Change is progress. Does it then follow that stasis is regression? With the exception of a few new colors, the 2013 Chevy Tahoe is the same as the 2012, which was the same as the 2011, which was the same as every Tahoe back to 2007. The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LTZ carries a base price of $53,295 ($57,100 as tested), with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA estimates of 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway. Tahoe competes with GM stablemate GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition, Honda Pilot, Nissan Armada and Dodge Durango/Jeep Grand Cherokee. Let’s drive.
GM's current full-size SUV and pickup truck lineup are all built on the same platform, known at General Motors as "GMT900." The underlying structure of the Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and Silverado also underlies the GMC Yukon and Sierra, as well as the Cadillac Escalade. That's one of the ways that a big manufacturer like General Motors saves money, both in engineering costs to develop the platform and in manufacturing costs during the life of the platform. It makes good sense. But it also leads to a very slow schedule of change, because making changes in the platform has wide-ranging repercussions. So, vehicles built on a common platform tend to remain the same for a long time.
Luckily, GMT900 is a pretty good platform. It is a robust, body-on-frame, classic SUV and pickup truck setup. I've also found over the years that GMT900 vehicles are among the most fun to drive of the full-size SUVs, with surprisingly good handling and great chassis rigidity. The 2013 Tahoe upholds the GMT900 legacy, with smooth cornering, precise steering and excellent composure for a big vehicle.
The GMT900's big flaw as an SUV platform is the third row, and the flaw is especially pronounced in the Tahoe (as opposed to the longer-wheelbase Suburban). There's just 16.9 cubic feet of space behind the third row, and that space is barely deep enough for a grocery bag, let alone a piece of luggage. That means that if you're carrying enough passengers to need the third row, you won't have enough space for their luggage. To make matters worse, the third row does not fold flat or disappear into the floor, which means that you've got this big lump of seat taking up cargo space even when no one's sitting in the third row. The third row of seats is removable, but each half of the split seat weighs 40 lbs, which is no fun to wrestle in and out of the garage. Add to that the recent rash of third row seat thefts afflicting GMT900 vehicles across the country, and you've got a real deal breaker.
Tahoe comes with just one engine choice, a 5.3-liter V8 hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque match well with the 5,448 - 5,567 lb Tahoe, providing more than adequate acceleration under most conditions. Towing capacity is up to 8,500 lbs, and the beefy frame can handle the load. This is a serious truck. There's even a Police version of the Tahoe taking up the slack for the recently departed body-on-frame police sedans.
The novelty of driving around in a big SUV may finally be wearing off of the American public, especially when crossover vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave, Ford Explorer and forthcoming Nissan Pathfinder can carry as many passengers in comfort with much better fuel economy.
If you really need the towing capacity and robust abilities of a body-on-frame SUV, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe has got the muscle and grit to do the job. Just be sure that you really need to do that job yourself -- and that a little outsourcing might not be in order.
- Robust construction.
- Sharp handling.
- Excellent towing capacity.
- Third row takes up cargo space, attracts thieves.
- Lack of change.
- Fuel economy can't compete with crossovers.
Details and specs:
- Base prices: $40,075 (LS 2WD); $44,135 (LS 4WD); $45,225 (LT 2WD); $48,075 (LT 4WD); $54,290 (LTZ 2WD); $57,395 (LTZ 4WD)
- Engine: 5.3-liter V8
- Horsepower: 320 @ 5,400
- Torque: 335 @ 4,000 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway
- Wheelbase: 116.0" Vehicle Length: 202.0" Width: 79.0" Height: 76.9"
- Curb Weight: 5,448 lbs (2WD); 5,567 lbs (4WD)
- Cargo: 16.9 cubic feet behind third row; 60.3 cubic feet behind second row (third row removed); 108.9 cubic feet behind first row (second row folded, third row removed).
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic; 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain