GM badly needs for its popular full-size SUV (and its shared platform stablemates, the new ’07 Caddy Escalade, GMC Yukon and the long-wheelbase Suburban) to hold the line against the burgeoning onslaught of large SUVs from Nissan (Armada) and Toyota (the coming ’07 Tundra/Sequoia), some of which have already made significant incursions into territory that used to be the exclusive domain of U.S. automakers. GM can’t afford to lose any more market share — most especially here, in the one area where it is still a dominant player. The Chevrolet Tahoe has been the best-selling large SUV since 2001 and alone accounts for 26 percent of the segment.
And so a lot of Deep Thought went into the ’07 Tahoe — everything from objective things like performance/capability/driving dynamics and features/equipment (including an available Autoride active damping suspension, power flip and fold second row seats, 20-inch rims, and a DVD navigation system) to things much harder to pin down, subjective things like the feelings and thoughts it evokes when you first look at it.
2000 Mazda MilleniaEnlarge Photo
You’ll notice things like no more colored plastic body cladding. Even base LT Tahoes now get very attractive body-colored bumpers that are themselves snugged tighter to the fenders (just a couple millimeters of gap between the panels) than ever before. And you’ll notice a wider stance, as the track of both the front and rear wheels is significantly wider than the outgoing Tahoe’s, by three inches up front and one inch at the rear).
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe
More than an illusion
It looks more planted and stable than the old model, and this impression is not just an illusion. The handling of the ’07 Tahoe sets a new high-water mark for full-size SUVs. Credit the suspension here: all ’07s get coil-over shocks riding in aluminum lower control arms (which reduce unsprung mass by 20 percent), a new rack-and-pinion power steering system that delivers easy turn-in and superb road feel, even at high speeds, and a revised five-link rear suspension along with a totally new boxed frame with 90-percent better torsional stiffness in the front section. It’s one of the most un-trucky rides I have ever driven that still has very trucky toughness where it matters, including an even tougher hydroformed and fully boxed bolt-on steel frame.
Inside, there’s an interior you simply will not believe until you open the door and see for yourself. If this truck is an indicator of GM’s commitment to clawing its way back to the top, then it’s time to load up on GM stock while it’s cheap. It’s stunning. It has the look and feel of an expensive high-end import, from the shape and materials used to create the elegant dash array to the aluminum door sill trim plates to the deliberate slightly concave sculpting of all the panels, including the driver and passenger seat backs, to give the occupants just that extra smidgen of room. Engineers even configured the seat tracks so that no matter how far up or back you slide them, there is no exposed hardware to ugly up the interior. Ditto the superbly designed second-row flip-and-fold seats — just touch a button and they roll up and out of the way to provide easy access to the third row. And you can still get buckets or bench seats for all rows, take your pick. The third-row seats can be folded flat, and the front seats can be almost fully reclined for side-of-the-road snoozing.
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe
It’s a great body, and the “guns” are definitely there, too. The Tahoe’s engine lineup includes a revised 320-hp version of Chevy’s 5.3 liter V-8 with standard cylinder deactivation technology that provides better fuel economy than a V-6-powered, mid-size Ford Explorer, Chevy claims, and almost 8000 pounds of towing capability on 4WD models. The Tahoe’s new engine one-ups the former class-leading Armada (at 305 hp) on standard power and kicks its tail at the pump too, with a segment-best combined city/highway fuel efficiency rating of more than 21 mpg. (A smaller 4.8-liter V-8 will be available later in the calendar year and will become the standard engine in 2WD Tahoes.) The 5.3-liter V-8 is can be ordered with “flex fuel” E85 (ethanol) capability, too. Buyers can choose either a standard 3.73 axle or an optional 4.10 ratio for more low-end grunt.
I have not been as impressed with a new GM vehicle in
15-plus years of covering the industry and test-driving new cars. This new Tahoe
is a magnificent SUV. And with Chevy’s initial quality and customer satisfaction
scores on an upward trend (Chevy has actually beaten
Pricing for the new Tahoe, which will be
available in January, had not been revealed at the time of this writing.
However, base MSRPs should fall close to the current 2006 Tahoe 2WD LS’s MSRP of
$34,115, with the price of a loaded 4WD LTZ somewhere in the mid-low $40,000
2007 Chevy Tahoe
Base price: $35,000 (est.)
Engine: 5.3 liter V-8, 320 hp/340 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
Length x width x height: 202.2 x 79.0 x 77.0 in
Wheelbase: 116 in
Curb weight: 5233 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 16/22 mpg (2WD)
Safety equipment: Dual front, side impact and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes and stability control
Major standard features: Air conditioning; three-row seating; OnStar; power windows, locks, and mirrors; electric rear defroster; 17-inch wheels
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles
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