2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

Rating

80/100

Background

With its old-school, truck-based design and cutting-edge amenities, the 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the rare vehicles on the market with one foot solidly planted in the past and one in the future.
Coming off a major redo just last year, the Chevy Tahoe benefits from improvements including a quieter and much higher-quality interior and a third-row seat that folds flat into the floor, a significant convenience feature it’s been lacking for years (there’s a caveat to this progress, but we’ll get to that later). This is, of course, in addition to the reasons buyers look to traditional SUVs in the first place. The Tahoe boasts a 355-horsepower V8, four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, seating for as many as nine passengers and a healthy 8,600-pound haul rating.

With its strong V8 engine and long list of comfort and convenience features, there’s a lot to like about the 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe.
With so much going for it, there’s no shortage of reasons the Tahoe is so popular. However, there are significant detriments — and not just those indicative of any full-size truck-based SUV, such as ponderous handling and low fuel economy relative to large crossovers. That aforementioned fold-flat third row is a cheat of sorts, as its placement above the solid rear axle raises the cargo floor to an almost absurdly high level. Lifting luggage into the Tahoe is difficult, especially if you’re short. The third row itself also only has enough legroom for small kids, whereas its competitors (and those large crossovers) can fit adults comfortably.
As a result of these issues, the Tahoe receives an SUVS.com "C" rating and we highly recommend that shoppers consider its top SUV rivals: the 2016 Ford Expedition and 2016 Toyota Sequoia. One would also be smart to consider large crossovers like Chevrolet’s own Traverse as well as the Dodge Durango and Honda Pilot. There’s still an awful lot to like about the Tahoe, but we think that others get the job done better.

Drive

The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe’s standard 5.3-liter V8 has more than enough muscle to move people, cargo or a good-sized trailer without really breaking a sweat. The 6-speed automatic proves to be a good match for this engine, whether you’re accelerating away from a stoplight or cruising down the freeway. The interior’s low noise levels only add to this sense of quiet competence.
If there’s a problem with this powertrain, it’s the way Chevy’s engineers have tailored its throttle response in an effort to boost fuel economy. Simply put, there is an uncomfortable delay when stepping on the gas both from a stop and at speed. It’s frustrating and implies a feeling of lackluster performance that’s not actually the case.

The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe’s drive can be overly bumpy and trucklike, though the LTZ, with its special suspension, fares better.
In terms of drive and handling, the suspension under the LS and LT models tends to transmit even the smallest road imperfections to the passengers’ backsides (especially with big 20- and 22-inch wheels). The LTZ model’s adaptive suspension largely eliminates this complaint and delivers superior handling to boot. The electric-assisted power steering feels precise, something that’s very welcome when piloting a car this size. Even so, we need to point out that a large car-based crossover SUV is going to drive and handle better, as well as be easier to maneuver in parking lots and on tight streets.

Exterior

The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe is a full-size SUV available in three trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ. Seating for eight is standard, but there are two optional seating arrangements. Second-row captain’s chairs drop the seating capacity to seven, and an available 40/20/40-split front bench seat increases capacity to nine passengers.
The entry-level Tahoe LS comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, an integrated driver blind spot mirror, side assist steps, roof rails, rear privacy glass, rear parking sensors, cruise control, remote ignition, tri-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, power front seats (eight-way driver seat and four-way passenger seat, both with two-way power lumbar), a 60/40-split-fold second-row bench seat, a 50/50-split fold-flat third-row seat and a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel. Also standard are Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, the Chevrolet MyLink interface (which includes an 8-inch touchscreen, voice control, smartphone app integration, text-to-voice capability for MAP-enabled smartphones, Siri Eyes Free capability and Apple CarPlay for newer iPhones), a rearview camera, an enhanced OnStar package with a 4G LTE connection that provides WiFi hotspot connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radios, a CD player, an auxiliary sound jack, five USB ports (two with the front bench seat), a media player interface and an SD card slot.
If you want nine-passenger capacity, you’ll need to go with the LS model, as the optional 40/20/40-split front bench seat is only available on this trim level. For the Tahoe LS, the Enhanced Driver Alert package includes automatic high-beam headlight control, power-adjustable pedals, forward collision warning, lane-departure intervention and a vibrating safety-alert seat.
The LT model includes the Enhanced Driver Alert package as standard and adds a locking rear differential (also available on LS), a power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver memory functions, an eight-way power front passenger seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a nine-speaker Bose sound system.
Second-row captain’s chairs (power- or manual-release) are optional for the LT. The Sun, Entertainment and Destination option package includes a sunroof, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-ray DVD player. The Luxury package gets you foglights, front parking sensors, a hands-free power liftgate, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, heated second-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, power adjustment and heating for the steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and wireless charging for compatible smartphones. The Z71 Off-Road package is available on four-wheel-drive LT models and includes 18-inch alloy wheels with off-road tires, an upgraded suspension, skid plates, foglights, front and rear parking sensors, hill descent control, a high-capacity air cleaner and assorted Z71-specific trim pieces.
To the LT’s standard equipment, the LTZ adds the contents of the LT Luxury package plus 20-inch alloy wheels, a magnetic adaptive suspension, xenon headlights, ventilated front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and an upgraded 10-speaker Bose sound system. As on the LT, the Sun, Entertainment and Destination packages are optional. Other LTZ options include power-retracting assist steps, a head-up display and adaptive cruise control.
A Max Trailering package is available across all trim levels and includes specific gearing, a trailer-brake controller and air suspension with increased load capacity and leveling. And, of course, no full-size modern SUV would be complete without a variety of available 20- and 22-inch wheels.

