Used 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe Review

Edmunds expert review

With room for up to nine passengers, gutsy V8 engines and a long list of available options, it's no wonder the Tahoe is the best-selling fullsize sport-ute on the market.

What's new for 2003

The Tahoe gets a host of new upgrades for 2003. On the inside, you'll find new tri-zone climate controls, an enhanced driver-information center and a redesigned center console and instrument panel. New options includes second-row bucket seats and adjustable pedals. A revised lineup of entertainment options offers buyers a Bose audio system, as well as XM Satellite Radio and a DVD-based entertainment system. For increased safety, there are dual-stage airbags, a standard front-passenger-sensing system, three-point belts for all second-row passengers and an available StabiliTrak stability control system on Tahoes with the 5300 V8. The braking system has been upgraded for what Chevrolet says is better pedal feel and performance and Tahoes sold in California are now fitted with a new catalytic converter that earns the truck ULEV certification. Deleted items on the Tahoe are minor. No longer standard are third-row floor mats, an underhood light, a 7-to-4 pin trailer brake adapter, an auxiliary door lock switch in the cargo area and a lock for the center console.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: Chevrolet is no newcomer to the sport-ute game; it rolled out its version of a fullsize sport-utility vehicle more than 30 years ago. Its current model, the Tahoe, bowed in 1994. Formerly known as the K-Blazer, the Tahoe was built to be a rough-and-ready, go-anywhere sort of ride. Back when it first emerged, Chevy described it as a "rugged, multi-purpose family vehicle that's at home on and off the road," and the manufacturer has always seen to it that the vehicle is sturdy enough to live up to this promise.

The 2000 model year brought with it a complete redesign for the Tahoe. Its decade-old platform was replaced with a new frame that was stronger and more rigid than previous designs; the ute also got two new V8 engines that provided it with more horsepower than ever before.

For 2003, the Tahoe continues to give drivers more of what has made the vehicle a favorite with those seeking transportation that efficiently handles both on-road and off-road adventures. With a roomy and comfortable interior, it makes a great weekend-getaway machine. If you want a sport-utility that can handle passengers and cargo as well as it does a backcountry road, the 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe should be on your short list.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The base model Tahoe LS boasts standard features like tri-zone climate control, keyless entry, a driver information center, heated outside mirrors, side-mounted assist steps and a programmable HomeLink transmitter for opening garage doors or automatic gates. Uplevel LT models add automatic tri-zone climate control, heated leather seating with eight-way power adjustment and power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators and puddle lamps and adjustable pedals. The Z71 model was designed for improved off-road action, and it offers a specially tuned suspension. Available options (on most trims) include the a towing package, a third-row seat, a sunroof, XM satellite radio and the OnStar communication system. Powertrains and Performance: There are two engines available. The 4.8-liter V8 is standard on the LS, and it offers 275 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the LS and standard on the LT is the 5.3-liter V8 that ups the ante with 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Though certainly not fuel sippers, the two V8s earn better-than-average EPA mileage figures for this type of vehicle. The standard transmission is a 4L-60E four-speed with a two/haul mode for improved performance under heavy loads. Four-wheel-drive models feature an improved version of the push-button Autotrac transfer case that offers better fuel economy when in 2WD and less binding during low-speed maneuvers. The Tahoe can tow up to 7,700 pounds when properly equipped.

Safety: For 2003, the Tahoe has been upgraded with dual-level front airbags, a passenger seat sensing system and the optional StabiliTrak stability control system on models equipped with the 5.3-liter engine. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard. Front-seat side-impact airbags are optional. In front-impact collisions, the 4WD Tahoe scored three out of a possible five stars on the driver side and four out of five on the passenger side in tests administered by the NHTSA. Additionally, the 4WD Tahoe achieved a three-star NHTSA rollover resistance rating, while the 2WD model earned a two-star score. Interior Design and Special Features: The Tahoe's front seats, instrument panel and center console have all been redesigned for 2003. The actual quality of the materials, however, could stand further improvement. Second-row bucket seats are now available when you order leather upholstery, as is a DVD-based entertainment system. An optional 50/50 split third-row seat gives the Tahoe nine-passenger seating capacity. With no third row and the second-row seats folded forward, the Tahoe offers 104 cubic feet of cargo volume. Driving Impressions: Either of the Tahoe's Vortec V8 engines deliver ample power in most situations. Those who pull a trailer often would be wise to opt for the 5.3-liter engine, as it provides a substantial bump in torque despite only 10 additional horsepower compared to the 4.8-liter V8. The suspension delivers a stable, smooth ride, regardless of whether it travels on or off pavement, while the steering is light enough to maneuver the big sport-ute easily in tight situations.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.