Compact sport-utility vehicles get most of the attention nowadays, but for folks with big families(or scads of goods to lug around) they're just not spacious enough inside. Chevrolet offers a solution to this problem with the Tahoe, based on the full-size C/K pickup platform but garageable in either two- or four-door body styles.
At a glance, the four-door Tahoe and larger Suburban look nearly identical, but a Tahoe measures 20 inches shorter. Beneath the hood sits a Vortec 5700 V8, rated for 255 horsepower. Two-door 4WD Tahoes with LS or LT trim can be equipped with a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 instead of the Vortec 5700.
From the driver's seat forward, Tahoes are virtually identical to Chevy's full-size C/K pickups. Space is massive up front. Capable of towing as much as 7,000 pounds, four-door Tahoes seat either five or six passengers, and an underbody-mounted spare tire helps boost cargo space.
On the Interstate, the Tahoe rides nicely, but the wide body takes some getting used to if you're accustomed to compacts. Turning onto smaller roads, it suddenly feels more like a truck. Easy to control either way, this sizable machine is reasonably maneuverable, if driven with discretion. The V8 is strong, and the four-speed automatic transmission shifts neatly.
Think about the "entry assist" running boards if your regular riders aren't so nimble. They help. So do the robust grab bars that ease entry into the rear seats. Rear cargo doors are standard, but a lift glass version is available.
In 1998, Chevrolet introduced an optional automatic four-wheel drive system that shifts between 2WD and 4WD as conditions warrant. No longer is it necessary to push a button on the dashboard to actively engage four-wheel traction. For 1999, the cargo net has been deleted from the standard equipment list, and new colors have been added to the paint chart. Why has Chevrolet begun producing the 1999 Tahoe already? Seems there was a little problem with meeting 1998 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, so by switching to a 1999 model year designation, GM has bought itself a little time to make up for the lousy fuel economy the Tahoe tends to get.
Because Chevrolet targets customers with an income of $85,000 a year, luxury conveniences are part of upscale Tahoe packages. The typical prospect is a 40-year-old man who currently drives a Chevy Blazer and is attracted to a vehicle's size and power. Those attributes the Tahoe has in abundance, as does its little-different GMC Yukon counterpart.
With the introduction of the Ford Expedition a few years ago, Chevrolet lost its dominance of the full-size SUV market. Further complicating matters, the Tahoe is based on a decade-old platform, while the slightly larger, slightly less expensive Expedition is derived from more modern F-Series underpinnings. The Ford's edge will shrink by 2000, when a completely redesigned Tahoe based on the all-new Chevrolet Silverado pickup debuts. Buyers might want to wait for a while, because the new truck will be much improved. However, a 2-door Tahoe will not make the cut for the next millennium, so snap one up now while you have the chance. This single remaining full-size 2-door SUV has a limited future.