2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
June 15, 2016

Buying tip

Tahoe pricing escalates quickly and can approach Cadillac Escalade territory. We recommend a smartly appointed base or mid-grade model.

features & specs

2WD 4-Door LS
2WD 4-Door LT
2WD 4-Door LTZ
16 city / 23 hwy
16 city / 23 hwy
16 city / 23 hwy

The 2016 Chevy Tahoe puts a modern face on the traditional truck-type SUV, and still delivers almost all the capability of a full-size pickup.

Among its competitors, the Chevrolet Tahoe is a holdout in the modern world, combining the best of hard-working truck technology with the comfort and convenience—and even luxury—features of a modern vehicle.

The Tahoe is a versatile, impressive full-size SUV. It can seat up to nine, haul your boat, and handle off-road duty surprisingly well. It can also charge your iPad, connect to the Internet, and entertain the kids with movies. 

It's a derivative of GM's big pickup-truck and SUV family of vehicles, so the Tahoe's look is familiar. The front end's close to that of the 2016 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup truck, but Chevy says the two vehicles don't share any sheet metal. Elsewhere, the Tahoe's very crisply folded wagon body has much more in common with the 2016 Chevy Suburban—its long-wheelbase companion—and with the 2016 GMC Yukon.

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The Tahoe's wheelbase is 116 inches long, while the Suburban's span is 130 inches. GMC's Yukon is the same size as the Tahoe, while the Yukon XL matches the Suburban.

The Tahoe's cabin is the relief from all the hard, straight edges that define the exterior. The interior is soothingly smooth and curved, with an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen centerpiece and more overt car, and even luxury, influences than ever.

Chevrolet offers just a single drivetrain, GM's 5.3-liter V-8 coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It's rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, in both rear-drive and four-wheel-drive form. Direct injection and cylinder deactivation make this big V-8 surprisingly efficient. Power is strong at all speeds, and the engine works well with the smooth-shifting automatic transmission. The Tahoe can tow up to 8,600 pounds when properly configured, too.

Despite its its large size and truck-type construction, the Tahoe benefits from some technologies that limit the cumbersome feel typical of full-size SUVs. It's body features a high percentage of high-strength steel, and electric power steering helps save fuel while creating a light steering feel. The standard suspension is a live-axle, leaf-spring rear, but the Tahoe LTZ offers GM's Magnetic Ride Control, which uses shocks filled with magnetically charged fluid that changes damping rates every few milliseconds. When equipped with the Magnetic Ride Control system, body control of the large SUV is remarkable, even on winding roads, while comfort is maximized. Nonetheless, simple physics create noticeable body lean and less than stellar agility.

The cabin is also much quieter than the previous Tahoes, matching nicely with the comfortable seating and stylish look. GM says it's put a lot of engineering effort into the Tahoe's functionality, safety, and infotainment features, and we agree. The Tahoe can accommodate between seven and nine passengers, depending on the chosen seating configuration. An available power-folding option for the second- and third-row seats make it easy to convert from passenger duty to cargo-hauling mode. The cabin's storage bins are quite useful too, with a center console bin deep enough to hold a tablet or small notebook computers.

The Tahoe tops an extensive safety package with GM's exclusive front-center airbags, on models with front bucket seats. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as are a lane-departure warning system with seat-mounted haptic alerts, blind-spot monitors, forward collision alerts, and front parking sensors.

Other available features include keyless ignition, an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen radio with Chevy MyLink connectivity, a head-up display, a power tailgate, a cargo-management system, up to six USB ports and six power outlets, a Blu-ray DVD entertainment system, and up to 22-inch wheels.

The Tahoe—with a V-8 lump up front and heavy construction everywhere—isn't a mileage king, but still manages respectable numbers thanks to fuel-saving technology. With rear-drive, it's rated at 16 mpg city, 23 highway,18 combined. With four-wheel drive, the ratings are 16/22/18 mpg, according to the EPA. Real-world fuel economy may be better with cylinder deactivation however; the V-8 can shut off half of its cylinders on long-distance cruising.


2016 Chevrolet Tahoe


Bold, upright and boxy, the Tahoe's shape is modern, but it it's sheer size means it won't appeal to frugal-minded families.

Unlike Tahoes of the past, the 2016 Chevy Tahoe doesn't share any of its body panels with the Silverado pickup, though the doors are set into the side of the body and triple-sealed like they are on GM's pickups. While the panels aren't the same, the SUV and pickups share a similar styling theme. As a truck-type SUV should, the look is tougher and more upright, with angular lines and a tall, commanding stance.

Underpinning the crisp exterior lines is a focus on aerodynamics, to help boost gas mileage.

Inside, the look of the 2016 Tahoe is also similar to that of the current full-size pickups. It presents a substantial, durable feel while also merging more car-like aspects to the control layout and overall shape. The materials are also a step above those of the pickups, bringing a markedly premium feel through modern shapes and themes and rich color palettes.

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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe


The Tahoe's technologically advanced V-8 engine combines brute strength with surprising efficiency.

The Tahoe is a carryover from the old days of truck-based SUVs. It uses a solid-axle rear suspension, it's big and heavy, and it features V-8 power. Despite these drawbacks, the Tahoe drives better than it ever has. The electric power steering assist, a strong structure, and a modern drivetrain all come together to limit the sloppy, cumbersome, and trucky feel that has characterized the Tahoe in the past.

The overall feeling behind the wheel is one of solidity and capability. A commanding seating position gives the driver full view of the road, while a backup camera makes reverse maneuvers simple (and safer).

