2019 Chevrolet Tahoe LT AWD (USA)

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For a long time now, the classic American pickup has sat at the top of the US automotive sales charts. Get away from urban areas and into the countryside and it is not hard to see why. Distances are vast – often from the road to the property is measured in miles not feet – and the terrain is often rough, and those who live in such rural conditions are likely to have more than just people to move about so the versatility of the pickup load area comes in handy. Despite every generation of the genre becoming ever more civilised and indeed downright luxurious, there are still compromises that many found a little too limiting so when the first true SUV vehicles were created, by putting a fully enclosed body on what had started out as a pickup, and installing seating for more than a couple of people, then this new type of vehicle seemed to be just what a large number of buyers had been looking for, and not just those who live in the remotest of rural areas. The concept is not as new as you might think, and one of the best known names of vehicles of this type, the Chevrolet Suburban, actually goes back to the 1930s. It’s only been in the last twenty or so years that the market for SUV type vehicles has really exploded, though, and these days they come in every size from the diminutive, almost of which are more of a fashion statement than something truly useful in the sort of conditions where the truck would come into its own, to the truly massive. All bar the very largest of the genre have eschewed their truck like roots, and are now constructed just like any monocoque passenger car, rather than being the traditional “body on frame” type that still underpins trucks such as the Ford F150, RAM 1500 and Chevy Silverado, Whilst there has not been an SUV equivalent of the RAM trucks for some time, and every generation of Ford F150 and the equivalent Ford Expedition have moved further apart, GM have kept their largest trucks – the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra – quite closely related to the passenger carrying equivalents, the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon. There was a lag of a few months between the reveal in December 2012 and first public display at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show of a new generation of truck and the press launch in September 2013, prior to a display at the 2013 Los Angeles Show later in the year of the SUVs, and despite rumours suggesting that the underpinnings would diverge, these vehicles turned out to be pretty similar under the skin, even though there are no shared body panels between the trucks and the SUVs Sales of this latest generation of Chevy, GMC and the poshed-up Escalade started in February 2014, as 2015 model year vehicles, and they quickly found favour in the marketplace. Despite looking pretty similar to the models they replaced, these were a lot more refined, and with all their market rivals older designs than they were, the pundits put them at the top of their class and sales were brisk right from the outset, with the Tahoe and Yukon having about the shortest average time at a dealership between delivery and sale, of around 17 days. Both models have sold well ever since their initial on-sale date, and the higher trimmed models have proved particularly popular.

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It’s not just buyers who find that one of these massive vehicles fits into their lives so well, with their unmatched ability to haul lots of people and all their stuff in relative comfort over short and long distances, but they are also very popular in the rental fleets. All the major US rental companies tend to carry a significant stock of these models, and you often see a large group of people with a lot of luggage managing to get everything into one such vehicle, where anything any smaller would require the rental of two cars. Not surprisingly, they are rather less in demand for business rentals, so at a busy car rental facility like Los Angeles, depending on the day and time in the week, you will either see a glut of them (along with rows of MiniVans) or next to none at all. I had noticed that when there are lots of them unreserved, they tend to be put into the President’s Circle area and hence are available for the price of a regular mid-sized car, so kept deciding that the way I was going to sample the latest generation was to pick one up mid-week. But then I kept finding other things I wanted to try, and which were far less commonly encountered in the fleet, so the Full-Sized SUV got deprioritised time and again. Finally, 5 years after the fourth generation Tahoe, based on the GM K2XX platform went on sale, on a Tuesday where nothing else at LAX caught my eye, I had the choice of about half a dozen Tahoe, Yukon and Suburban models. I picked the newest one – it had done just 320 miles when I drove it away – in a photographically friendly colour. It was to be mine for two days, which was ample to give me a good feel for what it is like to drive something as big as this around town, out on the open road and up in the mountains.

