For some of us, the reason behind buying an SUV is as much emotional as it is rational. There are great numbers of Americans who will only drive a Ford or a Chevy or a Dodge and who would sooner eat burning coals than own anything else. And then there are those of us who gaze up at these two-ton beasts, scratch our heads and mutter, "what's the difference?" In the case of the Chevy Tahoe, the answer is "a great deal."
The Tahoe is a shortened version of the legendary Chevrolet Suburban. It offers most of the design elements and creature comforts of its big brother, minus about 22-inches in length. That's a fact you'll come to appreciate when you have to park your Tahoe in a tight space. The Tahoe shares something else with the Suburban: its stylish good looks. From its smooth sheetmetal to its flush side glass to its handsome interior appointments, the Tahoe conveys the style and feel of a much more upscale SUV.
There are two trim levels within the Tahoe line: the LS and LT. Both can be ordered with either 2WD or 4WD. The LS comes standard with a 4.8-liter V8 engine that makes 275 horsepower. Optional on the LS and standard on the LT is a the 5.3-liter V8 that makes just ten more horsepower but has significantly more torque; a must if towing heavy loads is part of your normal routine. When equipped with the larger V8, the 2WD Tahoe is tow rated at 7700 lbs.; the 4WD is rated at 8100 lbs. Both V8 engines have excellent power-to-weight ratios and provide the Tahoe with plenty of muscle to get up and go; they also achieve a pretty respectable fuel rating. On the open highway, our 4WD LT returned an average of 18 mile per gallon.
The steering response and brake feel of the 2002 Tahoe has been greatly improved compared to that of the prior generation. These re-engineered systems bolster the driver's feeling of being connected to the road, which in turn engenders an added feeling of confidence and security. Unlike many truck-based SUVs, the Tahoe feels very composed on the road. It's easy to navigate and handles particularly well for its sizeeven when executing quick lane changes. You'll also appreciate the excellent visibility afforded by the Tahoe's large glass green house.
Space is the one commodity that SUV buyers need most and the Tahoe has it in spades. With seating for up to 9 people, the Tahoe can certainly carry its fair share of passengers. Remove the third-row seat and the Tahoe can still carry 6 people, while providing up to 63.6 cubic feet of cargo room for their luggage. If you need the Tahoe to pull double duty as a pickup truck, you might take note that the total cargo volume with all the seats removed is whopping 104.6 cubic feet. More than enough for hauling home that new entertainment system.
A standard Tahoe LS 2WD with no additional equipment starts at $33,400 while a fully-loaded Tahoe LT can easily exceed the $40K mark. To be fair, even the base model comes very well equipped and includes power windows and door locks, air conditioning, six-way power driver and passenger seat, automatic day/night mirror, AM/FM stereo with CD, fog lights, 16-inch wheels and lots and lots of cup holders.