Ask Jack: Push Me, or Pull You?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

It’s called cryptic biodiversity and it’s the process by which genetically diverse species end up looking very similar. This is a big thing with salamanders; apparently the perfect design for amphibian quadrapeds is so obvious that it can be reached via several different pathways. It’s also the reason why I have successfully convinced several convenience store employees that I was, in fact, former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl.

As the automotive market not-so-gently pushes manufacturers towards producing identical-looking products on vastly different mechanical platforms, there’s a bit of amusement to be had in wondering which one of those platforms really serves a certain market segment best. It’s also a source of considerable purchaser angst, which brings us to this week’s question regarding cryptically-biodiverse mommy wagons.

Evan writes,

From reading your stories lately I see that you’re a Chevy owner now… I am looking at getting a three-row SUV for my family with two boys, one seven and one 12. My wife wants a Tahoe. I realized that the Tahoe and the Traverse are almost exactly the same size inside and out. But one is a truck and one is a crossover. And the Traverse is $20,000 cheaper. My wife doesn’t care. She says the Tahoe will last longer. What should we do?

This didn’t make any sense to me at first reading. How could a Tahoe and a Traverse be even remotely comparable? So I ran some of the numbers…


Length: 204.3 Inches 203.9 Inches

Wheelbase: 120.9 Inches 116.0 Inches

Width: 78.6 Inches 80.5 Inches

Height: 70.7 Inches 74.4 Inches

Weight: 4362 lb 5731 lb

These are two remarkably similar vehicles separated only by the minor fact of a three-quarter-ton weight difference. The reason for this is easy to understand. The Tahoe is basically a short-wheelbase Silverado with a cap on it, while the Traverse is a buffed-up sedan platform with a transverse engine. It would be hard to make a Tahoe any smaller; such a vehicle would have to be a two-door 110-inch-wheelbase Silverado with a cap on it, which would make it a K5 Blazer. Which would be cool, but that’s not the point. When you buy a Tahoe, you’re getting a stubby variant of my majestic Silverado LTZ Max Tow 6.2, powered by a less ambitious 5.3-liter small-block. The Traverse, on the other hand, is about as big as it could possibly get without running into major issues with body stiffness and drivetrain stress. So we have two massively different vehicles that just happen to meet in that three-row, 204-inch-long, 118-inch-ish wheelbase space.

Just how different becomes apparent when you look at pricing. A Traverse LS AWD starts at $34,995, while the equivalent Tahoe LS 4WD runs $51,720. The equipment list is remarkably similar for both vehicles. The Tahoe price difference is partially due to the heavier-duty V8 drivetrain, partially due to the extra materials used, and mostly due to the bulletproof white-collar credibility of the Tahoe badge.

It’s the price difference that makes this such a tough decision. On the face of it, Evan’s wife is absolutely correct. They should buy the Tahoe. It will last longer, cost less to maintain, and retain a far greater percentage of its resale value — particularly if they keep it for more than a decade or over 100,000 miles. It can really tow and it can really haul, should those qualities ever be desired. It’s easier to service, too. Most importantly, it in no way looks like a minivan, TTAC Tahoe Grande photoshops aside.

Yet when you start talking about $35K vs. $52K, some of those differences start to seem less significant. On five-year financing that’s about $275/month. Post-tax, of course, unless you’re gonna Sec179 the thing somehow. It’s unlikely that the Tahoe’s lower cost of ownership and higher value retention will ever claw back that kind of difference. There will probably never be a time when the Traverse would sell for $10k used and the Tahoe would sell for $27k.

If that’s not enough to swing Evan’s wife towards the Traverse, I’d recommend that she drive both of them for a day or so and try all of her usual tasks with each. Like it or not, the Traverse is simply going to be a better machine for family life. It has more interior space, a lower load floor, and better visibility. It probably won’t beat the Tahoe for overall fuel economy — my Silverado returns 16 mpg while pulling an MX-5 on a trailer — but around town it might eke out a tiny advantage. It’s a modern unibody with all the attendant safety, NVH, and rust-resistance advantages.

I’m going to put in my vote for the Traverse here. It’s the better 204-inch salamander and a better vehicle for people with multiple children. It’s not as flashy or upscale as the Tahoe, but $275 each and every month can improve your life in a lot of little ways that might cover the gap and then some. Or you could do what I did and get a Silverado. The equivalent LS 4WD Crew Cab Short Bed is $41,725. That’s a nice halfway point for a vehicle with more utility than either of the ones discussed above. Is that why so many American families are buying trucks? Or are we all simply evolving into a cryptically-generated nation of rednecks?

[Images: General Motors]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Agroal Agroal on Oct 25, 2017

    An interesting article comparing two completely different vehicles accomplishing the exact same task. Up until the last word. Rednecks? If you compared fried chicken vs. watermelon would you include the word niggers? I seriously doubt it. Long live one sided political correctness!

    • Romanjetfighter Romanjetfighter on Oct 26, 2017

      is redneck even offensive? i loved jeff foxworthy’s u might be a redneck if... making up hypothetical situations then calling people out for hypothetical “hypocrisy” to be inflammatory? lol as if comparing a tahoe and traverse is like fried chicken n watermelon? tahoe n traverse target different people. u make no sense

  • THX1136 THX1136 on Oct 26, 2017

    Must be a generational thing. When I was a young lad 13 the family car was a Dodge Coronet 500. Family of 6. Buckets in front for Dad and Mom and 3 of us sat in the back seat and the youngest - quite inappropriately for safety reasons - sat on the rear end of the center console facing the back seat. We didn't think much about it as it was what we had. I'm sure my folks would have liked something with a bit more room, but that was for people making more money than our family did.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.