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Base Price (MSRP):$34,095.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $49,330.00
2008 Chevrolet Tahoe
View The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Specifications
Review by: New Car Test Drive
New Hybrid model added to lineup. 

Model Lineup
The 2008 Chevy Tahoe comes LS, LT, and LTZ trim levels, plus the new Hybrid model. All models, including the Hybrid, are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or Autotrac four-wheel drive (4WD). All have a four-speed automatic transmission.

All models except the base and Hybrid come with a 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 with GM's Active Fuel Management technology that shuts down four cylinders under light engine loads. The base engine in the 2WD LS model is a 295-hp 4.8-liter V8. A flexible-fuel version of this engine is available that runs on regular gasoline or E85 ethanol-blended fuel.

The LS ($34,094) and LS 4WD ($37,895) come with cloth upholstery; tri-zone manual climate control with rear controls; split front bench seat; six-way power driver's seat; split-folding second-row bench seat; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls; cruise control; intermittent windshield wipers; power locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry; heated outside mirrors; side assist steps; AM/FM/CD stereo with eight speakers; XM satellite radio; auto-dimming rearview mirror; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; roof rails; front recovery hooks; trailer hitch platform with seven-wire harness; one year of OnStar service; and P265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels.

The LT ($36,145) and LT 4WD ($38,950) are the most popular, accounting for the majority of sales. To simplify ordering, the LT offers three variations. The base LT-1 package comes with a cargo shade, front bucket seats, front center console, color-keyed door handles, fog lamps, rear audio controls with headphone jacks; and OnStar's Directions and Connections plan which includes audible directions. The LT-2 package ($2,095) upgrades with leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, power-adjustable pedals, remote engine starting, six-disc CD changer, Ultrasonic rear park assist and a universal garage door opener. The LT-3 package ($3,155) includes the LT-2 package plus power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, reverse tilting, and driver's side auto-dimming; heated first- and second-row seats; 10-way power front seats; driver's seat memory, and a Bose Premium nine-speaker audio system with subwoofer.

The LTZ ($44,780) and LTZ 4WD ($47,585) add to the LT-1 leather upholstery; tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls; heated first- and second-row seats; second-row seat power release; three-passenger split folding third-row seat; power-adjustable pedals; remote engine starting; memory for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors; power folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, reverse tilting, and driver's side auto-dimming; Bose Premium nine-speaker audio with subwoofer and six-disc CD changer; heated windshield washer system; power rear liftgate; rain-sensing wipers; GM's Autoride suspension with adjustable shocks and automatic rear load leveling; a limited-slip rear differential; Ultrasonic rear park assist; and P275/55R20 tires on polished aluminum wheels.

The Hybrid comes with a 6.0-liter V8 mated to GM's new Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT) that has two electric motors and four fixed gears. The Hybrid system makes 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. The Hybrid model is equipped much like the LT-3, but also has a locking rear differential, rearview camera, a navigation system with touch screen, three-passenger split folding third-row seat; and P265/65R18 tires on alloy wheels. Compared to the LT-3, the Hybrid does not come standard with fog lamps, roof rails, six-disc CD changer, power adjustable pedals, or front recovery hooks.

Options include navigation ($2,250), DVD entertainment system ($1,295), sunroof ($995), and rearview camera ($250) when the separate navigation system is ordered. The Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package ($3,790) includes the navigation system, rearview camera, rear DVD entertainment, and sunroof. The Z71 Off-Road Suspension package for the LT ($1,820) comes with the limited-slip rear differential, a heavy-duty air cleaner, wheel flares, side steps, tow hooks, skid plates, off-road suspension, 265/65R18 on/off-road tires and unique alloy wheels. Two Convenience packages are offered. One has Ultrasonic rear park assist, power-adjustable pedals and remote engine starting ($560), and the other has rain-sensing wipers and a power rear liftgate ($600). A Chrome Appearance package ($1,820) includes chrome tow hooks, stainless steel exhaust tips, and chrome alloy wheels.

The available third-row seat is offered in two forms: two-passenger ($360 LS or LT, $760 LT with LT-2 or LT-3 package) and three-passenger ($460 LS or LT, $860 LT with LT-2 or LT-3 package). Second-row bucket seats can also be ordered ($490) for the LT model. Available separately are a power release for the second row seats ($425), P275/55R20 tires on painted aluminum wheels ($695) or polished aluminum wheels ($1,795), universal garage door opener ($105), tri-zone automatic climate control ($195), nine-speaker Bose sound system ($495), six-disc CD changer ($300), and power retractable side steps ($1,095). Buyers can also order a lower rear axle ratio ($100), the limited-slip differential ($295), an engine block heater ($75), and the Autoride suspension ($1,120).

