More efficient car-based crossovers make the Chevrolet Tahoe less vital than in the past, but it's still a top pick for a rugged, tow-ready, off-road SUV.
Few SUVs since the mid-1990s have been as popular as the Chevrolet Tahoe. With room for up to nine passengers, V8 power and plenty of available amenities, it's not hard to see why the Tahoe has been a consistent go-to choice for large American families. A smaller, more maneuverable version of the extra-large Chevy Suburban, the Tahoe faced few rivals when it debuted and later helped establish the popularity of full-size SUVs based on truck underpinnings.
Today, however, there are more choices than ever. Large crossovers in particular are more efficient, easier to drive and more versatile inside, owing to their origins as passenger car platforms. The Tahoe remains relevant, though, especially for those who need towing capability or a stout four-wheel-drive system for off-road adventure.
Current Chevrolet Tahoe The Chevrolet Tahoe is a full-size SUV built on a truck platform. Depending on configuration, the Tahoe will accommodate from six to nine passengers and tow up to 8,600 pounds.
Three trim levels are available: LS, LT and Premier. The LS is well-equipped with tri-zone climate control, full power accessories, Bluetooth connectivity, a color display with rearview camera, and three rows of seats, the rearmost folding into the floor. Going with the LT or Premier fills out the standard equipment list with more luxury-oriented items that depending on trim include adaptive magnetic shock absorbers, a power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, power-actuated second- and third-row seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats and an integrated brake controller.
Standard safety equipment includes stability control, front side as well as an innovative front center (between seats) airbag and three-row curtain airbags. Available safety technology includes adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a vibrating safety-alert seat. Options include a navigation system and a rear entertainment system on most models.
Ample power comes from a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The latter is available with either a traditional two-speed transfer case or a single-speed unit without low-range gearing.
In reviews, we've found the Chevy Tahoe to be a capable and comfortable performer with a welcoming, upscale interior. Ride quality is comfortable, and handling is surprisingly composed for what is essentially a pickup truck underneath. Ride comfort deteriorates when equipped with the optional 20- or 22-inch wheels, however, even when fitted with the adaptive suspension and especially when compared against lighter, more maneuverable crossovers.
The cabin redesign and modern connectivity are welcome, and make the Tahoe competitive with its rivals. The integrated fold-flat third-row seat is a long-overdue revision, although it creates an elevated floor into the cargo area. If your primary need is to shuttle several people around town and suburbs, the Tahoe is outshined by most crossovers. But if you need to take several passengers while regularly towing or adventuring off-road with a real four-wheel-drive system, the burly Tahoe still makes a top pick.
Used Chevrolet Tahoe Models The current fourth-generation model was fully redesigned in 2015 with highlights that include added safety and tech features, improved fuel economy and a fold-flat third-row seat. There have been no major changes since but Chevy did add some extra safety features, including forward collision warning (2016) and automatic emergency braking (2017). Note that prior to '17, the Premier trim level was called LTZ.
The third generation of the Chevy Tahoe spanned the 2007-'14 model years. Compared to earlier models, this generation represented a marked improvement in drivability, interior design, materials and build quality.
Initially this Tahoe offered one of two V8s: a 4.8-liter (295 hp) or a 5.3-liter (320 hp). Both engines came with a four-speed automatic transmission, but the 4.8-liter V8 was paired with rear-wheel drive only. For a single year in 2009, a 6.2-liter V8 with 395 hp was available. A six-speed automatic was introduced that year and was fitted to both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s. After that, the Tahoe came exclusively with the 5.3-liter engine and six-speed auto and either RWD or traditional 4WD with low-range gearing.
Trim levels for this 2007-'14 generation were LS, LT and LTZ. Feature content varied somewhat through the years, but typically the LS came with 17-inch wheels, cruise control, stability control, full power accessories, dual-zone climate control and a six-speaker sound system. For a time, the LT model was split into three sublevels: LT1, LT2 and LT3 with progressively more convenience or luxury items such as heated leather seats, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle start, tri-zone automatic climate control and rear parking assist. The LTZ remained the most well-appointed and typically came with 20-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, navigation, ventilated front seats and a premium sound system. Sporadically, Chevrolet also offered an Off-Road package.
This generation also experienced a steady infusion of standard or optional technology. We recommend going with a 2009 or newer model for equipment such as Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port (2010) or hard-drive-based navigation. Other key changes for this generation involved safety feature content. For the 2007 model, side curtain airbags were optional on some trims; front side airbags were unavailable prior to 2010. Another noteworthy change involved the 50/50-split third-row seat, which was optional for 2007 and '08.
Overall, we found this versatile and evolving generation of Chevrolet Tahoe to be a desirable full-size V8-powered SUV. Car-based crossover SUVs became much more popular during this time, and they're worth consideration given the advantages in fuel economy, handling and ride quality. Yet the Tahoe remained a capable and comfortable, if slightly large, daily driver throughout. Our one main criticism involved the Tahoe's third-row seats. At more than 50 pounds each, they were heavy and cumbersome to remove. And when folded inside the truck, they did not offer a flat cargo floor. The third-row seats were also a favorite of smash-and-grab thieves.
The previous-generation Chevrolet Tahoe was built for the 2000-'06 model years. Through most of this period, our editors considered the Tahoe to be one of the best full-size SUVs available. This second-gen Tahoe was a little bit smaller than the third, but it still offered room for up to nine passengers. Two V8 engines were available — either a 275-hp 4.8-liter or a 285-hp 5.3-liter — as were 2WD or 4WD. For most of its history, the model came in LS, Z71 or LT trims. The Z71 was designed for improved off-road performance.
Generally, we liked the V8 power and the truck's maneuverability, but were put off by cheap interior materials and spotty build quality. Shoppers prioritizing safety will want to look for a Tahoe with the optional stability control system; Chevrolet started offering it in the 2003 model year on trucks with the larger V8.
Previous to this was the first-generation Chevrolet Tahoe offered from 1995-'99. It could carry a maximum of six passengers, large amounts of cargo and, best of all, fit in most garages. This was the only generation that offered both two-door and four-door models. The two-door versions were also available with a 180-hp turbodiesel V8 instead of the 255-hp 5.7-liter V8.