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There’s still a V8 engine under the bonnet. A 5.3 litre one, to be precise. But if you are expecting a wonderful rumble when you fire it up, and for the characteristic burbly sound that you get with many engines of this type, prepare to be disappointed. This one remains as something with 355 bhp and 383 lb/ft of torque is needed to propel what is still, despite a few choice uses of weight-saving materials in the body, such as an aluminium bonnet and tailgate, a heavy machine. Reminder of this came when I was getting settled and spotted that the trip mileage reading reported an average of just 9.5 mpg. I took a sharp intake of breath and wondered if this really was the rental machine that my financial controller would approve of. We’ll come to the economy in a minute, but first, I have to report on how 355 bhp is sufficient most of the time, but not as adequate as you might think. And this was one-up, with nothing in the boot, let alone anything attached to the tow bar. If you think this is a lazy V8 that you can drive without pushing it very hard, you will be pretty disappointed in the performance, as acceleration appears very modest indeed, though the claimed 0 – 60 time is just over 7 seconds. Work it harder, and it turns out that the Tahoe is brisk enough, certainly to keep up with the traffic, to accelerate into the gaps, pull out from junctions etc, and yes, to cope with the inclines. But you do need to push it quite hard to do so. The six speed gearbox will then figure out the most appropriate gear and given you the increase in speed that is desired, but left to its own devices, it clearly- like so many cars these days – tries to get to the highest gear possible and to stay there. And so to the fuel economy. When I got the Tahoe, the 26 gallon tank was far from full, with the needle showing somewhere just over 3/4s. I covered 433 miles in the two days of my test, and needed to put over 30 gallons in it to fill it up. Clearly I did not use all of that, so I have to go on what the trip computer told me to determine my consumption, and it was better than that 9.5 mpg, but not a lot, It said that I averaged 13.9 mpg (US), which makes this one of the thirstiest vehicles I have ever driven. You really would have to need something this size to justify running one as your daily driver, as a voracious appetite for fuel like that is something that is hard to ignore. Rather better a feature are the low noise levels. Not only is the note from that V8 engine hard to detect from the cabin, but nor is there much in the way of wind or road noise. GM put quite a lot of extra deadening in this generation Tahoe and Yukon, and it seems to have made the cabin quite a civilised place to sit in, especially when cruising on the freeway.

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There is another issue, though, and this one was more unexpected. And that concerns the ride. On some surfaces it was fine, but on those slightly ridged concrete sections of freeway that you encounter commonly in the Greater LA area, it was truly terrible. Fidgety and bouncy at the same time, I did wonder initially if there was something wrong the car, thinking that as it was pretty new (only done 300 miles), perhaps there was some packing or shipping protection in the suspension area, but no, as when the surface changed, so it all became quite acceptable. The tyres of the test car were relatively high profile 265/65 R18s. It may simply be that the characteristics of the ride are a consequence of that truck chassis. Even so. I do not remember experiencing anything as uncomfortable as this in the previous GM T900 platform-ed Suburban and Yukon that I drove some years ago. The Tahoe is a large, heavy car with a relatively high centre of gravity, so you need to remember this and drive it accordingly. Once I was used to it, and that did take more than a couple of miles up the road, it was not that intimidating to drive, and you could actually press on along the bendy bits of the canyon roads with more elan than I had initially thought advisable. That said, you’re never going to keep up with the sportier machines that are so much fun on such roads. Hats off, I have to say, to the Police Officers who drive these things at speed, though, as despite all the electronic assistance features, you never really forget that this is a big SUV. The steering is well weighted, but lacks much in the way of feel, but it does mean that the Tahoe is quite manoeuvrable, and for such a large car has a surprisingly good turning circle. You also need to remember that cars this size take more stopping than smaller ones, so whilst the brakes felt like they would do the job, I was always careful to leave more space and to brake earlier in traffic, just in case. I did find out, and was quite taken aback the first time, that one of the many electronic safety aids in the Tahoe is an Engine Downgrade Assist. On a not particularly steep slope, or so I thought, this cut in, with a warning appearing on the dash and the transmission changing down to what seemed to me like far lower a gear than was warranted, with the revs soaring, so as to get engine braking. Fully laden and on steeper slopes, this may be quite useful, but it was disconcerting when it happened the first time, and I got to experience it again a few more times while up in the mountains. There is a foot operated pedal for the parking brake. The test car had the optional AWD system. There is a dial on the dash which allows you to choose between rear wheel drive, all wheel drive or “auto” where the car will make decision. As my test did not extend further than a few feet off paved road, solely in pursuit of photos, I left it in rear wheel drive, but with all wheel drive selected and the generous ground clearance you clearly could take the Tahoe over some quite rough terrain without undue difficulty. One attribute that is excellent, of course, is visibility That raised driving position helps, and there is a generous glass area. The standard rear-view camera makes it very easy to judge where the back of the Tahoe is, even if it might seem like it is in the next county, and there was a secondary piece of glass in the door mirrors to help alleviate any blind spots.

