2007 Tahoe SUVs show the much refined path of next-generation trucks
By Bruce W. Smith
Photos by author & GM
Back in 1935, when the first Chevy Suburbans rolled off the assembly line and into the hearts of adventuresome owners across the country, no one could imagine that the love of such trucks would endure for more than 70 years.
Today there’re more than 6.5 million full-size SUV owners in the country—and some 41-percent of those are either Chevrolet Suburbans or Tahoes.
It’ll be no surprise to see those numbers make a significant increase as truck-loving consumers get a chance to drive the ’07 Tahoe—the first of GM’s next generation full-size SUVs.
GM engineers somehow managed to take some of the best ride, handling, and performance attributes of Corvettes and Cadillacs and seamlessly blended all those together with the utility attributes that have made Tahoe the best-selling full-size SUV for the past five years. The end result is a smooth, strong, quiet, comfortable and capable SUV for those who need one vehicle to fit family, work, and play.
UNDER FULL CONTROL
For instance, the new Tahoe has a wider stance and a much more refined suspension that makes the ride and handling significantly better than the current model. The new truck also sports rack-and-pinion steering, 17- or 20-inch wheels, and larger disc brakes at all four corners.
Another standard feature on the upscale LTZ models is a state-of-the-art, “Z55 Autoride” suspension derived from the Corvette and sport-model Cadillacs.
The computer-controlled Autoride system delivers instant changes in suspension tuning in response to wheel speed, body position, vehicle speed, steering angle and braking, giving you a super-stable and comfortable ride regardless of terrain or conditions.
An added bonus for those who use an SUV for utility purposes, the suspension also incorporates an air-lift/auto-leveling system that includes an air bladder in the shocks to automatically raise and level the vehicle’s ride height when carrying passengers, a heavy payload, or towing a trailer.
When the load is removed the air is bled from the shocks returning the vehicle to a level ride height.
Combined with GM’s sophisticated StabiliTrak electronic stability control ABS system, which is now standard on all Tahoe models, Autoride gives the new Tahoe a very stable, sure-footed feel on road or off, slippery roads or dry. Even the base suspension found in the LT models is far improved over last year’s Tahoe.
Speaking of significant improvements, the days of the mushy, vague-feeling GM brake pedal feel are also gone.
Step on the pedal in the ’07 Tahoe and the larger disc brakes give the driver the instant braking response one expects more from a sports car than a big SUV. The brake feel is very linear; the moment your foot touches the pedal you feel the brakes begin applying, and the harder you step on the pedal, the faster the new Tahoe slows down.
Such design and engineering changes result in an SUV that drives like a much smaller SUV and delivers the kind of steering response, road feel, handling and braking you’d expect on a smaller sports sedan—not a 5,500-pound, four-wheel-drive SUV.
ECONOMY WITH POWER
Although the 2007 Tahoe isn’t a Corvette or a Cadillac CTS, it comes close in the world of big SUVs. Under the hood is the new “Gen IV” 5.3L V8 that delivers an astounding 320 horsepower—the kind of power that inspires driver confidence under any traffic conditions.
Even better is this new V8 delivers an amazing 20-plus miles-per-gallon (20.1/4WD, 20.5 2WD).
This 2-3mpg jump in mileage over the previous GM engine in the Tahoe comes in large part to the Displacement-On-Demand (DOD) engine technology that seamlessly changes the engine between V8 and V4 depending on throttle position and other variables.
The engine’s transitions between operating modes is so smooth the only way you know what mode the Tahoe’s 5.3L is in is by watching the V4/V8 displayed in the instrument panel.
Sometime in late spring GM will offer the 290hp 4.8L V8, which will be the standard engine the 2WD Tahoe. The smaller V8 is said to deliver 21mpg, making both engines the most economical of any full-size SUV.
The only technical disappointment in the new Tahoe is GM retaining the use of the Hydra-Matic 4L60, 4-speed automatic. They have been touting a much anticipated six-speed automatic in both the new pickups and full-size SUVs for the new models. But hat’s not to be—at least not in the early ’07 Tahoes.
