- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

It was Virginia’s winding two-lane roads that hooked me.

After leaving behind the traffic and congestion of the Washington Beltway, it was in the nearby rural countryside that my heart was captured by the driving dynamics of a conveyance still mired in the social consciousness of size, fuel economy and crash compatibility.

General Motors would tell you that 40 percent of its current Tahoe owners use their vehicle to transport children; 50 percent haul tools, appliances and other large goods; 24 percent carry sporting gear, such as bikes, canoes and equipment that requires a trailer; and that nearly 80 percent say they “sometimes or frequently” encounter harsh weather.

But, I would tell you that the all-new 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe has improved performance, better looks and ease of operation, more upscale amenities, and near-luxury driving dynamics.

All automakers tout the advantages of their new models. It’s easy to get swept up in what “they” say. The folks who have re-engineered and redesigned the new 2007 Tahoe, along with their marketing and PR staff, waxed proudly to the automotive press recently gathered to try out their new big cheese, designed to ferry up to nine riders and haul up to 8,000 pounds, in its 4WD version. It was no surprise, especially since GM’s newest mousetrap has been crafted in hopes to catch a sizeable portion of the 6.5 million full-size SUV owners scrambling along the roads of America today — a group that represents some 750,000 units in annualized sales. And, in this collective, the Chevrolet Tahoe has been the best-selling runabout since 2001, claiming some 26 percent of full-sized sales. When added to the catch of the longer-wheelbased Suburban model, the total is 41 percent of all full-sized SUV registrations in the U.S.

A truer test of a new mousetrap, however, is to listen to what our colleagues say — those who drive dozens of new models back-to-back each year. But, ultimately, it’s not until we sit behind the wheel, maneuver the adjustable pedals and align the steering wheel for our precise ergonomic needs and motor through city traffic and along back roads that we can truly say what we think. In this case, we agree with the GM-speak. The new Tahoe is a delightful blend of “living larger” and “driving smaller.”

The new Tahoe is available in either 2- or 4WD, and is offered in three trim levels. Base LS models come with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine aligned to a four-speed automatic transmission; 17-inch alloy wheels; four-wheel disc brakes with ABS; dual-zone climate control; heated and power exterior mirrors; six-way power driver’s seat; tire pressure monitoring; cruise control; tinted glass; and GM’s Stabilitrak traction control system.

The popular, high-volume LT line arrives with the same power plant and standard equipment as the base model, and comes in three versions. LT-1 equipment includes steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise adjustment; rear seat audio controls with headphone jacks; halogen fog lights; and body-colored mirrors, moldings and door handles. LT-2 treatment adds dual-zone automatic air conditioning; power-adjustable pedals; remote starting; leather seating surfaces; a six-disc CD changer; rear park assist; and a garage-door opener. The premium LT-3 packaging yields 12-way driver’s seat power adjustment; driver’s seat memory and heating; front passenger-seat power adjustment; along with a nine-speaker Bose audio system and XM Satellite radio.

At the top end, LTZ luxury models get the same powertrain as other editions, along with 20-inch polished wheels; heated windshield washer fluid; rain-sensing wipers; heated second-row seats; standard third-row seating; power lift gate; locking rear differential; and load-leveling rear suspension.

Numerous options are available, including rear seat entertainment, satellite navigation, a power sunroof, power running boards, rearview camera and second-row leather bucket seats.

Base and midlevel models may also be optioned with features found standard on better-equipped LT and LTZ Tahoes, including 20-inch wheels. (A 4.8-liter engine will become available on base and LT editions after the mid year.)

What you’ll notice first when getting into the new 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe is the ease of getting behind the wheel, or sit in the many passenger seats, including the easy-access, third-row seating achieved by simply flipping a button on the second-row seats. Next, you’ll find improved room in this bright and airy cabin with sculpted trim to provide more elbow and knee space; longer travel in the seats; a huge storage bin, a 25 percent larger glove box, and increased cargo-carrying room in the rear.

Motoring is where the fun begins. Top awards go to the Tahoe’s great new brakes and its rack-and-pinion steering. This new system carves turns in a manner more befitting true luxury models. Tahoe’s suspension maintains an impressive balance between stiffness and compliance and responds to steering input and road surfaces with well-engineered ease to mitigate varying conditions and driving dynamics. Also, of note. If you’re traveling with a passenger, you’ll quickly notice the quietness of the interior, which helps make everyday conversations happen with ease.

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