Based on the Silverado pickup truck, Chevrolets full-size Tahoe is the less-gargantuan kid brother of the king-size Suburban. GMC produces a near-twin called the Yukon, and both models compete against the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
Chevrolet and GMC last reworked their full-size models for 2000. A Premium Ride suspension is standard for 2002, except in the Z71 edition. New preferred-equipment groups are available, and the LS gains some standard items that include assist steps, six-way power seats, fog lamps and heated mirrors.
Available on the 4x4 LS, a Z71 Off-Road Package includes a firmer suspension, 17-inch tires, tubular side steps, wheel flares and lower-body moldings. The Z71 also gets color-keyed mirrors, bumpers and grille, and GMs OnStar communication system. OnStar is standard on the top-of-the-line LT and optional on the LS.
For most shoppers, the four-door Tahoe has one big advantage over the Suburban: smaller dimensions, which means easier maneuverability. Riding a 116-inch wheelbase, its overall length is 198.8 inches nearly 6 inches shorter than the Ford Expedition and 20 inches shorter than the Suburban. The Tahoe stands more than 76 inches tall and measures 78.8 inches wide. Buyers get a choice of swing-out rear cargo doors or an aluminum liftgate. An optional roof rack holds up to 200 pounds.
As many as nine occupants can fit into the Tahoe, when its equipped with the optional three-place rear seat. Front and middle bench seats also hold three passengers each. Front buckets are optional, which drops the total capacity to eight. The Tahoes middle and rear seats fold down and can be removed, with the help of integral wheels.
The Tahoes cargo volume is 105 cubic feet with the middle and rear seats removed, but cargo space drops to 16 cubic feet with the optional rear seat in place.
Under the Hood
The base engine is a 4.8-liter V-8 that makes 275 horsepower, while the LS gets a 285-hp, 5.3-liter V-8. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Tahoe can have either rear-wheel drive or Autotrac four-wheel drive, which engages automatically when needed to regain or maintain traction on slippery surfaces. Optional trailer packages give 2WD models a 7,900-pound towing capacity, while the 4WD Tahoe can haul as much as 8,700 pounds. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard.
Unlike some full-size SUVs that give the impression of immensity from behind the wheel, both the Tahoe and its GMC Yukon cousin come across as tolerable in size for most journeys. Not only is the Tahoe easy to drive, but it can actually be enjoyable, which is more than can be said for some large-size sport utility models.
The Tahoe is roomy and comfortable inside and maneuvers better than its external dimensions suggest. Performance is abundant and the ride is reasonably smooth, though the action gets harsher if equipped with the Z71 Off-Road Package. But in offroad treks and trailer-towing tasks, the Z71 delivers a wholly satisfying experience.
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