That said, the 4-speed Hydra-Matic feels better than the previous iterations, being a little firmer during shifts, exhibiting far less “hunting” between Drive and Overdrive, and being a little faster to respond on downshifts.
VERY REFINED INTERIOR
With all of the fine changes in the chassis, steering, braking, and power, there’s yet another area of significant improvement and that’s inside the new Tahoe.
First of all, fit and finish is par excellence with gap tolerances between console, dash, and door components on the very same level you’d expect to find in the very best luxury sedans and coupes. That alone is a huge change for any GM truck—pickup or SUV.
Base-model LS versions get a sporty interior with a single-tone, brushed metal look on the upper instrument panel, center stack and door switch plates, while the upscale LT and LTZ models are equipped with classy burl wood-look accents. Add in the low-gloss treatment on all model’s instrument panel and trim pieces and you have the feel of richness rarely, if ever, seen in an SUV.
Then there’s the roominess; if you wear big hats and frequent the Big & Tall, or have a growing family, you’ll feel right at home in the ’07 Tahoe. It feels a lot bigger inside than the exterior suggests.
It begins with little things such as new, thinner and plusher headliner, the way the instrument panel sits lower, and how the center control stack is flat and controls repositioned to give the driver and front passenger more open space. The front seat tracks are an inch longer and recline more, adding a lot more comfort to those with longer legs, and the center console is narrower, yet has more interior storage space.
In the second row there’s more shoulder space wider; and second-row seats flip/fold with ease—and an optional electric switch on the both the overhead console and “C”-pillar can be used to flip/fold them automatically—and industry first.
Third-row seats, which are easily removable, are there for the asking and they actually accommodate adults as well as kids.
Another nice improvement is the upgraded heating, air-conditioning, and climate control system, which is considerably quieter in the mid- and full-force modes than previous versions. Storage capability is also improved with the segment’s largest center console storage bin, a 25-percent larger glove box and additional new storage compartments in which to hide/store goodies.
Chevrolet engineers did an even more commendable job in making the interior the quietest of any SUV n the market. Significant improvements to the chassis, body-to-frame bushings, and sound deadening materials inside and out of the cabin keep noise levels so quiet you can almost hear the digital clock tick as you cruise down the Interstate.
Tahoe also utilizes spray-in expanding foam, mostly in the “A”-pillars, to help reduce noise by filling in space to eliminate sound paths that eventually lead to the occupant’s ears.
The aerodynamically slick body (cd of .363, same as C5 Corvette), with its raked-back windshield, ultra-close fit body panels, all-new front and rear body design, and slipperier side mirrors also lend to reducing wind-induced noise.
GM even went so far in tracking down and eliminating noise-generating culprits that they removed the old vertical whip antennae from the right fender because it was a source of interior noise.
Interior elegance, great ride, superb handling, and all the other things that should make the ’07 a new leader in full-size SUVs means little to those who enjoy boating and th outdoors unless it has both off-pavement and towing capabilities. The new Tahoe doesn’t disappoint.
From your basic utility perspective, the 4WD Tahoe, can tow up to 7,700 pounds—when both trailer and truck are properly equipped. It will also carry 1,763 pounds of payload, which includes both passengers and cargo.
Its off-road capability is enhanced from previous years by the addition of the new coil-over front suspension in both the two- and four-wheel-drive models. The coil-over suspension design helps keep the front tires planted on the ground far better than the torsion-bar IFS of old.
At the rear, Chevrolet offers buyers the option of either a “limited-slip” or a electric “full-locking” differential. The best option for those who live in the country or tow boata and frequent slippery boat ramps is the electric locker with the optional 4.10 axle ratio.
There’s little question the ’07 Tahoe is a far more capable SUV than any previous model.
And if you can’t wait to see the new Tahoe yourself, don’t worry--Chevy dealers should have the new Tahoe on their lots by early January.
The pricing is also impressive. With a base price starting at $33,990 for the LS model equipped with a standard 5.3L engine, it brings the 2007 Tahoe approximately $2,000 below its predecessor. That’s a deal. –Bruce W. Smith
SPECIFICATIONS (from GM)
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe
Note: 3-passenger bench and 2-passenger bucket seats standard or optional depending on the model.