2009 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 4WDPosted on March 21st, 2009
Full-sized sport-utility vehicle with off-road capability
By Nina Russin
General Motors’ forte is full-sized trucks. Engineers on the Chevrolet Tahoe melded Corvette engine technology with a robust body structure. As a result, the truck handles like a passenger car, but is durable enough to tow trailers and go off-road.
Although Chevrolet is a value brand, the Tahoe is an expensive truck. The LTZ grade tested starts at $50,900. But buyers get a lot for their money: a 5.6-liter V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case, and 8200-pound towing capacity.
The test car comes with an optional 395-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 that is flex-fuel capable. Average fuel economy is 14 miles-per-gallon: about what one would expect from a 7300-pound truck. My highway fuel economy was substantially better than the EPA estimate of 19 miles-per-gallon.
The upscale LTZ comes standard with twenty-inch wheels: more conducive to fashion than off-road driving. Standard roof rails and cross bars make it easy to load large cargo up top. Running boards and a rear bumper pad ease access to the roof rack.
The Tahoe is easier to maneuver than its size suggests: it has excellent steering feedback and a small enough turning radius to make U-turns easy. Engineers have fixed the spongy brakes of former models. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking on the test car stop the Tahoe in a firm, linear fashion.
An optional rear back-up camera that comes with the entertainment package ($4,790) helps the driver avoid obstacles below his rear sight-line. I’d recommend it to any parents of small children as a safety feature. There is also a standard obstacle detection system that sounds an audible warning.
Visibility is good to either side, with minimal interference from the Tahoe’s B and C-pillars. Side view mirrors do a good job of compensating for blind spots to the rear.
Active fuel management conserves fuel by cutting out half the engine cylinders when power demands are low. It works so well that the driver would be hard-pressed to determine when the engine shifts between modes of operation.
Standard Autoride suspension on the LTZ adjusts suspension settings and shock damping according to driving conditions. The system also has an auto-leveling function when the Tahoe is towing a trailer.
A two-speed transfer case provides the low gears necessary for off-road driving. The driver can switch between two-wheel drive and the two, four-wheel drive modes using a rotary knob next to the steering wheel.
Standard Stabilitrak and traction control prevent the driver from losing directional control due to wheel spin or excessive yaw. Other standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Slow-down feature deters would-be thieves
If the wrong person gets behind the wheel, OnStar automatically slows down the vehicle and brings it to a stop. The standard concierge system also includes turn-by-turn navigation, and automatic notification of police and medical personnel if the airbags deploy.
Living room on wheels
Captains chairs in the test car seat up to six passengers. Adults will find seating in the first two rows comfortable. Each row sits slightly higher than the one ahead to give passengers a clear forward view. The disadvantage of theater-style seating is that it limits legroom in the third row, where it’s already at a premium.
Although the Tahoe is a big truck, designers kept in mind that the drivers would often be small women. Adjustable pedals and running boards make it easier for women to enter and exit the car. The passenger-side A-pillar and both B-pillars also have assist handles.
Redundant audio and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The driver and front passenger get heated and cooled seats: second-row seats have heaters on the LTZ.
All passengers have plenty of cup and bottle holders at their disposal, as well as bins for storing everything from maps to electronic devices. Two twelve-volt power points in the base of the center stack recharge electronic devices on the go. Two additional twelve-volt outlets are located in the center console bin and cargo area.
Tri-zone climate controls keep passengers comfortable in temperature extremes. There are four ceiling vents to help circulate air in back.
A rear seat entertainment system is part of an option package that also includes the audio upgrade, navigation, power sunroof and rearview camera.
Buttons on the overhead console collapse the second-row seats and flip them forward to open up the cargo area. Third-row seats fold flat using levers in the seatbacks and bottoms.
Power liftgate controls make it easier to load in large cargo. The rear glass can open separately from the liftgate for loading in smaller items.
Roof rails and crossbars are standard on the LTZ model.
The Tahoe LTZ comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, stability and traction control.
While it isn’t the car for everyone, the Chevrolet Tahoe is a good choice for families on the go. It has enough passenger space for carrying kids to soccer practice, and enough cargo capacity for the family road trip.
Its four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case makes the Tahoe capable of serious off-road driving. The Tahoe has the towing capacity and self-leveling capability to haul large trailers and boats. Standard safety features together with OnStar ensure that all passengers are well-protected along the way.
Chevrolet produces the Tahoe at its Arlington, Texas assembly plant.
Likes: A comfortable, versatile sport-utility vehicle with seating for six passengers, a high level of standard safety, and true-off road capability.
Dislikes: Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel were hard to use while driving.
Model: Tahoe 4WD LTZ
Base price: $50,900
As tested: $57,335
Horsepower: 395 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 417 lbs.-ft. @ 4300 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 12/19 mpg city/highway
Comments: The model tested is E85 compatible.
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