axle.
In Hybrid models, a big 332-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 is augmented with electric motors and battery power, using a version of the Two-Mode Hybrid system developed by GM with BMW, Daimler and Chrysler. With this system, the Tahoe can accelerate (lightly) on battery power alone or with a mix of engine and motor power.
Simple and straightforward, yet supremely comfortable is the best way to describe the Tahoe's interior. Most Tahoe models come with large, supportive front bucket seats, and in both the first and second rows there's plenty of headroom and legroom. There's a third-row seat available as well, but it's one of the more difficult of its kind, as it's hard to get into. The ride is remarkably refined overall, though with its solid rear axle, passengers will know when the rear wheels hit a rough patch
With such mammoth dimensions and a stout build, people are prone to think that the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe is a very safe pick. In this case, they're right; the Tahoe has a number of top five-star ratings from the federal government, even in the new tougher tests, and has stability control and side-curtain bags that cover all three rows.
The Chevrolet Tahoe has long ago abandoned its basic truck roots; even the base Tahoe LS comes equipped like an entry-luxury model, and while the serious towing ability is there many Tahoes are used first and foremost as tough and secure yet comfortable transportation. LT and LTZ models add more features, with the top-of-the-line LTZ getting serious load-bearing upgrades like a heavy-duty locking differential, Autoride load-leveling suspension, and 20-inch wheels, in addition to an upgraded Bose Centerpoint audio system, a nav system with voice recognition, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, remote starting, and power-adjustable pedals. Bluetooth hands-free now comes in all models.
The Tahoe Hybrid gets many of the same features as the LT, and can be equipped with LTZ features as options.