By on June 4, 2019

Upon reserving a car in the Full-size Sedan class from the people at Enterprise, your author’s mind filled with visions of Passat and Fusion, or something similar. But over on the TTAC Slack channel, Adam Tonge assured me, “They won’t have a full-size sedan for you.”

Turns out he was right. Of the three “upgrade” options presented, none was a sedan. So I picked the largest one, and the only option with a V8: this dark blue 2019 Tahoe, in LT trim.

The other two options presented were a high-trim Dodge Journey in Ticket Me Red and a presumably basic Grand Caravan in Appliance White. The Tahoe seemed like the best option, though after the completion of over 800 miles, perhaps the lesser of three evils might’ve been a more apt description. Let’s go back in time a few days… or maybe a couple of decades. It’s hard to tell.

Quick pricing note: A Tahoe in LT trim with four-wheel drive asks $55,795.

Square Jaw

The Tahoe’s been around for a few years now, and it’s aging well — what with its square overall shape and lack of exterior detailing (excepting the front fascia). Panel fitment and paint quality are generally very good. The dark blue paint has a nice amount of metal flake and minimal orange peel. Door fitment is another story, unfortunately.

The rear passenger side door was fitted too high on the body over at Arlington Assembly. Chrome trim did not line up below the window, or along the top of the door. On the subject of doors, handles give a quality pull and return action, accompanied by a nice thunk. Both inside and outside, closing the doors closing makes a satisfyingly solid noise.

Square Space

Long-term readers of these pages will already know yours truly previously owned a 2003 Tahoe LT (the GMT800 generation). Aboard the current version, things feel immediately familiar. From the long throw of the column-mounted shifter to a seating position slightly off-center to the steering wheel, everything falls quickly to hand. The interior design has progressed from right angles into more organic shapes comprised of materials that appear to be of a higher quality.

Not to get too carried away with praise here; the dash materials are varied in their texture, gloss, and quality. Mixed hard and soft touch surfaces accompany said textures across the front of the cabin. Poorly finished silver trim highlighted the driver’s side vent. Center console and doors fore and aft are flanked by some awful looking faux wood.

Do better, Chevrolet.

Seats in the first two rows are captains chairs in this trim, boasting more shape and bolstering than in years past. In an apparent attempt to assist durability, the leather quality between seat bottom and bolster differed. Side bolsters are covered in a much harder leather that doesn’t feel nice to the touch. The different material is visible to the eye, and it’s not very aesthetically pleasing. Entry of busy feet into the second rows will find the door apertures a bit tight, as was true in Tahoes past.

Interior storage at the front of the cabin is good. Doors feature two different levels of item storage, and the center console is like a big bucket, one which can accommodate a handbag and umbrella, some iPads, or perhaps a small electric typewriter. A gripe about the long, column-mount shift lever (which felt sloppy and loose): It impedes center screen access when in Drive, requiring the driver to reach around it to avoid tapping it with a right hand.

Across Cornfields

The Tahoe proved itself a mixed bag across the expanse of Indiana, where construction zones on highways are interspersed with potholed urban roads in places like Evansville and Indianapolis. There are some situations where the Tahoe is enjoyable to drive: straight highways where the roads are smooth and have gentle elevation changes, for example. In those circumstances, the Tahoe bounds along the road on its chunky tires, feeling large and in charge with its commanding driving position. Nice.

However, at highway speeds above 60 or so, noise makes its way into the cabin. While noise from the engine is muted, tires and wind make themselves known. Most prevalent is wind noise around the pillars and mirrors, which means raising one’s voice for conversation.

At lower speeds, the aforementioned rough roads create a new issue. Imperfections cause shudders throughout the cabin just like the old GMT800 of nearly two decades ago. The shocks aren’t able to suppress road imperfections, so there’s plentiful pitching to and fro. To cope with the lack of chassis refinement, engineers turned to a soft suspension setup. That means corners are an exercise in serious speed reduction. That, or prepare for some lean.

The driver’s seat comes up a bit short after a few hours of driving. GM offers fairly extensive seat position adjustment, especially with regard to height. But the power lumbar moves only in and out, and is not adjustable up and down. And even with additional bolstering over prior-gen seats, chairs still prove too flat for long-distance comfort. Leg aches ensue.

The comfort situation is made worse by an oddity in the pedal setup. The vertical distance between the accelerator and brake pedal is considerable; more so than in any other vehicle in your author’s memory. That means lifting one’s right foot fairly high in situations where the driver is covering the brakes — like in stop-and-go traffic. The brake pedal is a bit mushy, as one might expect from a truck, and the throttle tip-in is a bit lazy as well. It always feels like considerable pedal travel is required to get those 5,400-ish pounds up and moving.

More positive is the effort of the warhorse 5.3-liter V8. Most times, it’s a distant rumble, but it makes its voice known when pressed into action. Acceleration is… adequate. The engine pulls strongly, but it feels as if there just aren’t enough horses to go around. It’s odd to watch a neighboring Sienna pull away at a light and then feel how hard the 5.3L works to keep pace. The 6-speed automatic does an admirable job in most driving situations, shifting smoothly through the gears. When urgent acceleration is requested (like to keep up with a Sienna), the box gets a bit flummoxed and jerks down through the gears with much less smoothness. Steering is nicely weighted, though feel is absent except when jarring bumps come through the wheel.

The center screen presents infotainment, and is straightforward in operation. Critically, climate control functions are duplicated with actual buttons and dials. The climate control is a highlight here, as the A/C can cool the large living area of the Tahoe without a fuss, even on a humid 94 degree day. One irritation occurs with a navigation system that takes 10 to 15 seconds to load upon startup. Other systems are much faster to present a map. Route guidance does not provide upcoming instructions with the same advance warning each time, and can be confused by a complicated junction. The radio is Bose and sounds fine. However, with the near constant noise inside the cabin, more volume is often required.

GM adds layers of electronic nannies to assist in Tahoe enjoyment and livability. Lane keep assist is present, as well as collision avoidance and parking sensors. On the highway, the lane assistance is a helping hand. It means fewer small corrections for the driver as the Tahoe pulls itself away from the painted lines. Warnings for lane and collision are delivered via vibration through the driver’s seat and with on-screen warnings, as necessary. The collision system goes a step further, projecting a red flashing light on the windscreen if a driver gets too close to the car in front without applying the brakes.

While the driver assist systems are effective, the parking sensors were a letdown. They work fine for reversing, but GM didn’t feel like putting any up front. Pulling the tall Tahoe close to a curb, shrubs, or other car would be more pleasant with front parking sensor assistance. Also lacking is a blind spot monitoring system, which should absolutely be standard across Tahoe-size vehicles in 2019.

The $57,000 Conclusion

The Tahoe costs a lot of money, even in this one-from-base LT trim. For that kind of coin, there are plenty of other vehicles which will seat seven people. And they’ll consume less gasoline, be more engaging to drive, easier to live with in daily life situations, or all three. The current Tahoe is a constant reminder of the past. Buyers should arrive with an expectation of some progress in a vehicle after two decades and two generations.

Not much has changed.

[Images: Corey Lewis / TTAC]

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56 Comments on “Rental Review: The 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe LT, a Full-size Sedan for Indiana...”


  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    This is the state of the art in high profit jumbotrons? Wow, that’s a lot of mediocre for the money. Curiously, what did this blob rent for per diem?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    The problem is they went too car like, the is a truck first and a passenger vehicle second, GM lost the plot and now we have trucks with plastic bumpers, electric power steering, and built in 3rd rows.

    Sales will never recover as long as they are intent on refining this as a car instead of as a truck. Get rid of those horrible bumpers and give it a beefier solid axle. And most importantly price it in line with the trucks instead of pretending this is a luxury vehicle. No luxury vehicle has an engine that small so stop pretending it’s something it is not.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    All I can think of is playing Secret Service for the President in it. It’s still a lot of vehicle for the money with typical American quality control :(

    I wonder if a crew cab Chevy truck would be a better deal

  • avatar
    gtem

    The one aspect not fully embraced in the very thorough and excellent review: you can pound around Indy’s decrepit downtown roads for a decade in one of these and it won’t be much worse for wear, and minimal worry about popping a tire (on this LT trim anyways). You simply don’t get that sense of security/durability in something lithe/fragile and German. I’ll assume you can buy an LT Tahoe for a good bit less than $57k… maybe high $40s?

    I’ll also add: the Current Armada does everything the Tahoe does, better, and likely cheaper. Although the looks are an acquired taste, and the IRS might be a deal breaker for dedicated tow-ers. Better interior quality, better screwed together, better ride/handling, much stronger base motor, for less money.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      This late in the model cycle the incentives are GM-like. Figure on 8K off sticker if you have a pulse, closer to 10 if you know what you’re doing.

      I don’t know exactly where a 50K cash price lines up on the fragile German lease ladder but it can’t be very high. 2000cc of Q5 isn’t much car to beat in any sense other than pure Veblen good.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        So I decided to MSRP a Tahoe Custom 4×4 with max towing package. I’d be satisfied with that.

        $48K MSRP with a little dealing and wheeling it might be palatable.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Good eye on the tow package, the 3.42 rear end is an absolute must on these trucks. The 5300 needs its revs against three tons of vehicle, doubly so while towing anything, and the 3.08 rear that GM tries to sneak past you on the order sheet won’t let it.

          Leave the EPA and the profit of upselling a Denali to get the good engine out of it and 3.73s would be standard with the 5.3 while the tow package would have the 6.2.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I liked the Armada I rented last summer quite a bit. Great motor.

    • 0 avatar

      Durability is a good point of the win/lose spectrum here. The Tahoe of prior example was 14 years old and had 198,000 miles on it, and it felt the same as this. That’s saying something.

      …That you should buy one very, very used.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Except for one big thing: rust!

        I’m watching a Russian youtuber do a frame-off refurbishment of a ’05 Tahoe (built in Kaliningrad), pretty neat stuff:

        youtu.be/2mJdYMG0bxY

        • 0 avatar

          Oh yes, buy from no salt places. I’ve seen rusty GMT900s here already.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Yes I’m starting to see rot on rear fenders and tailgates on the SUVs. GMT900s trucks are starting to get rotten rear fenders en masse, I’m assuming mostly the earlier ones that are now a decade old. Have a coworker with an ’09 that is just about perforated on the rear fenders. But I’d argue the ’09-’14 F150 bodies are worse yet: cab corners and rockers rotten even on newer ’11-’13 crew cabs: embarrassing.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Tahoe Custom trim 4×4 with rear bench and no 3rd row is about the only way these make sense to me.

    If you’re going to get the captain’s chairs and 3rd row there are any number of 3 row CUVs that will be just as cramped and cargo useless while costing far less.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Agreed on all counts. I’d be awfully tempted to admit that it’s just a highway car and leave off the $3,000 4WD option too.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        If I’m doing BOF I’m doing 4×4 too.

        YMMV but in my area of the country your resale is going to take a nosedive minus 4×4.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Here too, get the 4X4 even if you don’t need or want it, you’ll get every penny back and then some come resale time

          • 0 avatar

            4×2 Tahoes and Suburbans sit for quite some time on the used market here. Sorta like the ones which are missing the third row seat, whether it be from factory or afterward.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I just checked cars.com for new Tahoes and Suburbans.
          Within 200 miles of me in Florida there are 1,083 vehicles for sale and only 14% of them are shown as equipped with 4WD.
          Within 200 miles of Columbus, OH there are 2,380 SUVs for sale and a full 98.9% of them show as being equipped with 4WD.

          I wonder how far North you need to go before 2WD becomes unacceptable for most customers.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            My guess would be north of the Ohio River

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            Subaru has convinced the consumptive class that they need 4WD to drive in the rain, we have literally 12 inches of snow a year here and 95% of stocked Tahoes are 4WD anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      legacygt

      Agreed 100%. There are people for whom this car makes sense. But the number is much smaller than the number of people buying this car. If you need to tow something large or need other truck attributes, by all means, get a Tahoe (or Yukon or Escalade). But most people who buy these things have made the wrong choice. For such a large car, there is far less interior space than expected. And what space there is, isn’t particularly useful. Just look at that photo of the cargo area. You can lift your cargo up over a high bumper, and then the lower floor, and then the shelf. And that shelf is only there so that GM can tell you the that the third row folds flat. The third row itself is tiny. I’m not a huge fan of the Traverse but 90% of Tahoe buyers should drive away from the Chevy dealer in a Traverse. They’d have a better ride and a more useful car.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I think this particular LT trim has a 6 speed, not the 10 mentioned in the article.

    At least if I’m reading the specs on Chevy website correctly.

    I really like these trucks. Always have. But they always struck me as awfully expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      I was wondering the same. Is it the 6 speed or 10 speed? I was under the impression that Chevy only offered the 10 speed with the 6.2L.

      If they are indeed offering the 10 speed with the 5.3L, I would consider trading my 2017 for a model with the 5.3L with the 10speed before the major redesign.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Gas mileage report would have been helpful.
    The trip computer says 21.4 MPG but they always lie on the high side. Always. Miles driven / gallons in the tank is the only way to really be sure.

