May 25, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 16 February 2012 15:58
Potential — that’s what the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe is all about. Potential to tow a heavy boat or horse trailer; potential to plow through snow banks that would stop lesser trucks in their tracks; potential to clamber up a steep woodland trail. This is the truck whose capabilities you may hope you never need … but then again, you never know.
The Tahoe, like its even larger cousin, the Suburban, is a throwback in a world of crossover SUVs. Today’s crossovers trade ruggedness for riding comfort, tolerable fuel economy and maybe a smidgen more cargo room. The Tahoe is a body-on-frame truck with a robust yet refined suspension, high- and low-range gearing, all-wheel drive and 9.1 inches of ground clearance.
It’s no surprise the Tahoe does well what it’s always done well — brush aside the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at it, and handle itself capably off-road. What may bring some drivers up short is its civilized demeanor on pavement. Indeed, with just one important exception — fuel economy — this Tahoe exhibits a crossover personality.
Preparing for a Sunday drive across Connecticut and back, we expected our 2012 Tahoe LTZ to be thirsty, bouncy and ungainly. It was just one of the three. Fuel economy came up well short of the EPA-estimated 21 mpg on the highway; the gauge consistently read between 16 and 17. The Tahoe is rated at 15 mpg in the city. People who do a lot of city driving can opt for the hybrid version, which reportedly delivers 20 mpg in town, 23 on the open road.
The 320-horsepower V-8 is smooth, strong and quiet, and the six-speed automatic transmission provides drama-free shifting. Best of all, the ride is composed, the handling predictable. The Tahoe closes the gap between burly trucks and lithe crossovers, but with a higher driving position and all that aforementioned potential.
The biggest surprise was the third seat in this seven-passenger SUV. (Equipped with three bench seats, the Tahoe can transport as many as nine people.) Kids loved watching movies on the optional entertainment system while sitting back there because of the high, theater-like seating. But even adults found the third seat accommodating. When was the last time you heard of an adult being comfortable in an SUV’s third seat? This may be the first time.
The Tahoe isn’t priced like a crossover, however. Our top-of-the-line Tahoe LTZ with a $2,435 Sun & Entertainment Package, plus two smaller options, had a sticker price of $59,135. The base LS, with the same engine and transmission, but rear-wheel rather than all-wheel drive, starts at $38,530.
With its large size, and familiar Chevrolet personality, the Tahoe felt safe and secure. And, to return to the subject of potential, you can even go a long way on a tankful of gasoline — at the maximum highway mileage, a whopping 546 miles, if you’re willing to put almost $100 worth of $3.75-a-gallon fuel into the Tahoe’s 26-gallon tank before starting out.
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8, 320 horsepower, 335 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: All-wheel, 2-speed transfer case
Weight: 5,448 lb.
Suspension: Short- and long-arm front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 9.1 inches
Wheels: 20-inch by 8.5-inch polished alloy
Tires: P275/55R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 16.9 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 108.9 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 8,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
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