What's New for 2010
Buying a Chevy Tahoe is a little simpler for 2010, as its engine choices have been reduced to one -- the 5.3-liter V8, which now comes standard with E85 capability. Front seat-mounted side airbags and a USB audio connection are now standard, while the LT trim and a few equipment packages have been enhanced with additional equipment.
A Traverse can't traverse a mountain attached to a 7,000-pound camper. A Flex isn't flexible enough to seat nine people. The pilot of a Pilot isn't going to be very willing to tackle a rocky trail. Sometimes you need an SUV that can deliver the macho-truck goods that a crossover cannot. Sometimes you need the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe.
A Tahoe served in our long-term fleet for one year where it became the go-to vehicle for towing a classic car from Colorado, hauling the family to Oregon and hitting up rugged terrain throughout the American West. While other SUVs, pickups or crossovers may have been able to tackle some of these tasks, none could do all of them like a Tahoe. Its strong capability, comfortable ride, high-quality cabin and generous passenger capacity made it a good choice for our editors and it should be for many SUV buyers as well.
Now in its fourth year since a complete overhaul, the 2010 Chevy Tahoe features a number of significant additions and subtractions for its lineup. Most notably, the entry-level 4.8-liter V8 and top-of-the-line 6.2-liter V8 have been discontinued -- the latter of which was only introduced last year. Rest assured, though, that the bigger engine is still available in the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali. Remaining is the 320-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, which now comes standard with E85 ethanol capability.
Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention some of its competitors. The Toyota Sequoia is perhaps the most formidable, offering a highly refined nature, more maximum cargo space and more than one solid engine choice. The Ford Expedition is also worth consideration, as its fold-flat rear seats make transitioning between people- and cargo-carrying much easier.
However, before parking any of the above in your garage, we suggest contemplating how often you really need the massive towing and hauling capabilities that these trucks provide. If you just need something that can carry about six, seven or eight people in comfort, a large crossover like the Chevy Traverse or Ford Flex would be better choices as they are easier to get into and drive, offer more comfortable rides and interiors, and achieve better fuel economy. Sometimes you need the macho-truck goods, but then again, you usually don't.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe is a full-size SUV available in three trims: LS, LT and LTZ. The LS comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, dual-zone manual climate control, rear air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat with six-way power driver adjustment, a 60/40-split second-row seat and a 50/50 folding and removable third-row seat. Also standard is OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and USB audio jack. The Interior Plus package adds tri-zone automatic climate control, six-way power front bucket seats with a front center console, rear seat audio controls, Bluetooth, interior wood trim and additional body-colored exterior trim pieces. The Convenience package adds rear parking sensors, a rearview camera (available as a stand-alone option), power-adjustable pedals and remote engine start.
Upgrading to the LT brings all the LS Interior Plus and Convenience packages' equipment (minus the rearview camera, which is optional separately) and adds OnStar turn-by-turn navigation and leather upholstery. It can also be equipped with optional features not available on the LS. The Luxury Package adds power-folding exterior mirrors, a power liftgate, eight-way power front seats with driver memory functions, heated front and rear seats, and a second-row power release function. The Off-Road package adds specially tuned springs and shock absorbers, 18-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires, skid plates and unique front and rear fascias. Second-row bucket seats are also optional for the Tahoe LT.
The LTZ comes with the LT Luxury package as standard equipment and also has 20-inch wheels, exterior chrome trim, the rearview camera, perforated leather upholstery, additional front seat adjustment, heated and ventilated front seats, power flip-and-fold second-row bucket seats, a navigation system with real-time traffic, and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo. The Suspension package adds an air suspension with variable shock dampening and automatic load leveling. Also optional are the second-row bench and a blind-spot warning system.
The Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package available on all trims adds a sunroof, a rear-seat entertainment system and the navigation system with rearview camera. The entertainment system is also available separately. There are also a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheels available and a trailering package that includes a different rear axle ratio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Chevy Tahoe comes with only one engine, a 5.3-liter V8 that produces 320 hp and 335 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, while rear-wheel and four-wheel-drive models are available. Notably, Chevy is equipping the 4WD Tahoe this year with a choice of the traditional two-speed transfer case or a single-speed unit (no low-range gearing).
In performance testing, a 4WD Tahoe LT went from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined regardless of 2WD or 4WD. Properly equipped, a 4WD Tahoe can tow up to 8,200 pounds.
Every 2010 Tahoe comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes, front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags. In government crash testing, the Tahoe received a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection. It has yet to be tested with its new front seat side airbags, but prior to their addition, the Tahoe still managed a five-star side crash performance. In our brake testing, the Tahoe came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Thankfully, the current Tahoe raises the disappointingly low bar set by past Chevy SUVs when it comes to interior aesthetics. Step inside the cabin and you'll find attractive materials and solid build quality. The Tahoe's controls are intuitively laid out, especially the stereo. It's also able to transport up to nine passengers, though third-row passengers won't be as comfortable as they would be in the Chevy Traverse crossover. Some drivers might also find the driving position awkward because of the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and uneven pedal heights.
The Tahoe offers 109 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, besting that of rivals like the Dodge Durango and more or less equaling that of the Ford Expedition. However, unlike virtually every competitor, its third-row seats must be physically removed, and their hefty weight makes the process laborious.
For a 5,500-pound SUV, the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe does pretty well when it comes to acceleration. Even 4WD models are able to get from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 8.5 seconds. Although last year's bigger 6.2-liter V8 is no longer available, the Tahoe is still a champ when it comes to towing. Should you own a large boat or trailer, there are few other SUVs that will do as well as the Tahoe.
Those who favor a soft, forgiving ride will appreciate this SUV's road manners, but the downside of that cushy comfort is steering and handling that feel somewhat rubbery. The Tahoe feels less than agile around corners, but its tight turning circle -- measuring just 39 feet -- makes it relatively easy to pilot in the city.