Experts say the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe (Base MSRP: $38,530 to $55,850) embodies the strengths that make large SUVs attractive: a powerful V8, big towing capacity and seating for up to eight passengers. Interior quality impresses most reviewers, especially when compared to Chevy truck interiors of the past. Although ride quality and handling are good, the 2012 Toyota Sequoia (Base MSRP: $40,930 to $61,805) edges the Tahoe as the best reviewed large SUV, because the Toyota excels in these and a few other key areas. Engine and transmission upgrades were added to the Tahoe in the 2009 model year, and unfortunately there are relatively few reviews of the Tahoe after that. The 2012 GMC Yukon (Base MSRP: $39,860 to $57,780) is essentially the same vehicle as the 2012 Tahoe.
Reviewers single out the 2012 Tahoe's engine as a strong point. The Chevrolet TahoeÔs 5.3-liter V8 produces 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Kelley Blue Book says the engine is "more than capable of moving the fully-loaded vehicle without bogging down."
ConsumerGuide.com agrees, saying the Tahoe has "fine power from any speed." In default configuration, the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe has a towing capacity of 5,500 pounds, but an available heavy-duty towing package increases that to 8,500 pounds with two-wheel drive and 8,200 pounds with four-wheel drive. Reviewers are nearly unanimous in their admiration of the Tahoe's towing chops.
Fuel economy is predictably poor compared to most vehicles but decent given the Tahoe's size and competition. The 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe gets an estimated 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg according to the EPA (with either two or four-wheel drive). This is about par for the course for a vehicle of this size with this space and tow capacity.
Critics generally like the Tahoe's road manners, especially when considering its size and truck platform. Edmunds.com says the suspension "is supple enough to yield a compliant and cushioned ride," and editors go on to say that the optional variable shock dampening suspension with load-leveling is a boon for towing. They also note, as other reviewers do, that the 39 foot turning circle makes the Tahoe more maneuverable than expected for a vehicle of its size. A few more critical reviewers claim that the ride quality can get a bit jittery on less-than-ideal road surfaces. Otherwise, handling is decent for a vehicle of its size, but handling and agility still resemble that of a large truck. Reviewers cite a lack of steering feel as well, but that's not generally expected in this class of vehicle.
The interior fares well in the eyes of most critics. Fit-and-finish is generally commendable, though a few reviewers are disappointed by the interior quality considering the lofty price tags of the most expensive trim levels. Placement and design of gauges and controls are well-executed. While the third-row seats have split folding capability, they can't fold entirely flat into the floor as they do on many other large SUVs -- a shortcoming in the eyes of many reviewers. To achieve the maximum cargo capacity of 108.9 cubic feet, one has to physically remove the third-row seats from the vehicle and store them somewhere. This maximum cargo capacity is less than the best-reviewed 2012 Toyota Sequoia which has 120.1 cubic feet of storage. With all the seats in place, the Tahoe holds 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row.
The 2012 Tahoe includes standard equipment like dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, GM's OnStar telematics system, tire-pressure monitoring, Bluetooth and seating for eight. Seating for nine is an available option with a front bench seat, and available second-row captain's chairs drop the passenger capacity to seven. Optional features include niceties like remote start, heated seating, leather upholstery and a premium sound system with DVD playback capability. The most expensive LTZ trim package comes with nearly all the options and has a price tag of more than $50,000. The available Z71 option package adds upgraded components to better handle off-road situations; this includes beefier shocks, automatically locking rear differential for low-grip situations, upgraded tires, and skid plates to protect the undercarriage from obstacles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe and gives it 5 stars for front and side crash protection, but it gets a lower 3-star rating for rollover resistance. Overall, the Tahoe gets a solid 4-star rating for crash worthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the Chevrolet Tahoe (or any other large SUV, for that matter). Standard safety equipment includes front and side airbags, side curtain airbags that run the length of the vehicle, traction control, antilock brakes and electronic stability control.
A leading source determines predicted reliability to be average, and the Tahoe also comes with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
As in reviews of other large SUVs, most experts point out that midsize crossovers offer everything the Chevrolet Tahoe does (aside from its superior towing capacity), while providing better driving dynamics, interior packaging and fuel economy. Even so, the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe is a solid option if you need heavy towing capabilities as well as the ability to haul a large number of passengers and/or cargo. A hybrid version is covered in a separate report on Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers.
Overall, Edmunds.com editors consider the Tahoe to be one of the best large SUV choices because of its towing ability and generally good ride quality. The lack of a fold-flat third-row seat is a noted demerit. Edmunds.com notes that if you're seeking a vehicle mostly for carrying passengers, the newest crop of midsize crossovers may be a better fit.
Review: 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, Editors of Edmunds.com, Oct. 26, 2011
2. Truck Trend
The editors of Truck Trend annually compile a list of the trucks they consider to be best-in-class, spanning 11 size and type categories. Truck Trend's reviews generally are concerned with particular characteristics of trucks and SUVs, particularly off-road capability, towing ratings and load-carrying capacity. The Chevrolet Tahoe and its fraternal twin, the GMC Yukon, win best-in-class for the Full-Size SUV category.
Review: Truck Trend's Best in Class 2011: Full-Size SUV, Editors of Truck Trend, March 2011
Editors of ConsumerReports.org have road tested the Chevrolet Tahoe in LTZ trim. Their succinct road-test impressions offer detailed and unbiased opinions. The site also provides predicted reliability data and owner satisfaction data. To access this information you must be a subscriber to ConsumerReports.org.
Review: Overview: 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
This is one of the few full reviews of the Chevrolet Tahoe newer than the 2008 model year. In 2009, the year of this particular review, the Tahoe received a new six-speed automatic transmission and new engine options. The reviewer likes some aspects of the Tahoe but is shocked by the steep as-tested sticker price of almost $60,000.
Review: Review: 2009 Chevy Tahoe LTZ 6.2L 4x4, Sam Abuelsamid, Feb. 5, 2009
ConsumerGuide.com editors are impressed by the Tahoe's civil driving demeanor for such a large truck. Comfort and interior fit and finish are deemed good as well. ConsumerGuide.com ranks the Tahoe as one of its favorite large SUVs by giving it a Best Buy recommendation.
Review: 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
FuelEconomy.gov is the Environmental Protection Agency's consumer facing website, providing official fuel-efficiency ratings for all new vehicles. The 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe likes to guzzle gas as most 3-ton SUVs do, and it delivers an estimated 17 mpg combined in two-wheel and four-wheel drive guises.
Review: 2012 Sport Utility Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, Not Dated
7. Kelley Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book's review of the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe is brief and light on criticism, though it does cover some useful aspects. Like other reviewers, editors are impressed by the Tahoe's surprisingly powerful engine and towing capacity. And like others, they note that if heavy-duty towing isn't a necessity, car-based crossovers will be good alternatives.
Review: 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book, Not Dated
The 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the few large SUVs to be fully tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Tahoe receives an overall score of 4 stars out of a possible 5, in which a 3-star rollover resistance rating brings the overall score down.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration