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2012 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ Review – Trailblazing the Traditional Path

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Filed under Automotive, Chevrolet, Featured, SUV, Test Drives

The new 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe remains virtually unchanged from last year’s model keeping a long-standing traditional approach to offering a large SUV that can handle anything you throw at it. With configurations allowing up to 9 passengers, the Chevrolet Tahoe keeps its conventional versatility and large SUV towing capabilities.

For the 2012 Tahoe, Chevrolet adds a hard-drive based navigation system for improved functional response and internal music storage.  The only other change for 2012 is a heated steering wheel option, which is standard on the top-of-the-line LTZ trim level.

It is hard to believe that the Chevrolet Tahoe is still in its 3rd generation. Over the years, Chevrolet has added different powertrains along with refinements to better position the large boxed-frame SUV among competition including a growing large-crossover segment.

The large SUV is somewhat of a dying breed, however, the Chevrolet Tahoe, alongside of its close siblings (GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade) attempt to keep this dwindling breed alive. The Tahoe has stood the test of time due to General Motors making improvements in efficiency, easy of drivability and over-all interior comfort. All of these attributes have received notable improvements over the past 5 years within the current 3rd generation Tahoe.

My 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ test vehicle is at the top of the trim chart. Tahoe’s come in 3 different trims, LS, LT and LTZ. All feature a 5.3-liter V8 engine with 320 horsepower and 335 ft. lbs. of torque. Those numbers may seem small on paper but are modest enough to give the Tahoe the ability to tow up to 8,500 when equipped with the towing package. A Tahoe Hybrid is an excellent alternative for those who wish to better the 15mpg city and 21 mpg highway figures and get up to 20mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

On-road mannerism in the new 2012 Tahoe LTZ is somewhat unexpected but that is a good thing. The new Tahoe LTZ is surprisingly easy to maneuver provided it is equipped with the convenience package (standard on the LTZ trim level) including a rearview camera system and park assist (audible alerts beep faster when objects in the rear get closer), along with remote ignition and power-adjustable pedals. The steering is very light at low speeds with a slight weight added at highway speeds.

The Tahoe LTZ trim is equipped with an autoride system, which incorporates variable dampers and an air-assisted load leveling system proving useful when towing or hauling heavy loads. The variable dampers and air suspension give the Tahoe a smooth ride that is never too harsh or truck-like. I would even go as far as to say my Tahoe LTZ rode much like a large luxury sedan with an active dampening system.

Performance of the new Tahoe is consistent and predictable at best. The 320 horsepower V8 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission work well together but may start to lack oomph when you load the Tahoe with 7 or more passengers while towing several thousand pounds. An optional trailer brake controller, equipped on my test vehicle, is a nice addition to include if you plan on towing large trailer items.

Stability control and traction control tend to step in early to keep the boxy and tall Tahoe from getting out of line. Braking distance is average for a big SUV but tends to give the body a surprising amount of front-end dive under emergency braking, though – it still remains controllable pending ABS activation. The Tahoe’s off-road prowess is improved with the 4-wheel-drive option but comes at a slightly higher price.

It seems the styling department at Chevrolet took a long hiatus when it comes to the Tahoe’s exterior. The sheet metal and design cues on the Tahoe remain unchanged through the current generation and are unmistakable, in a good way.  My philosophy on that is if the exterior styling isn’t broke, then why fix it?

Being that aerodynamics is not the Tahoe’s strong suit, it is amazing to still get around 21 mpg on the highway. During my time with the new Tahoe, I was able to match the 21 mpg highway EPA figure. The 5.3-liter V8 has a fuel-saver mode that basically deactivates 4-cylinders when under light loads. Although the cylinder deactivation does considerably save fuel, the Tahoe rarely switches to the fuel-saver mode when you are attempting to maintain highway speeds. The only time I took notice to the fuel-saver mode kicking in was coasting and going downhill. However, you hardly notice the transition from fuel-saver 4-cylinder mode to the normal V8 mode – virtually no vibrations or odd sounds.

Interior quality along with fit and finish is about average until you actually start to touch the dashboard plastics. There are hardly any soft-touch materials used on the dashboard. Possibly, the comfortable heated and cooled leather bucket front seats and heated leather 2nd row captain’s chairs in my Tahoe LTZ made up for the interior’s lack of plushness. The new leather wrapped heated steering wheel and bright center-stack LCD touch-screen (intergrates audio, navigation & rearview camera) spruce up the over-all perception of the dashboard’s quality.

The 2nd row seating configuration in my Tahoe LTZ test vehicle only included two bucket seats while the 3rd row was a 50/50 split removable bench. One downfall of the Tahoe, especially when compared to other large SUVs, is that the 3rd row does not fold flat into the floor. Cargo space is considerably cut down due to the folding 3rd row bench unless you remove it completely. Removal of the rear bench can easily become a two-person objective, too. The Tahoe can be had in 7, 8 or a full 9-passenger configuration. To seat 9, the Tahoe uses a 40/20/40 front bench.

The Chevrolet Tahoe integrates all of the expected safety features of any other SUV. The Tahoe received 4 out of 5 stars in overall government crash tests. Frontal and side impact tests received 5 out of 5 stars. An optional blind-spot notification system, standard on my Tahoe LTZ, is beneficial due to the Tahoe’s shear size. Other standard safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and OnStar emergency telematics.

The new 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe, part of a vanishing large SUV segment, confronts today’s economic conditions with confidence. Being that there are not many large SUV offerings, the Tahoe firmly stands its ground with a short list of direct competitors. A new 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe can be had for a starting MSRP of just $38,755 while my loaded-up Tahoe 2WD LTZ, with its sun & entertainment package (rear-seat DVD & sunroof), heavy-duty cooling package and trailer-brake controller, comes in at $56,550.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Base Tahoe LS $38,755 As-Tested Tahoe LTZ 2WD $56,550
  • Engine: 5.3-liter V8 320 hp @ 5400 rpm/ 335 ft-lbs torque @ 4000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed Automatic w/ tow mode
  • Drive: 2WD (rear-wheel-drive)
  • Wheelbase: 116in.
  • Total length: 202.5in.
  • Total width: 79in.
  • Total height: 76.9in.
  • Track: f/r-68.2/67in.
  • Ground clearance: 9.1in.
  • Approach angle: 17-degrees
  • Departure angle: 21.9-degrees
  • Curb weight: 5,448lbs. 4WD
  • Headroom: f-m-r-41.1/39.2/37.9in.
  • Legroom: f-m-r-41.3/39/25.4in.
  • Cargo volume: behind front seats-108.9/behind 2nd. row-60.3/behind 3rd. row-16.9cu.ft.
  • Towing: Up to 8,500 lbs. with proper configuration
  • Fuel tank: 26.0 gallons
  • Turning circle: 39.0ft.
  • EPA mileage: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway

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