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The interior of the Tahoe looked very similar to the previous generation cars that I sampled, with two front seats separated by a massive centre console, a huge stick like gearlever poking north east out of the steering column and an array of standard GM switches. But look more closely and you will see that it is different in just about every detail apart from that massive gearlever. There has been a concerted effort to improve the perceived quality levels, and so stitched leather clads much of the dashboard and door casings, and some colour and texture contrast comes from a very dark “wood” inlay and some gunmetal colour highlighting trim. The instrument cluster has two large dials for speedo and rev counter, with four smaller ones which cover battery charge, water temperature, fuel level and oil pressure mounted in the upper area between the large units. Beneath this is a digital display area for trip mileage and other data points, the options selected by pressing touch pads on the right hand steering wheel spoke. There you also find the cruise control and audio repeaters. There is just one column stalk, on the left, with the wipers operated by twisting the end. Lights and the selection of 2 or 4 WD are from rotary dials on the dash to the left of the wheel. The centre of the dash contains an integrated colour touch screen for the third generation MyLink system. This contains most of the features you would expect, though there is no navigation built into the unit, but if you select that option, you get a message advising that no route has been selected through OnStar. Below this screen are an array of knobs and buttons, for the audio unit functions and for the climate control. As well as the two zones in front, you can also select the temperature for those in the back from here. The heated seat switches are also here. You still need a key to start the Tahoe, and the one supplied has to be cheapest and nastiest looking one I have encountered in a very long time.

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With a somewhat raised everything, people with short legs like me will be particularly grateful for the running boards when getting in, and indeed out. Putting one foot on the running board, then hauling myself in was the only way to do it, as the Tahoe is too far off the ground to just enter like you would in a more normally sized vehicle. There’s lots of electric adjustment available for the leather-trimmed seat, with switches on the side of the seat to vary the fore/aft position, backrest rake, seat height and angle. Electric adjustment of the pedals will bring them closer to you if you want, which is a nice touch and something of a contrast to the steering wheel adjustment, which went up and down only but did not telescope in or out. Once installed, I was quite comfortable, and able to look down on so many of the other vehicles on the road, as you really do sit considerably higher here than in a conventional car. There is a real feeling of space, too, with masses of headroom, and the front passenger seat the other side of the huge dividing console area, which because it is high, really does make the other seat seem a long way away (and down). A bench seat for the front remains on the options list for those who want to be able to add yet another passenger. There are plenty of place for oddments: bins on the doors, a good sized glovebox, a recessed tray in the top of the central armrest and when you lift the lid, an extremely deep cubby indeed.

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The second row of seats in the test car came in the form of the optional pair of individual captain’s chairs, complete with integrated drop armrests on the inner-facing sides. These would doubtless prove very comfortable, with ample space all around for their occupants. A bench seat, with ample space for three occupants is also available. Despite the height off the ground, there is a lot of headroom, and even with the front seats set well back, there is more than enough legroom, too. The seat bases are fixed, as opposed to being on sliders, but you can vary the angle of the backrest. To increase comfort, there are separate settings for climate control (these can also be set from the driver’s seat), as well as USB and AUX ports. Map pockets in the front seat backs and bins on the doors will cater for odds and ends. The third row of seats is in bench format, and is probably wide enough for three people to sit in there. Getting in is as undignified as it is with any 3-row vehicle, though there is decent clearance when you fold the backrest forward and then tip the seat up. Occupants here get cup holders and oddments recesses moulded into the side trim and there are roof vents.

