- Smooth V8 engine
- Supple ride
- Stout towing capacity
- Good fit and finish
- Can seat up to nine
- Third-row seat doesn't fold into the floor and is less spacious than those of many big crossovers
- No telescoping steering wheel
Full-size, truck-based SUVs are becoming an increasingly rare sight in showrooms, and understandably so. Not many folks really need the immense capabilities of a pure utility vehicle and are thus better served by more space- and fuel-efficient crossovers. However, there are still those who have horse trailers, boats, campers and other heavy things to lug around, plus they often have snow, mud or slippery boat ramps in their lives. And for them, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe makes perfect sense.
A smaller sibling to the massive Suburban, the Tahoe manages to combine broad-shouldered toughness with a refined demeanor, making it a good choice for those who take long road trips with their toys in tow. But even when nothing is hooked up to the trailer hitch, the Tahoe makes for a pleasant way to get around, thanks to its high seating position, excellent outward visibility and quiet, comfortable cabin that can seat up to nine passengers.
Within its segment, the 2013 Chevy Tahoe compares well to the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia. The Expedition offers a more practical stow-away third seat but has less towing capacity. The Sequoia is the Tahoe's most serious competitor, with a similar mix of performance and utility.
However, if carrying passengers is more important than towing, a large crossover SUV such as the Chevy Traverse or Ford Flex could be a more practical choice. These vehicles promise better on-road handling, superior fuel economy and more flexible interior arrangements.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2013
For 2013, the Chevrolet Tahoe is essentially unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe is available in three trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ. The Tahoe Hybrid is reviewed separately. Eight seats are standard, but there are two optional seating arrangements: second-row captain's chairs drop the count to seven and an available 40/20/40 front bench seat increases it to nine.
The base Tahoe LS comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone manual climate control, six-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), a 60/40-split second-row seat and 50/50-split removable third-row seat. Also standard are Bluetooth, OnStar and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, rear audio controls, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. An optional Convenience package includes power-adjustable pedals, remote ignition, rear parking assist and a rearview camera system.
LT models include most available LS equipment plus foglamps, a locking rear differential, tri-zone automatic climate control, driver memory functions, leather upholstery and a nine-speaker Bose sound system. Available options for the LT include second-row captain's chairs 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 the captain's chairs as standard equipment and add 20-inch wheels, an upgraded air suspension, heated and ventilated 12-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel, power flip-and-fold second-row seats, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with digital music storage. The second-row split bench seat is still optional. LTZ options include power-retractable assist steps and a blind-spot warning system.
Optional on the LT and LTZ is the Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package, which includes a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system. On the LT, it also includes the navigation system. A Trailering package and a variety of 20- and 22-inch wheels are also optional on the Tahoe.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Tahoe's cabin features an attractive design supported with high-quality fit and finish, including wood trim on the LTZ model. The control layout is straightforward and the switchgear operation is intuitive. Large front seats provide comfort and support for long drives, 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-folding third-row seat. The 50/50 split rear bench seats are heavy, awkward to remove and must be stored elsewhere to open up the cargo area to its full 109 cubic feet of storage capacity. With the third seat in place, there's barely 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seat. If maximum passenger space isn't a priority, the Tahoe can be had with bucket seats in the middle row.
Standard safety equipment on the 2013 Chevy Tahoe includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. 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 government crash safety tests, the Tahoe earned an overall rating of four stars (out of five), with five stars for overall frontal-impact crash protection and five stars for overall side-impact crash protection. Its three-star rollover rating contributed to its lower overall score. 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.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
All 2013 Chevrolet Tahoes come 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 (not available on LTZ).
In Edmunds testing a Tahoe hit 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds -- average for a full-size SUV. 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.
Fully loaded with cargo and passengers, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe weighs more than 3 tons. But the spirited V8 engine provides energetic acceleration, and the suspension is supple enough to yield a compliant and cushioned ride. LTZ buyers get the Autoride suspension that features variable shock damping and air-assisted load-leveling, which is quite useful when towing. The steering isn't particularly responsive in terms of handling, but on the plus side, the Tahoe's tight 39-foot turning circle makes it reasonably maneuverable in town.
While some large crossovers and minivans can seat up to eight people, the Tahoe's main attraction for a vehicle this size is its towing and off-road ability. Family boats, extra cars and small horse trailers easily fall within the Tahoe's maximum towing capacity when it's properly equipped. Also, the Z71 off-road package includes upgraded shocks, more aggressive tires, skid plates and an automatic locking rear differential, all of which increase driver confidence in off-pavement situations such as ski roads, muddy rodeo grounds or campground trails.
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe deserves strong consideration if you're shopping for a large, traditional SUV with impressive towing capacity. But for pure passenger use, a large crossover might work out better.