Tahoe LTZ models offer Magnetic Ride Control damping, which improves comfort and stability by adjusting the damper firmness to match the road conditions at intervals of 5 milliseconds. Variable-assist electric power steering helps squeeze out a bit more gas mileage, but also makes steering effort light and responsive at any speed.

The V-8 engine produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It boasts several features that aid power and fuel economy. While direct injection allows more precise and more efficient use of fuel, it does its job behind the scenes. The star of the V-8's efficiency cast is the cylinder deactivation feature that shuts off half the cylinders under low-load conditions, effectively turning the 5.3-liter V-8 into a 2.65-liter V-4. That can yield remarkable gains in steady-state gas mileage, and the process is completely transparent to the user; there is no vibration or clunking to indicate the switch, just a little "V-4" or "V-8" indicator in the gauge cluster LCD display.

The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly, making acceleration virtually seamless, and highway cruising even quieter. The engine, transmission, and sturdy structure team up to allow the 2016 Tahoe to tow up to 8,600 pounds as well, when properly configured.

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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

Comfort & Quality

The Tahoe has room for up to nine and their stuff in an environment worthy of a vehicle that can reach $70,000.

Full-size SUVs have gotten more and more expensive over the years, and the 2016 Chevy Tahoe can now reach and exceed $70,000. However, Chevrolet has kept up with the times, outfitting the interior with quality materials and offering features and amenities expected by buyers willing to spend that much money.

Supportive seats, clad in supple (optional) leather make for comfortable seating in both the first and second rows. Likewise, the cabin is whisper-quiet, further enhancing comfort on the road.

The third row of the Tahoe is best reserved for shorter adults or children and teens, but it expands the usable seating to as many as nine occupants. Both the second and third rows can be power operated. Buttons in the rear cargo area allow the seats to be quickly stowed to increase cargo capacity, and the third row can be folded up just as quickly. Once folded, the second-row seats still have to be manually raised to accommodate occupants.

The Tahoe maxes out at 94.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third rows folded flat, and it has 51.6 cubic feet behind the second row. In either configuration that's plenty of cargo space, but max cargo capacity is some 20 cubic feet fewer than Chevy's large crossover SUV, the Traverse.

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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe


Physics are on the side of the full-size Tahoe, which also benefits from a segment-exclusive front-row center airbag and a host of high-tech safety options.

The IIHS doesn't test large body-on-frame SUVs (they're very heavy and usually very safe in many tests), but federal regulators have given the Tahoe top five-star ratings for frontal offset and side impact protection. It achieves a four-star overall rating due to its lower three-star rollover rating (mostly a factor of the tall body-on-frame construction).

The NHTSA later separately crash-tested a Chevy Suburban and found that it earned four stars in the front- and side-impact tests. That still calculates out to the same four-star overall rating for the two models, but it points to the Tahoe as the pick of the two if safety is the top priority.

GM has invested substantial effort in the strength of the Tahoe's structure and equipped it with plenty of standard and available safety equipment. It comes standard with seven airbags, including a front-seat center airbag (on bucket-seat models). A rearview camera is also standard and buyers can opt for numerous safety options, such as forward-collision warnings, parking sensors, a lane-departure warning system, and adaptive cruise control. Many of these systems use GM's Safety Alert Seat that sends pulses to the left, right, or both seat cushion bolsters to warn drivers of a possible danger.


2016 Chevrolet Tahoe


The top-tier LTZ trim is loaded with Cadilllac Escalade levels of equipment.

The 2016 Tahoe is offered in three core trim levels: LS, LT, and LTZ, with standard and available equipment expanding as you climb the ladder. It comes with standard seating for eight, including 60/40 split-folding second- and third-row seats. Buyers can opt for second-row captain's chairs that cut capacity to as few as seven and a three-passenger front bench seat that ups max occupancy to nine.

Standard features of the LS model include cloth upholstery; automatic climate control; a 10-way power driver seat; remote start; a rearview camera; the Chevrolet MyLink AM/FM/CD radio with 8.0-inch color touchscreen and Apple Car Play compatibility; Bluetooth connectivity; GM's OnStar telematics system with 4G LTE capability; five USB ports; a 110-volt power outlet; a conversation mirror; and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The LT adds leather upholstery and a tilt/telescoping steering column, while the LTZ gets HID headlights; keyless ignition; power tilt/telescoping steering column; heated steering wheel; heated and cooled front seats; a navigation system; heated power-release second-row captain's chairs; and Magnetic Ride Control dampers.

Numerous other features are available, including a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray DVD capability, a sunroof, satellite radio, a hands-free power tailgate, fog lamps, wireless charging for cell phones, a memory system for the seats and power-adjustable steering column, and an 8.0-inch configurable display in the instrument cluster with a head-up display. Numerous safety features are also offered. 

An LTZ with a few equipment packages can top $70,000, but at that level, the equipment and convenience factor matches a modern luxury sedan or crossover.

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2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

Fuel Economy

It's not the most efficient way to transport the family but the engine is efficient for a V-8.

The Tahoe is a truck-based SUV that weighs close to 5,500 pounds with rear-wheel drive and 5,700 pounds with four-wheel drive. Given those figures, it's not going to deliver sedan-like fuel economy, but the V-8 engine is fairly efficient for such a big vehicle.

With rear-drive, it's rated at 16 mpg city, 23 highway, 18 combined. With four-wheel drive, the ratings are 16/22/18 mpg, according to the EPA.

Real-world fuel economy may be even higher than indicated by the EPA ratings, depending on driving habits, as a standard cylinder deactivation system effectively transforms the Tahoe's V-8 into a 4-cylinder under low-load driving. In our experience behind the wheel of the Tahoe, combined scores in the low-20-mpg range are possible without resorting to hyper-miling heroics.

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