    Architecture tour in Columbus? Nice town for that. None better.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Full size? They had no Chrysler 300s around so your stuck with this beast? Ugh.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Have you never rented a car before? “Full size” in car rental lots now are Camrys, Fusions, Malibus. Chrysler 300 rentals (and they definitely exist) would be in the “Premium” category now.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Sorry I was defining “full size” like in the old days. I rent almost monthly for work and my company only allows us to do “mid-size” which normally puts me in a Hyundai Elantra. A car that most people would classify as a compact.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    FWIW, my neighbor just bought one of these and claims it’s 100% better than their previous Audi Q5.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Baaaaahahaha. Thanks for the laugh, buddy.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        IMO a Tahoe/Yukon sure feels much more “special” to drive than a generic small crossover, albeit a nicely built one like the Q5.

        We had a Yukon SLT rental in Las Vegas 2 years ago, so sort of a mid-trim with leather and the 5.3L. Honestly I thought it was fantastic, nice V8 burble, street presence, pure Americana. I’ve been in an old bosses’ SQ5 before, I can barely remember any details aside from him gunning it to show off the motor (it was certainly quick, but didn’t sound very interesting)

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I’ve never understood how these outsell the Suburban so handily. The cost in maneuverability and dollars for an actually usable third row, more stability when towing, and reasonable cargo space with all seats in use is pretty small. My opinion of course, but I think the LWB models look better proportioned as well.

    -If you don’t need the third row, why not get a crew cab truck?

    -If you don’t care about towing, why not get a Traverse?

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Agreed. I used to know single Marine officers who were buying loaded Tahoes, but that was back when they were in the mid-thirty-thousand-dollar range. I haven’t known anyone who bought one in quite a while. More recently I knew a bunch of quiet money types with Yukon Denalis, but this generation killed off that phenomenon by being as overstated as Escalades. I can’t imagine that the demographic for SWB full sized SUVs consists of thirty-ish single guys no matter how many I’ve known, but I can say that Suburbans are better for any use involving carrying more than two people, carrying anything that won’t fit in a Corolla, or towing.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      You answered your own question, all of the better tool arguments lead right past the Tahoe to the Suburban – but they don’t stop there so the people to whom that speaks drive home with the crew cab truck or the Traverse.

      The Tahoe isn’t a great car, but it’s a good enough car while being an unimpeachable style statement.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        The “Suburban” name (which is really terrible when you think about it) still carries the stigma of the old, hideous early 80s models. When the Tahoe came out in the 90s, it was just instantly cooler. And it doesn’t matter if the Suburban is more useful, absolutely nobody in that class is buying these cars for practicality or maneuverability, they’re buying ’em because they wanna be the cool dad on the block.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          I would think anyone buying these to be ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’ would be better served by adding another $100 monthly to their 7 year note and getting the Denali, but again I’m not the target market for this thing yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “I’ve never understood how these outsell the Suburban so handily.”

      The Tahoe I have now was my ex’s truck at one time. She simply would not drive something as big as a Suburban. And it fit in the 3rd stall garage of our home which a Suburban wouldn’t have. Which is good because the other two longer stalls where filled with my CC PU and a boat.

      I tow a camper, 5 different boats(One being a 25′ cruiser) and a snowmobile trailer with my 2007 ‘Hoe. That’s pretty much all I use it for as it’s a second vehicle. Stability is not an issue and the maneuverability while in tow is heads and tails better with the ‘Hoe over a Suburban. So for that reason alone I’d take a Tahoe over a Suburban. Easily the best tow vehicle overall out of all the trucks I’ve owned.

  • avatar
    deanst

    GM is still putting the 4 way flasher button on the steering column? Does it have a plunger-type control for the headlights too?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’m pretty sure the thicker leather referenced in this review on the side bolsters is probably vinyl- which I prefer on a high wear location.
    +1 on the Suburban upgrade . My neighbor with 5 kids-3 still in boosters, traded in his Tahoe after a less than 1.5 years for a Suburban.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I have a different model of 2018 Chevy with leather seats but the basic design seems similar, and with mine the fault is that the SEAM between bottom side bolster and bottom is so incredibly stiff that it digs into your leg. There’s either a very substantial stitched overlap or piping, too lazy to go look right now, and it’s hard. Worse, Chevy bottom bolsters sink INSIDE the side of the seat frame, so if your ass isn’t centered your leg’s falling asleep. Worse, some models (Bolt being worst offender, Volt not far behind) take it one step further with a barely-upholstered rock-hard steel frame that comes up so far your hip/leg drags across it every time you get into or out of the car. I’m sure it’s a cheap-ass way of gaming the crash test (ain’t NOTHING moving laterally out of that seat toward a side impact) but ingress and egress shouldn’t leave a bruise. Chevy seats are kinda garbage. I’ll admit my frame of reference is a little skewed by my other car being a Volvo (the Stressless recliner of vehicle seats, though today’s are a sad shadow of the 850’s Peak Volvo thrones) but some effort would be nice.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Great review. Best reviews on TTAC and not by a little bit.

