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Back when the current generation of the Chevrolet Tahoe went on sale--in 2006, for the 2007 model year--the new-vehicle market was very different. GM didn't even have a larger crossover ute (the Chevy Traverse was still a couple of years away), and large swaths of America looked to these more truck-like SUVs for everyday family use.Today most of those families have downsized, moved to sedans, or more likely, moved to smoother, more carlike crossovers. But before you dismiss the Tahoe as a relic of another time, this big SUV remains surprisingly competitive against the alternatives. Luckily GM gave the Tahoe, as well as its platform-mates the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade (the Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL are extended-length versions) some very good bones, as well as chiseled good looks that have stood up well to the test of time.
And a body-on-frame sport-utility vehicle like the Tahoe remains your best option if you need truck toughness for regular towing--and you need good passenger space. GM hasn't forgotten about the green set either: With EPA ratings of up to 23 mpg and towing capability that approaches that of the standard models, the Tahoe Hybrid is smart.
The 2013 isn't going to charm you with its exterior design, but it remains very handsome. Inside, it's a little less rosy; the Tahoe's instrument panel and trims (as with those in the rest of GM's full-sizers) now look dated next to Chevy's cars and crossovers and somewhat out of place next to the more macho-styled alternatives from other automakers.
Strong, seamless power is provided by the standard powertrain combination, a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission. Variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation help keep it smooth yet fuel-saving, plus it's E85 capable, which some shoppers in farm states might appreciate, and we even give a nod of approval to its muscle-car-like exhaust note. Tahoe Hybrid models get a big 332-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 that's aided by electric motors and battery power, using a version of the Two-Mode Hybrid system developed by GM with BMW, Daimler, and Chrysler. This system uses a four-speed automatic and is by no means delicate; it's approved for towing and other personal-truck use. Yet take off lightly, and the system can run at lower speeds on using the electric motors alone.
The Tahoe shares most of its running gear with the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade and has 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. Base versions of the Tahoe don't quite ride as well as top-of-the-line Tahoe LTZ models with the magnetic suspension, however.
Inside, the Tahoe remains very accommodating and comfortable. 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. Getting back to the third row is a challenge, and even getting feet and knees past the thick B-pillar for the second row will be an issue for some, so for those looking to regularly use the third row, we recommend the longer Suburban.
The Tahoe lives up to its impression of security and solidity, with excellent five-star ratings from the federal government in frontal and side impact. The IIHS hasn't rated the Tahoe or the nearly identical Yukon. Side-curtain bags in the Tahoe cover all three rows.
Base Tahoe LS models are tough and secure yet comfortable transportation, but not all that generously equipped considering their base $39,750 price tag (with 2WD). Bluetooth and a USB port are now included in all models, but 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.