2019 Chevrolet Tahoe

By December 18, 2018

One of Chevrolet’s old-timers, the full-size Tahoe has served for nearly a quarter-century as one of the most capable SUVs. Mixing traditional presence and body-on-frame construction with plenty of modern-day features, the familiar workhorse – last redesigned for 2015 – stands ready for rugged, reliable duty.

A new Tahoe is expected soon. Meanwhile, few changes are evident for the 2019 model year. Primarily, a new Premier Plus Special Edition package upgrades to Chevrolet’s 6.2-liter V-8, adding 22-inch wheels, power-retractable steps, and black/brown leather upholstery.

Three trim levels are offered: base LS, LT, and top-line Premier. Nearly all Tahoes come standard with a 5.3-liter V-8 that generates 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The optional 6.2-liter V-8 whips up 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet, working with a 10-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but any Tahoe may be fitted with four-wheel drive for additional cost.

Seven airbags are installed, including a central airbag that can prevent front occupants from colliding during a crash. An Enhanced Driver Alert package includes automatic low-speed braking and active lane control. Not only does the system deliver audible alerts, it vibrates the base of the driver’s seat to signal a developing issue. Standard on LT and Premier trim levels, the collision-avoidance group is optional for LS models. Only the Premier edition can be fitted with optional adaptive cruise control. The Tahoe does not offer full-speed automatic emergency braking.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested a Tahoe, but the federal government did so. The 2018 model earned five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for both frontal and side impacts, but scored only four stars overall. For rollover resistance (a calculated figure, not based upon actual testing), the high-riding Tahoe managed only a three-star rating. NHTSA has not yet affirmed overall and frontal ratings for the 2019 model.

As is the case with other big, separate-body SUVs and trucks, the Tahoe’s heft provides both benefits and drawbacks. The Tahoe’s frame is borrowed from Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup truck, but with rear coil springs.

GMC’s Yukon is a near-duplicate of the Tahoe, with a more luxurious Denali trim option. For greater space, the Chevrolet Suburban and Yukon XL ride stretched wheelbases, adding about 20 inches to length. Cadillac’s lush Escalade also shares many components.

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $1,295 destination charge.

LS ($47,900 with rear-drive, $50,900 with four-wheel drive), the base model includes the 5.3-liter V-8, cloth upholstery, rearview camera, tri-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and 18-inch wheels.

LT ($52,900 with rear-drive, $55,900 with four-wheel drive) adds leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, Bose audio, a power liftgate, and safety features that include automatic low-speed braking, lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Premier ($62,600 with rear-drive, $65,600 with four-wheel drive) comes with heated and cooled front seats, navigation, HID headlights, front/rear parking assist, blind-spot monitors, and Magnetic Ride Control.

The new Premier Plus Special Edition package substitutes Chevrolet’s 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic, adding rear-seat entertainment and a head-up display. LT and Premier versions can add an off-road Z71 package, including hill descent control, and skid plates.

Exterior Features

Both inside and outside, the square-profiled Tahoe is both handsome and old-fashioned, carrying on with a clean and timeless design. Its overall silhouette hasn’t changed much over the years.

At the front end, split headlights flank a sizable, heavily-chromed grille. In the back, the Tahoe’s boxy shape pairs a big rectangular tailgate and squared-off taillights.

Rally Sport Truck (RST) versions of the Tahoe show greater restraint with chrome. Instead, black accents and 22-inch wheels help convey a sportier appearance.

Interior Features

Considering its size and truck-based construction, the Tahoe’s cabin is surprisingly car-like. Assembly quality excels. So do the supportive seats. Even base LS models feature soft-touch materials, with stitched panels on dashboard and doors.

Front occupants can expect impressive seat comfort, but accommodations decline for passengers in second-row and rear seats. Captain’s chairs are standard up front, flanking a wide, roomy center console.

Second-row legroom is decent and head clearance abundant for outboard passengers. Most Tahoes contain a 60/40-split bench. Captain’s chairs are available, easing entry to the third row. Nimble adults should have little trouble accessing the back row. Once there, however, a high floor shrinks the comfort level.

With seatbacks in both rear rows folded, cargo volume approaches 95 cubic feet. Raising the second row reduces space to a still-impressive 52 cubic feet. Space dips sharply, to 15.3 cubic feet, behind the third row. The surprisingly high floor can impede easy loading of luggage.

Driving Impressions

Hardly the best-handling or agile SUV on the market, the Tahoe delivers a truck-like experience, courtesy of its separate-body construction. On the plus side, the softly-sprung suspension, with coils at the rear, copes effectively with rough road surfaces, yielding a smoothly comfortable ride.

Tahoes with standard 17-inch wheels or optional 18s ride more smoothly, with a softer feel as well as decent body control. Larger optional wheels firm up the ride without comparable improvement in handling.

Considerable ground clearance might impede passenger entry/exit, but becomes a boon when leaving the pavement. Properly equipped, a Tahoe can tow well over four tons. Tow/Haul mode helps prevent the transmission from downshifting prematurely.

If you savor big-V-8 power and performance, accompanied by rich exhaust sounds, Chevrolet’s Tahoe delivers the goods. The proven 6-speed automatic helps. During low-load driving, the 5.3-liter Tahoe can run on half its cylinders, slightly boosting gas mileage.

Off-road, the Tahoe’s 204 inches of length and 81-inch width limit maneuverability. Optional four-wheel drive can have a two-speed transfer case. The Z71 package adds skid plates, and light-duty all-terrain tires.

A big V-8 in a heavy vehicle translates to uninspiring fuel economy, though today’s Tahoe doesn’t guzzle as much as predecessors. Rear-drive models are EPA-rated at 15/22 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. Four-wheel drive shrinks the estimate just slightly, to 14/23/17 mpg. The 5.3-liter V-8 can run on either regular gasoline or E85 ethanol fuel.

Premium-grade gasoline is required for the 6.2-liter V-8, EPA-rated at 14/23 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined, with rear-drive. Four-wheel drive lowers the highway figure to 22 mpg.

Final Word

Jumbo dimensions and a hefty body structure in the 2019 Tahoe translate to big-truck handling, compared to crossover SUV models. Agility is in short supply, but passengers might be surprised by the Tahoe’s comfortable ride. Strong engines and a truck-based platform enhance the big SUV’s towing prowess. Tahoes even have the ability to cope with off-road conditions, without sacrificing too much of their generally civilized nature.

Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.