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Even on a vehicle as big as this Tahoe, there is not a lot of length to the boot area when all three rows of seats are erect. And in the interests of having a flat load bay area, that floor is high, raised slightly even over the bottom of the tailgate, so you do have to lift things up a long way to get them in. It was large enough to accommodate my suitcase, but I had to put it in sideways rather than lengthways. There is a small underfloor stowage area which extends as far back as the base of the third row of seats. You create more space by progressively folding down seats. The rear-most row are split 50/50, and the backrest simply drops down. With both folded, there is a lot of luggage room, and you can get even more by doing the same with the second row. Whilst the load bay is completely flat, because there were separate captain’s chairs as opposed to a bench, there are gaps in the luggage area. You really would need to be carrying an awful lot of stuff for this not to suffice, but if that is the case, or if people are occupying the seats, then the Tahoe has a towing capability of 8600 lbs, and standard equipment includes a trailering hitch platform, a 2-inch receiver, and trailer sway control. Optional trailering equipment includes a different rear axle ratio, trailer brake controls, a two-speed active transfer case, and an air-levelling suspension. Still not enough? Well, there are roof rails, or you should get the longer Suburban version which adds further luggage capacity by virtue of its longer rear overhang.

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Chevrolet offers the 2019 Tahoe in LS, LT, and Premier trim levels. All models come standard with the 5.3-litre V8 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is optional in every trim for $3,000. A 6.2-litre V8 and a 10-speed automatic transmission are optional with the Premier model. The base model’s long list of standard features makes it a good choice for those who want a lot of value right out of the box. You’ll still have access to a full suite of driver assistance features for under $700. However, the roughly $53,000 midrange LT model might be a better choice. It comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and Bose stereo. It also features advanced safety tech like lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and low-speed automatic emergency braking. The base 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe LS starts at $47,900. Standard features include cloth upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable front seat, a six-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, the Teen Driver system, remote start, a 110-volt power outlet, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There’s also a standard 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a six-speaker stereo, USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and HD Radio. The optional Enhanced Driver Alert package costs $695 and includes power-adjustable pedals, automatic high beams, a safety alert seat, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward-collision warning, and low-speed automatic emergency braking. You can also opt for the Custom Edition package, which deletes the third-row seats and lowers the Tahoe’s price by $4,200. Individual options include performance brakes for $2,795, a front-row bench seat for $250, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that costs $1,995. Spec of the test car, the Tahoe LT starts at $52,900. It adds leather upholstery, a power tailgate, heated front seats, a nine-speaker Bose premium sound system, and all the contents of the Enhanced Driver Alert package listed above. For $2,860, the Luxury package comes with proximity key entry, push-button start, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third row, a heated steering wheel, a hands-free liftgate, front parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. Another package costs $3,430 and includes navigation, satellite traffic, a sunroof, and a rear-seat DVD system. Second-row bucket seats are optional for $795. The top spec Tahoe Premier retails for $62,600. This trim comes with the Magnetic Ride Control suspension, 12-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, a power-folding third row, power-release and folding heated second-row bucket seats, a heated steering wheel, proximity key entry, push-button start, navigation, satellite traffic, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system, wireless charging, front parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. Getting the Tahoe with the 6.2-litre V8 ups its starting MSRP to $67,950, and that price includes styling upgrades like larger black wheels and black exterior trim pieces. You can also jump to the Premier Plus Edition from the standard Premier, adding $11,600. This model includes the 6.2-litre V8, along with an 8-inch colour driver information display, a sunroof, a head-up display, the rear-seat DVD player, power-retractable assist steps, and lots of other styling details.

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The Tahoe, and its close relatives of the even longer Suburban and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are strong sellers for General Motors, and it is not hard to see why. You get an awful lot of metal for your money, and for the many people who have lots of people to haul about, lots of luggage and the need to tow heavy things, with the ability to take to rougher tracks and unsurfaced roads, a machine like this is just what they need. And with this generation of the model, GM have worked hard to make it more civilised, and feel less utilitarian. They have largely succeeded, and with the exception of that awful ride, which I still cannot quite understand, the only significant drawbacks are ones associated with the sheer size of the Tahoe, and more or less impossible to overcome. Heavy fuel consumption is pretty much a given, and a machine of this size will never drive like a car, or even a smaller SUV. GM do not have the market segment to themselves, though. Toyota’s Sequoia has been around in its current guise for years, and has all the virtues you would expect of a Toyota, wrapped up in an XXXL-sized package, and Nissan offer the Armada, which in its latest guise is very similar to the luxury-oriented Infiniti QX80. Neither sell in huge quantities in the US, where the strongest competitor is the Ford Expedition. This underwent a complete redesign a couple of years ago, and is by all accounts the better vehicle now. They’re just starting to appear in the rental fleets, so I guess when my wallet is ready for another thirsty machine, I should try one out to see which I prefer.

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