Safety features include dual-stage front airbags; full-coverage head-protecting curtain side airbags with rollover sensors; four-wheel antilock brakes; Stabilitrak stability control system with rollover mitigation; LATCH child safety seat anchors; and a tire pressure monitor. Optional safety features include the rearview camera and rear park assist, both of which we highly recommend to help the driver spot small children and people when backing up. We also recommend always wearing your seat belt.


Walkaround
The Chevy Tahoe features a clean design with rounded lines, fully wrapped front fascia that eliminates air-grabbing gaps, doors that wrap over the rocker panels, and a steeply raked windshield.

The result of the streamlined body is optimal fuel economy, according to GM. Automotive engineers judge wind-cheating aerodynamics by a factor known as the coefficient of drag. The lower the number, the slicker the vehicle. The Tahoe has a Cd of 0.363. And the Hybrid model is even more slippery, with a Cd of 0.34. For comparison, the smaller but extremely sporty Porsche Cayenne emerges from the wind tunnel at a less slippery 0.38.

Up front, the Tahoe features a clean interpretation of Chevrolet's two-tier front grille with a central bowtie 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe logo. Tow hook openings flank the license plate frame and they are, in turn, flanked by fog lights. The sides of the Tahoe have little ornamentation, yielding a smooth design. Tall side glass allows for an unobstructed view of the road. And at the rear, the liftgate has separate opening glass to offer easier loading of small items.

The smooth appearance doesn't mean the Tahoe looks soft. Built on a wide frame, this is a commanding vehicle with a strong stance. A bulging hood enhances its visual strength. Further boosting the muscular look are standard 17-inch wheels, with 18s and 20s available.

The LTZ model can be distinguished by its standard 20-inch polished aluminum wheels and use of chrome accents on the door handles and grille inserts.

The Hybrid model has several distinct characteristics. To reduce weight and drag, the front end features an aluminum hood, a lowered air dam, a slightly larger grille opening, and blocked off fog light and tow hook openings. Along the sides, the running boards are tapered front and rear for improved aerodynamics and the wheel flares are slightly reshaped. At the back, the rear pillars and center high-mounted stoplight have a unique shape, the tailgate is made of aluminum and has fixed glass, and LED taillights replace the standard bulbs. The wheels are more aero efficient and the tires have a lower rolling resistance. The spare tire and jack have been replaced by a tire inflation kit.


Interior Features
The Chevy Tahoe instrument panel and center stack are cleanly designed and easy to use. The gauge cluster is attractive and informative, dominated by the large, easy-to-read tachometer and speedometer in black with blue numbers. Oil pressure, volt meter and water temperature gauges are also standard, providing data many other vehicles leave to warning lights.

While largely plastic, the dash materials are finished well and fit together with tight tolerances. With the available leather upholstery, the look is upscale. Small items storage space is abundant, with a large center console, map pockets in the doors, a big glovebox and a handy tray below the center stack.

New for 2008, the Hybrid gets its own gauge cluster with a special tachometer and an economy gauge. The economy gauge has a green bar that represents a zone drivers can aim for to maximize fuel economy. The tachometer has an Auto Stop reading to indicate when the gasoline engine is shut off. The Hybrid comes standard with a navigation system and a 6.5-inch screen that also shows a graphic 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe representation of the hybrid system's power flow. Like in Toyota products, this screen shows if the power is coming from the electric motors, the gasoline engine, or both, plus when regenerative braking is charging the batteries. The system also shows whether in 2WD or 4WD. It's fun to monitor the Hybrid's additional information displays, but be aware this can distract attention from the road.

The spacious interior of the Tahoe can be enjoyed from any of the three rows of seats. The driver sits up high with a commanding view of the road. Visibility is good all around, though the right side third pillar creates a blind spot, and third row seat blocks the lower portion of the rear window. Available power-adjustable pedals help fit the Tahoe to drivers of varying statures. The front seats move far back to maximize leg room for tall front seat occupants. Even so, tall passengers have room in the second row because the front-seat backs are sculpted to allow optimal room.

We sat in the third-row seats and found that adults fit, though they might not want to ride back there for much longer than a short drive from the office to lunch. The Tahoe we tested was equipped with the two-person third-row seat setup that comprises two separate seats, each with its own cup holder and storage area.

