Full 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Review
What's New for 2008
After last year's redesign, the Chevrolet Tahoe sees minimal changes for 2008. The 40/20/40-split front bench seat gets built-in storage compartments; side curtain airbags are made standard across the board; and OnStar turn-by-turn navigation is standard on the LT and LTZ trims.
For families who need a spacious, comfortable and rugged full-size SUV, Chevrolet's full-size entries have long been the go-to vehicles. With their stout, truck-based underpinnings, these vehicles are ideal for towing and off-roading duties. But until recently, their interiors were seriously lacking in terms of build and materials quality, compared to most rivals. That all changed with last year's redesign that introduced a handsome, well-tailored cabin as well as improvements to ride and handling.
Last year's revamp also brought a deceptively aerodynamic body that contributes to a quiet highway ride. And although it's not exactly nimble, the Chevrolet Tahoe is a couple of feet shorter than its otherwise similar Suburban big brother and easier to handle in the cities and suburbs.
The Tahoe's closest rival in the traditional, full-size SUV segment is the Ford Expedition. In a recent comparison test, we ranked the Tahoe second to the Ford. Certainly, both are capable and spacious utes and each offers a few advantages over the other -- the Chevy's got a nicer interior but the Ford's fold-flat third-row seat is much more convenient on a daily basis and its fully independent suspension provides tidier handling. But it's mostly a matter of splitting hairs, as both of these full-sizers are quite capable.
That said, we encourage families to consider their needs carefully. Those who merely need room for kids and cargo will likely find GM's large crossover SUVs, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, or the Mazda CX-9, equally capable and more fuel-efficient. However, for shoppers truly in need of maximum towing capacity and/or a fair degree of off-road capability, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, as well as its GMC twin, the Yukon, makes a solid case for itself.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is a full-size SUV that's available in two main trim levels -- base LS and more upscale LT -- and a variety of packages. The volume-seller LS should please most folks, as it comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a 40/20/40-split front seat with built-in storage compartments, OnStar telematics, satellite radio, full power accessories, dual-zone climate control, an MP3-capable CD player and a trip computer.
Standard equipment on the LT includes foglamps, color-keyed exterior trim, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, front bucket seats with a console, and a "Turn-by-Turn" navigation feature for the OnStar system. Three major equipment groups are available on the Tahoe LT -- LT2, LT3 and LTZ. The LT2 package adds leather upholstery, a six-disc CD changer, power adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starting and rear parking assist. Stepping up to the LT3 package adds heated front seats (with 12-way driver adjustment) and a Bose audio system. The top-dog LTZ package also features 20-inch alloy wheels, heated second-row seats, a locking rear differential, power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding second-row seats, a third-row seat and the Autoride rear air suspension.
Major stand-alone options for the Chevrolet Tahoe include a navigation system, a rearview camera and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The third-row seat is also an à la carte extra on sub-LTZ Tahoes. For buyers who plan to drive their Tahoe off-road on a regular basis, Chevrolet offers an off-road suspension package with differently tuned springs and shock absorbers, 18-inch all-terrain tires, a heavy-duty locking rear differential, a high-capacity air cleaner and front tow hooks.
Powertrains and Performance
A pair of V8s sees duty in the Tahoe, and either way the lone transmission is a four-speed automatic. One may also choose between rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). The 2WD Tahoe LS model comes with a 4.8-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. All other Chevy Tahoes pack a 5.3-liter V8 (320 hp and 340 lb-ft); it's optional on the 2WD LS. Fitted with the 5.3, a 4WD Tahoe posts 2008 EPA fuel economy estimates of 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway, figures that are above average for the traditional full-size SUV segment. Properly equipped, a Tahoe can tow up to 8,200 pounds.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and full-length side curtain airbags (with a rollover sensor) are standard on all Tahoes. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal crash testing, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe scored a perfect five stars for the driver and front passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
In contrast to past Chevy trucks, the newest Tahoe boasts attractive, high-quality materials and tight build quality. Control layouts are simple, and even the navigation system is easy to use. Depending on how you equip your Tahoe, up to nine passengers can be transported, making it a class leader in that respect.
At 109 cubic feet, the Tahoe's maximum cargo capacity bests that of the Nissan Armada and Dodge Durango, and is about the same as a Ford Expedition. Although the Tahoe's second row is available with a power-folding feature, the third-row seats must still be removed manually. We've tried it, and trust us, those seats are a bear to remove.
Even a 4WD 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is fairly quick, getting to 60 mph in just 8.6 seconds. However, the Tahoe doesn't feel nearly so quick when carrying a full load of passengers or cargo. After all, there are only so many ways to trick physics: This is a 5,500-pound truck, after all. Braking is about average for this pudgy segment.
A soft ride is the Tahoe's greatest dynamic asset, though the price paid is a somewhat rubbery quality to the steering and handling. But although the Tahoe doesn't feel particularly nimble around corners, its relatively compact 39-foot turning circle makes it fairly maneuverable in the city. When towing a heavy trailer, the Tahoe performs admirably. It's able to maintain speed up long grades, albeit with some gear hunting and rather loud exhaust noise.
Read our Chevy Tahoe Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test