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 255 horsepower. Two-door 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 pickups. Space is massive up front. Capable of towing as much as 7,000 pounds, four-door Tahoes seat either five or six, 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.
New for 1997 is a passenger-side airbag, allowing the Tahoe to match Ford's Expedition in safety features. A new Electronic Variable Orifice steering unit reduces effort in low-speed maneuvering. The automatic transmission is refined for 1997, featuring smoother shifts and increased efficiency. Want to lock the Tahoe after unloading cargo? Now it's easy, with the addition of a power door lock switch in the cargo area. Order high-back bucket seats, and you'll get a new center console that includes a pivoting writing surface, cassette storage, removable coin holder, dual cupholders for rear passengers, and a latched rear storage drawer. Rounding out the improvements for 1997 are two new exterior colors: Medium Opal Blue Metallic and Medium Beige Mystique Metallic.
Because Chevrolet targets customers with an income of $85,000 a year, luxury conveniences are part of upscale Tahoe packages. The typical prospect is an upscale 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, Chevrolet loses 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 all-new F-Series underpinnings. We recommend investigating the Expedition, unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy fan.