• By: Neil Moore

Tahoe Blends Strength with Civility

The sedans and sport cutes scuttling below could be a light snack for the behemoth I was now driving.

Even larger vehicles – like the transit bus beside me – no longer seemed quite as imposing. I could nearly look passengers in the eye.

The three-row, seven-passenger Chevy Tahoe, unlike some large crossovers, makes no attempt to tone down its dimensions with curves and low angles. It embraces its enormity.

Side panels are clean and upright. Ditto for the big chrome grille that slams the wind like a fist. Styling may be boxy, but it’s a square-jawed look that most friends and neighbours found agreeable – even handsome.

Indeed this 2017 model, redesigned in 2015, may be trucky but it isn’t unrefined. Doors fit precisely and close with a solid ‘thunk’ – improving the quietness of the cabin. So does it's laminated windshield.

Inside, the attention to detail is reminiscent of GM’s “higher-grade” full-size SUVs: GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. Mind you, the Tahoe’s $53K base price didn’t reflect the reality of my tester which was a top-trim LTZ model ($72,800) with another eight grand worth of options.

It's cocoa/mahogany interior was nicely fitted with heated and cooled, 10-way power adjustable perforated leather front seats, heated captain’s chairs in the middle row and the nice two-tone mix of browns, with woodgrain accents, carrying on in the doors.

The centre stack employs good-sized buttons and knobs for climate and other often-used controls, along with an eight-inch infotainment screen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation and 10-speaker Bose premium audio.

My tester also had the optional Driver Information Centre ($995) with an eight-inch reconfigurable display between the analog speedo and tach. The package also includes a heads-up display.

Other LTZ amenities include wireless charging for your smart phone, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel that is leather-wrapped and heated, front and rear park assist, and haptic alerts that buzz your butt when getting close to an object.

Power buttons on the side wall automatically drop both the second and third rows of seating for a flat cargo floor. Space maxes out at a generous 2,681 litres.

You also get a power-folding 50/50 third-row bench. Despite Tahoe’s generous passenger cabin, such generosity doesn’t extend this far back. There’s precious little room for feet, and with the raised floor, I found my knees under my chin. But these seats will work for kids – especially when there’s a need to keep warring siblings apart.

Third-row occupants also get cupholders, map lights, a 12-volt outlet, and a power button to drop and tumble the seat in front, for an easy exit.

As you’d expect in a battleship-sized vehicle, cargo carrying is a strength, although the Tahoe’s max volume, at 2,681 litres, is on par with many mid-sized haulers. It will, however, tow up to 8,600 lbs (8,400 with 4WD), putting it in the same league as some full-size pickups.

With all seats upright, cargo space is tight – just enough for a load of groceries. But a pair of buttons at the liftgate will lower the back bench for a more useful 1,464 litres and a flat cargo floor. There’s also a power release to drop the middle row.

Features like these are especially handy in the rain, when you’d otherwise have to scurry from door-to-door, fiddling with levers and straps to accomplish the same thing.

Power for the Tahoe comes from a direct-injected 5.3-litre V8 (355 hp and 383 lb/ft of torque) with Active Fuel Management, mated to a six-speed automatic with tow/haul mode.

LS and LT models are available in both rear-drive and four-wheel-drive, but the LTZ comes only with the latter. I’m still not sure why you’d buy a sport utility with drive to only two wheels.

Fuel economy for my tester is rated at a reasonable 15.2/10.8/13.2 litres/100 km (city/hwy/combined). My own result was a combined 13.9.

Ride was as good as any large SUV or crossover I’ve driven, thanks to the LTZ’s available magnetic ride control suspension. It’s been around a while, but still quite advanced. Electrically-charged magnetic particles change the fluid properties of the shock absorbers, adjusting almost instantly to road conditions.

In this LTZ model, leather bucket seats are 10-way power adjustable (with driver memory). Front passengers get both seat heating and cooling.

Handling is nimbler than you’d expect for a vehicle of this size and heft, but there’s still body roll in the corners – no surprise here. That being said, buyers in this segment aren’t looking for Porsche Cayenne-like ability.

Acceleration, however, is brisk. My son was impressed with Tahoe’s launch off the line, taking it to highway speed in around seven seconds. Not bad for a 5,631-lb (2,554 kg) vehicle – three tons once you add passengers.

Safety is another concern when you’re moving this much metal, and the big disc brakes with 13-inch rotors are up to the task. So is GM’s expanding suite of safety tech, with features like forward collision alert, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and low-speed automatic braking available on higher trim.

The Tahoe offers a nice mix of buttons and knobs for often-used functions, along with an eight-inch infotainment screen.

All Tahoe models get a rear-vision camera, which is vital on vehicles this tall where you may not see a small child through the lofty back window.

Indeed, this is a well-equipped, thoughtfully packaged vehicle, ticking many of the boxes for those who can afford it. Sure, you’ll get more cargo space and family-friendly features in a minivan, but that means you’d have to drive one. Ugh…

And the base Tahoe – $53,890 for 2WD, $57,190 for 4WD – isn’t too far off some top-trim vans. It comes with Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, WiFi hot spot, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering with audio and cruise controls, multi-info display, rear parking sensors and remote start.

And it gets a 60/40 second-row bench so you can carry eight passengers instead of seven.

The LS also rolls on 18-inch bright-finished aluminum wheels. My LTZ had massive 22-inchers, but that’s a $3,195 option, and I shudder at the cost of replacement rubber.

The Tahoe is a delight for long-distance commuting. From within its comfortable confines, I enjoyed the colourful woodlands and rolling countryside on route to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – every day for a full week of “Car of the Year” testing. The only cloud overshadowing this otherwise Zen experience was the thought of refilling its 98-litre tank.

I’ve commented before that not many of us really need this much vehicle. But for those who do, the Tahoe is a stylish, bold, yet family-friendly option that deserves a closer look.

A prominent roof spoiler caps the Tahoe’s large, square tailgate. Its boxy shape is complemented by styling that is clearly more truck than crossover.

SNAPSHOT: 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ
BODY STYLE: full-size sport utility
ENGINE: 5.3-litre directed injected V8 (355 hp, 383 lb/ft of torque)
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with Tow/Haul mode; 4WD as tested
FUEL ECONOMY: as tested, LTZ with 4WD – 15.2/10.8/13.2 litres/100 km (city/hwy/combined)
CARGO: 433 litres (behind 3rd row), 1,464 litres behind 2nd row), 2,681 litres max
TOWING: 3,855 kg/8,600 lbs (2WD); 3,719 kg/8,400 lbs (4WD)
PRICING: (4WD) Base LS $57,190; LT $64,610; LTZ $72,560 (options, freight and taxes extra)
WEBSITE: Chevrolet.ca