What's New for 2011
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe gains an integrated trailer-brake controller with the optional Trailering package.
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe continues much as before, and that, no doubt, is just fine with a sizable number of folks who've grown to appreciate its mix of truck toughness and surprisingly refined practicality.
Like the Chevrolet Suburban to which it's related, the Tahoe is a do-anything, go-anywhere sport-utility vehicle. Its truck-based architecture and strong V8 engine allow it to tow heavy loads, and the available four-wheel-drive system can take you off-road or through the snow. These aren't necessarily activities that are undertaken every day, but only a vehicle with big-truck capability can deliver when the time comes. And yet when it comes to everyday use, the Tahoe's relatively comfortable ride and its well-executed cabin with three rows of seats make it a practical choice. In the era of the crossover, few vehicles offer such a combination.
Within its segment, the Chevy Tahoe compares well to the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia. The Expedition offers a third-row seat that conveniently folds away to expand cargo capacity, yet the Ford isn't as powerful as the Tahoe. The Sequoia is the Tahoe's most serious competitor; it offers a similar mix of performance and utility. We'll also point out that if pure passenger use is more important than toting and towing, a large crossover SUV is a better pick. The Chevrolet Traverse and its GM siblings as well as the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT offer better on-road handling, superior fuel economy and more flexible interior arrangements.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe is available in three trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ. The Tahoe Hybrid is reviewed separately.
The base Tahoe LS comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone manual climate control, eight-passenger seating with front power-adjustable bucket seats and center floor console, a 60/40-split second-row seat and 50/50-split removable third-row seat. Also standard are Bluetooth, OnStar and a six-speaker audio system with CD and rear audio controls, satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack and an iPod/USB interface. An optional Convenience package includes power-adjustable pedals, remote engine start, rear parking assist and a rearview camera system with mirror display. A front split bench seat may be substituted to enable nine-passenger seating. 4WD models include a single-speed transfer case.
LT models include most available LS equipment plus front foglamps, a locking rear differential, tri-zone automatic climate control, eight-passenger leather-trimmed seating and nine-speaker Bose audio. Among options not available on the LS are second-row captain's chairs (for seven-passenger seating) and a Luxury package with heated front and second-row seats (with power release), power-folding mirrors and a power rear liftgate. An optional Z71 Off-Road package adds specially tuned springs and shocks, 18-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires, skid plates and unique front and rear fascias.
LTZ-trimmed Tahoes include the LT Luxury package content with seven-passenger seating as standard equipment and add 20-inch wheels, a suspension system with active damping, outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and ground-illuminating lights, perforated leather-trimmed seating with more adjustments, heated and ventilated front seats, power flip-and-fold second-row seats, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system. A second-row split bench seat can be substituted for eight-passenger seating. 4WD models include a two-speed transfer case. LTZ options include power-retractable assist steps, a blind-spot warning system and several features also available on other Tahoe models including a sunroof, rear-seat entertainment, a Trailering package and a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe is equipped with a 5.3-liter V8 generating 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission transmits power through the rear wheels on 2WD models or all four wheels on 4WD models. The 4WD Tahoe is offered with a choice of either a traditional two-speed transfer case or a single-speed unit without low-range gearing.
The Tahoe's acceleration is strong for a full-size SUV, as the 4WD Tahoe hit 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds in Edmunds testing. EPA-estimated fuel economy is respectable, with 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. A properly equipped Tahoe can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
The 2011 Chevy Tahoe comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and OnStar emergency telematics. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available on every Tahoe, while the Tahoe LTZ can be had with a blind-spot warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Tahoe came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, an average distance for a vehicle in this class. In government crash testing, the Tahoe received the top five-star rating for both frontal and side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevrolet Tahoe's cabin is one of its strengths, with an attractive design and high-quality fit and finish. The layout of its controls is straightforward, and their operation intuitive. The front seats are comfortable, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel might be a drawback for some drivers.
One of the Tahoe's advantages over its competition is the ability to accommodate nine occupants with the LS's available front split bench seat. However, the Tahoe lacks a convenient flat-foldaway third-row seat; the rear seats are heavy, awkward to remove and must be stored elsewhere. Once the seats are out, there are 109 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Considering the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe weighs more than 3 tons when a few average-size passengers are aboard, its acceleration is downright energetic. It gets kudos for its towing ability, too. If you need an SUV to pull a large boat or trailer, the Tahoe will serve you well up to its rated capacity.
It's also adept as a highway cruiser, swallowing up the miles with a compliant and cushioned ride. There's a penalty to be paid, however: lackadaisical steering response and somewhat disconnected handling dynamics as speeds increase. The Tahoe's tight 39-foot turning circle does make it reasonably maneuverable in town.