Interior

The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe’s cabin design and quality are substantially nicer than those of the previous generation. The look is handsome and the materials have a more upscale look and feel. Gauges and controls — which can be reconfigured on upper trim levels — are easy to read and intuitive to use. The graphics on the central 8-inch display screen are crisp and the menu-based commands are easy to navigate, and this year’s new Apple CarPlay smartphone integration system is a cool feature. That said, there’s sometimes a noticeable lag in the response time of the MyLink system’s touchscreen.

Aside from a cramped third-row seat, the Chevy Tahoe’s passenger cabin is attractive and comfortable.
Up front, most buyers will find the seats plenty cozy even on long drives, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel on the base LS model may make it harder for some drivers to find an optimal seating position. The second row, be it a bench or captain’s chairs, is just as cozy and spacious as you’d expect in such a large vehicle. The third row, however, is a different story. The available power-folding feature is handy, but the seat’s low mounting position means anyone over the age of 12 is likely to find their knees tucked up under their chin.
When folded, the resulting load floor may be flat and you no longer have to lug a big, heavy seat out of the back, but it’s quite high. Loading luggage or strollers can be difficult. As for cargo capacity, the Tahoe is disappointing given its exterior size. Behind the third-row seats you’ll find just 15.3 cubic feet of space; fold those third-row seats down and you’ll have a relatively meager 51.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row, which is considerably worse than that of midsize crossovers. Fold both of those rows of seats down and you end up with 94.7 cubic feet, which is less than other full-size SUVs and the Chevy Traverse crossover, which maxes out at 116 cubic feet.

Safety

Standard safety equipment on the 2016 Chevy Tahoe includes antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control (with trailer-sway control), front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. An airbag located between the front bucket seats (when so equipped) is also standard and aids in side-impact crashes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen car assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard on every Tahoe.
Depending on the trim level, front parking sensors, forward collision alert, lane-departure intervention, a vibrating safety-alert seat, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring are either optional or standard.
In SUVS brake testing, a four-wheel-drive Tahoe LTZ came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 126 feet, while a two-wheel-drive LT stopped in 121 feet. Both are short distances for vehicles in this class.
In government crash tests, the 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe received four out of five possible stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.

Specs

The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe comes fitted with a 5.3-liter V8 engine that generates 355 hp and 383 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel or four-wheel drive is available, and a 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard on all Tahoes. The four-wheel-drive Tahoe has a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing.
Properly equipped, the maximum haul rating for the two-wheel-drive Tahoe is 8,600 pounds; max haul rating for four-wheel-drive versions is 8,400 pounds.
In SUVS testing, a four-wheel-drive Tahoe LTZ hit 60 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds, while a two-wheel-drive LT did it in 7.1 seconds. These are solid times, but the Sequoia is a bit faster and the Expedition is nearly a second quicker. The EPA’s estimated fuel economy is quite good for a full-size SUV at 18 miles per gallon combined regardless of driveline (16 city/23 highway for two-wheel-drive models and 16/22 for four-wheel drive).

Value

Stout towing capacity; available nine-person seating capacity; quiet highway ride; extraordinary interior quality.

Verdict

Though the 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe is better than this popular model has ever been, competitor SUVs are more spacious and mechanically sophisticated. Large crossover SUVs are also easier to drive and more efficient.

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