The second-row seats can be equipped with a power fold-and-tumble feature to provide easier access to available the third-row seating area or for loading or unloading cargo. The third-row seats can be removed to take full advantage of the Tahoe's cargo carrying capabilities. Some competitors, however, have third-row seats that fold to create a flat load floor, which is much easier than removing the Tahoe's heavy seats.

Cargo space is aplenty: 108.9 cubic feet behind the first row with second row folded and no third row, 60.3 cubic feet behind second row with no third row, 16.9 cubic feet behind third row.

The Tahoe's aerodynamic body not only cuts through the wind, but it minimizes wind noise. Occupants can hear each other when speaking in normal conversational tones while cruising down the highway.


Driving Impressions
While big inside, the Tahoe doesn't feel as big on the road as full-size GM SUVs have felt in the past.

The Tahoe uses a coil-over front suspension and a five-link rear suspension that combine to offer decent handling and a supple ride. It is available with the standard (ZW7) Smooth Ride suspension, or with GM's Autoride (Z55) air suspension providing real-time dampening on the LTZ. A special off-road (Z71) suspension package is also offered. The Z71 suspension tends to make the Tahoe bound over bumps. We couldn't detect much of a difference with the Autoride suspension, but the rear load leveling is a great feature for towing.

We prefer the 17-inch wheels over the 20-inch wheels. The ride was comfortable but not at all soft or spongy with the taller tires on the 17-inch wheels. The 20-inch wheels might look nice, but they come with tires with nearly three inches less sidewall area and thus provide much less cushion for absorbing bumps along the way. We recommend you try the 20s before you buy.

The strong frame, wide track, coil-over-shock front suspension and multi-link live axle rear suspension combine to make the vehicle handle well for a large SUV. Still, the Tahoe's large size makes it prone to body lean in turns and slow reactions in quick 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe changes of direction. While the Tahoe's steering is somewhat slow, it feels more direct and precise than it has in the past. That's thanks to the rack-and-pinion steering system, with its rack mounted on an engine cross member. The turning circle is also pleasantly tight for such a large vehicle. All Tahoes have four-wheel disc brakes. The brake pedal has a good feel, and the brakes work quickly and confidently.

We drove a Tahoe LT-3 4WD and found the 5.3-liter is a good engine that moves the Tahoe well around town. It has enough grunt to tow up to 8200 pounds, but we would have preferred more than four gears in the transmission, especially when climbing some long mountain grades northwest of Phoenix. We liked the fact that we couldn't feel the transitions when the Active Fuel Management shut off or turned back on four cylinders as needed during highway cruising. The system even works in normal city driving, though the only way we could tell was to see the indicator lights change on the driver information panel on the dashboard.

We drove on regular gasoline, but a flexible-fuel version of the Vortec 5300 is available that operates on either gasoline or on E85 ethanol fuel. Note, however, that fuel economy suffers by as much as 25 percent when E85 is used. Both versions of the Vortec 5300 meet GM's 200,000-mile durability requirements. With four-wheel drive, the 5.3-liter V8 is EPA-rated at 14 mpg in the City, 19 mpg on the Highway.

We drove the Hybrid model and found the two-mode hybrid system worked seamlessly. The system uses two electric motors in GM's new Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT) that has four fixed gears. The EVT is mated to a 6.0-liter V8 that also has Active Fuel Management. Total output is 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. One of the motors aids power at low speeds and the other lends a hand at highway speeds. Under light throttle, the electric motor can propel the Tahoe up to 30 mph. With heavier throttle, the gasoline engine starts up smoothly, with only a little shudder. Like other systems, the gasoline engine turns off at stoplights and restarts as soon as it's needed.

The Hybrid's fuel economy makes the almost three-ton Tahoe as fuel efficient as a typical sedan. With 2WD, the Tahoe Hybrid is EPA-rated at 21 mpg in the City and 22 on the Highway. With 4WD, it gets 20/20 mpg City/Highway. While the Hybrid has considerably less towing capacity at 6000 pounds with 4WD and 6200 pounds with 2WD, that's still enough for many towing needs.


Final Word
The 2008 Chevy Tahoe offers lots of cargo space, comfortable passenger accommodations, and a big towing capacity. It's a full-size truck and handles like one, but the Tahoe offers a smooth 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe ride and a pleasant interior. With the addition of the Hybrid model, it can get sedan-like fuel economy. The Hybrid is a good choice for a daily driver with a lot of cargo and passenger carrying capacity, and the other models are excellent choices for those who need to tow.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall reported from Phoenix, Arizona; with Kirk Bell reporting on the Hybrid in Chicago.