    Young feller I’ve known since he was a tyke, my best pal’s son, really doing well at his business last five years. Buys RAM pickup three years ago. Decides to get Tahoe because of looks after 18 months and use RAM in the business to complement Transit Connect and full-size Transit as business expands. Calls me up to take $75K fully-loaded Tahoe on drive, he feels “unsafe” in curves, he says, and this after years of him shepherding a worn-out ’98 Cadillac V8 Northstar whose front suspension collapsed while driving! So this Tahoe blunderbuss of an overpriced nonentity of a completely underdone development job is indeed a wobbler, so far as I’m concerned, but then I’m not a truck man. I’ll take it from him that the RAM is way better.

    Him, well, he actually plans to test drive his next vehicular purchase. Good idea!

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I have to assume the Tahoe isn’t a great car because a) it’s actually a functional truck and b) it’s built for durability, not refinement. Maybe it drives bad, but it’ll tow where others won’t, go where others won’t, and keep driving exactly the same 100k miles from now. Still too much dough, and if I were forced at gunpoint to take a BOF SUV I’d still take the Nissan, but I can appreciate what this old brick is about.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I had one as a rental as well, but then had an Armada at a later date and liked it much better. As someone said, that is a lot of mediocrity for $55k. Even with the lower cost of the Nissan, at least you get that wonderful engine and built-in-Japan craftsmanship where I assume all of the trim lines up correctly.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    “…to a seating position slightly off-center to the steering wheel…

    The comfort situation is made worse by an oddity in the pedal setup. The vertical distance between the accelerator and brake pedal is considerable; more so than in any other vehicle in your author’s memory.”

    When GM ‘still’ can’t get the steering wheel and pedal set-up oriented properly (just like an eighties’ Cavalier), my first thought is, “What else can’t they still get right?”.

    Of course, I doubt anyone interested in one of these will care. I mean, they’ll be thinking, “It’s huge so it’s got to have gobs of interior room, right?”. And then there are those big incentives to make buyers think they’re getting a tremendous deal so they can live with any ergonomic issues.

    But the smart money for a legitimate people mover will be buying a minivan. That is, unless they truly need something to haul people ‘and’ a (good sized) trailer. The tow package should really be standard on these. That seems to be the only area where these ancient, behemoth BoF SUVs excel.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    “Especially egregious is the central trim that acts as an awning over the main screen. It appears as though the dash was intended to accommodate larger screens of the future, but its present hooded appearance is some kind of stopgap. The piece of trim was loose and poorly aligned and felt like it could be removed with a firm tug.”

    The trim is “loose” because the screen goes up and down. It’s a hidden storage compartment.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Whenever I get behind the wheel of one of these, I am flummoxed as to why they are so popular.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Say what you want about the Tahoe butvsales are still strong!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My buddy has a 2017 GMC version of this in dark green with the tan and brown leather interior which I like and the 5.3 with 3.42 rear gears and optional 20″ chrome wheels which noticeably add to the handling over the std 18″ rubber. Having driven it numerous times my money would go on the Tahoe/Yukon in a drag race with a Sienna minivan, especially with the 3.42 gears!

    The 57K sticker but more like 48 with the usual discounts seems like a lot but in today’s world of 52-54K Traverses and even Blazers, Explorers and Durangos suddenly this doesn’t seem so outrageous. Its the higher up loaded trim levels like the Denali and fully equipped SLT/LTZ that really make one dizzy with 75-80 being the new sticker shock norm. We looked at a row of 2019 Expeditions at one dealer last week and every one of them had a sticker above 70K! I bet they will all be sold the next time we go there.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Had one of these as a rental in Roanoke, VA earlier in the year. Pretty loaded, leather and all the trimmings, even a sunroof, IIRC. My biggest gripe is you can’t see out the back of it with the (uselessly cramped) 3rd row seats in place. And the serious lack of handling and braking ability. And the 14mpg I got with it driving gently around town for a few days. I’d rather have one than a pickup truck, but that isn’t saying much. I guess if you really need to tow you just have to put up with it the rest of the time.

    I too would prefer the long version – might as well go all the way.

  • avatar
    webebob

    I parked next to one of these, driving a RAV4 yesterday, totally dwarfed. I thought “wow, what a land yacht!” But then i remembered trying to get into an Escalade’s rear passenger doors a few years ago: WTF! the truck is so poorly designed that you have to wedge your feet around the pillar to swing into the rear seats!

    All that size, and poor ergonomics for the ingress/egress of passengers. Sad.


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