2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 3, 2013

There's very little that's fresh or contemporary about the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe, but they're tough, roomy, straightforward trucks that perform surprisingly well.

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.

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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.

7

2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Styling

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe looks dated compared to other big SUVs--especially inside--but its exterior is still handsome.

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.

Arguably, the Tahoe's look was conservative from the start. Even so, we still can appreciate the well-sculpted lines of the 2013 Chevy Tahoe. Unlike some of the models in this vehicle class (like the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia, which can appear to overwrought in places), the Tahoe feels just right for those who don't need to assert themselves. The Tahoe's styling follows a basic two-box SUV design, rounded ever so slightly at the corners, with gently flared fenders. A wide band studded by a bowtie logo splits the large grille, and it's flanked by a pair of very big headlights, squared off into the fenders.

The Tahoe Hybrid wears a number of Hybrid badges and, inside, a different display on the console's LCD screen; but overall the changes are minimal.

The cabin look is simple and straightforward as well, with most models getting a somewhat rounded look that now looks dated next to the more aggressively styled instrument panel of Chevy cars and crossovers. LTZ get much-upgraded materials, and band of trim runs across the dash and gives the cabin a spacious appearance, and large, well-marked gauges are framed by the steering wheel, with a wide center console alongside..

7

2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Performance

Strong, smooth powertrains and good steering make the Tahoe one of the more responsive and enjoyable SUVs to drive.

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe starts with some of the same underpinnings as GM's full-size pickups, like the Chevy Silverado, but it makes the most of its truck hardware when it comes to performance--both in terms of responsiveness, and traditional truck ability.

Most 2013 Tahoe models come with a 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 horsepower, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. It's a well-executed combo that doles out smooth, steady acceleration as well as a little of the muscle-bound V-8 sound. It also has cylinder deactivation, which shuts off fuel to half the cylinders under coasting or deceleration, and earns respectable fuel economy ratings of 15/21 mpg. On most of the lineup, rear-wheel drive is standard, with a dual-range four-wheel-drive system available.

With a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering, the Tahoe blends traditional truck duty with more modern standards of drivability and responsiveness. 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. Non-hybrid Tahoes this year gain Powertrain Grade Braking, which helps improve stability when making long descents.

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 (up to 27 mph) on using the electric motors alone. Also, tow ratings for the Hybrid rate as high as 5,000 pounds.

Driving manners for the Hybrid are surprisingly close to those of the other Tahoe models; but the regenerative braking can feel jerky with no load, and the Hybrid's steering is numb, with a light feel and no feedback. The Hybrid's four-wheel-drive system is a more sophisticated, electronically switched system.
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2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe has a useful, spacious interior, but a kludgy third-row seat saps versatility.

For the most part, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe has a very roomy interior, with plenty of passenger space and comfort. In the third row, however, that's not quite the case.

In front, the Tahoe's wide, somewhat flat bucket seats are split by a wide console that still leaves plenty of leg and knee room. Head room isn't an issue, either, though we've noticed the big GM SUVs have front seats that don't power down to as low a driving position as we might want. On base Tahoe LS models, you can still get a split front bench seat that might be a better choice for those who use the Tahoe for work.

Three adults can fit across in the second row of the Tahoe--in reasonable comfort--but the Tahoe's third row isn't quite adult-duty. It's not only very tight, but it's hard to get past the second row and back there. Once in position, leg and head room aren't great, the seat cushion is low to the floor. Those trying to wedge into the third row on Hybrids will also find that the battery takes up valuable space under the second-row seat.

With the third row merely flipped forward, there's an impressive 60.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the Tahoe. But flip that rearmost row up and there's just 16.9 cubic feet; there's literally not much space behind that seat. But otherwise there's plenty of smaller storage and stowage, with cup holders for all, a huge glove box, and a wide center console.

The 2013 Tahoe does remain fully competitive for refinement and interior noise; these GM full-size SUVs seal out road and wind noise very well. The only quality down side is that the cabin trims and materials just don't stand up to those used in some luxury-brand vehicles. And top Tahoe models are priced well into the range of several luxury SUVs.

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2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Safety

Excellent crash-test scores affirm the occupant protection of the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe.

The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe definitely builds an impression of heft and safety from appearance alone. Big SUVs haven't always provided top-notch protection that they hint, but in the case of the Chevrolet Tahoe, that first impression isn't at all off the mark. The Tahoe has earned solid crash-test scores and has a respectable set of safety features--some of which might help avoid an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't yet tested the Tahoe, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tested it under its new, tougher rating system. In that, the Tahoe earned five-star ratings for both frontal and side impact. While they haven't yet extended those ratings to the 2013 model year at the time of posting, we expect them to cover the essentially carry-over model. 

Dual front, side, and curtain airbags that cover all rows of seats; traction and stability control; and OnStar security and concierge services are all included across the Tahoe lineup.

With the Tahoe's rather tall stance and wide rear pillars, outward visibility can be a problem and require some double checks for parking and lane changes. For that, the available rearview camera system would be welcome; parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system are also available.

8

2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Features

The work-truck days really are gone; even base Tahoe models are well-equipped, and LTZ and Hybrid models come with luxury features...and a luxury pricetag.

The Tahoe's work-truck days are long gone, and today's models come at least as well-equipped as a sedan--on top of its rugged truck hardware.

A Bluetooth hands-free system and a USB port are now included even in the basic Tahoe LS. Satellite radio capability, cruise control, and power windows, locks, and mirrors are also included at the base level, as are rear-seat audio controls, steering-wheel audio controls, and a choice of front bucket seats or a split front bench seat.

For the crowd that continues to get Tahoe models as luxurious family vehicles with strong weekend towing capability, there are the LT and LTZ models. The Tahoe Hybrid gets many of the same features as the LT, and can be equipped with LTZ features as options.

On those upper trims, you can get a load-leveling suspension and a heavy-duty locking differential. Pricey options include a Bose Centerpoint audio system, a nav system with voice recognition, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, tri-zone climate control, remote starting, power-adjustable pedals, and additional power outlets. We'd also recommend the power tailgate here; as much as we laugh at the possibility in some vehicles, this is a genuinely high and hard-to-operate hatch--especially if you only have one arm free.

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2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Chevy Tahoe is mediocre on the efficiency front, but the Tahoe Hybrid is exceptionally green, considering you can still use it like a truck.

The 2012 Chevy Tahoe can be one of the greenest full-size SUVs of all, with a Hybrid model earning highway fuel economy of 23 mpg. But as for the rest of the lineup, it's actually quite thirsty and unremarkable in this respect.

With its motors and batteries, the Tahoe Hybrid earns an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city, 23 highway, which means it goes nearly 50 percent farther per gallon on regular gasoline than most full-size utes--while it also has comparable performance and towing and hauling ability.

The standard Tahoe and its 5.3-liter V-8 earn the ute an EPA score of 15/21 mpg--which is an improvement over the truck-based full-size SUVs of a few years ago, but still short of the three-row crossovers that make a better choice for many families.

All standard Tahoe models are also E85 (85-percent ethanol) compatible; but unless you live next to a cornfield the economics probably won't work out, let alone the questions about environment. When you fuel up with ethanol you'll get an EPA-estimated 11 mpg city, 16 highway.
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7.4
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
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