By Clayton Seams, Driving.ca – It was one of those blizzards where the snow mimics the view outside the Millennium Falcon as it goes warp speed and the stars blur. The ditch was lined with cars less fortunate, and the worried voice on the radio urged people to stay off the roads if at all possible. Hitched behind me was 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) worth of double-axle trailer and muscle car.
There wasn’t a place in the world I’d rather be. That’s because my lucky behind was plopped in the driver’s seat of a 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ. Not only was said behind heated by the comfy leather seat, but far underneath that seat sat a capable 4WD system, self-leveling rear air suspension and a torque 5.3-litre V8 to power it all. I don’t like towing trailers in the snow, but if you had to do it, this is one of the best choices.
This kind of foul-weather, heavy-hauling worst-case-scenario is where the massive Tahoe excels. It feels cumbersome on tiny city streets, like an elephant being walked on a leash through a living room. It has a remarkably small turning circle for its size and the sight lines over the dashboard are good, but thanks to the high belt line and small rear window, reverse parking is a graceless manoeuvre that involves squinting out the rear window and shamelessly relying on the rear-view camera, hoping that there are no unseen obstacles. This is not an easy vehicle to park.
The Tahoe is happiest on the highway, there the six-speed automatic allows the V8 to chug along at a whiff over 1,500 rpm. The ride on the highway is superb for something with a 10,000-pound towing capacity, and the sound insulation is better than many luxury cars.
Of course, that should almost be expected as the fully loaded tester costs a luxurious $82,900. Loading up a Tahoe with this many options gets you close to the price neighbourhood of the GMC Yukon Denali, with its superior 6.2-litre V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. But the interior of the Tahoe LTZ is sumptuously appointed with nearly flawless attention to ergonomics, and all cheap plastics are well hidden from the driver’s normal view. The premium Bose sound system is impressive and the interior is littered with USB ports. Yes, it’s a lot of money but it feels like every penny of it.
You’re going to need a lot of money to fuel this thing, too. Driving like an absolute saint at a steady 105 km/h, the big Tahoe achieved a mere 13.8 L/100km. When towing a 2,270-kg trailer, the mileage dropped to a truly dismal 21.4 L/100km.
My own 1999 Suburban averages 12.4 L/100 km on the highway and returns about 23.5 L/100km when towing a 2,270-kg trailer. I know the 2017 Tahoe makes much more power and has 4WD, but that’s not a huge improvement for an 18-year gap.
I grew up in a Chevrolet Suburban household. My father owned in succession a 1975, 1983 and a 1999 Suburban, the latter of which I bought from him and still own and drive today. After an entire life spent riding in the back of Suburbans, which are just long-wheelbase Tahoes, I’ve always though the newer models felt smaller inside despite growing outwardly.
Compared to a 1998 Tahoe, the 2017 model is 11.2 centimetres longer and 9.4 cm wider. The two are within 1.5 cm of each other in height, and yet the 2017 model has a 22 percent smaller cargo area than the 1998 model. Stronger pillars for rollover protection and more airbags have exacted their toll on interior space.
Part of the problem lies with the third-row seats. They have an ingenious (and very entertaining) motor system that allows them to fold flat at the touch of a button. The seats fold, but at the cost of a low, flat loading floor. A removable third-row seat would offer better flexibility between seating capacity and cargo space.
The Tahoe is a flawed creation, but it remains one of the best bridges between a full-size pickup and an SUV. It offers real-truck towing capacity, 4WD and extremely comfortable seating for seven. I’d like to see more efficient interior packaging, but otherwise the Tahoe impresses on all fronts.
Pros: Excellent interior materials, real truck-spec capabilities.
Cons: Fuel use, interior volume, giant chrome wheels make ride more harsh than it needs to be.
Value for money: Good
What I would change: Smaller chrome wheels, removable third-row seat
How I would spec it: Fully loaded LTZ trim with 4WD and that great maroon paint.