2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: What Is It
There was a time in American history when the Chevrolet Tahoe made at least a little bit of sense, a time when gas was cheap and everybody was employed and the nation was free of debt. The Tahoe arrived during the go-go Clinton years, essentially a Suburban with a couple of feet of wheelbase chopped out of it, and it was an instant hit as SUV-crazed consumers bought every single one General Motors could build.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and Chevrolet still moves about 65,000 Tahoes, double the number of any competitor. That’s not bad for a space-constrained SUV that consumes copious amounts of fuel and is priced at more than $40,000 before adding a single option (our LTZ test vehicle ran more than $57,000). Still, sales are off by about 15% this year, partially a function of high gas prices but also, almost certainly, because the current version of the Tahoe is entering its twilight years.
Given that this Chevy is the most popular full-size SUV, and that I hadn’t reviewed one in, like, forever, it was time to revisit the Tahoe. So I borrowed this LTZ model, painted Crystal Red Tintcoat and equipped with 2-wheel drive, and proceeded to scratch my head for a week trying to figure out why anyone might purchase this if they didn’t have an 8,500-lb. trailer to tow or 1,633 lbs. of people and junk to haul around. And even if they did, I wondered why they simply wouldn’t get the bigger and better Suburban.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe is sold in LS, LT, LTZ and Hybrid trim levels, and prices start at $40,075, including the $995 destination charge, for the Tahoe LS with two-wheel drive.
The Tahoe LS is equipped with the basics and little more. Options include a choice between All-Star or Texas Edition Packages depending on your geography (20-inch polished aluminum wheels, fog lights, chrome exterior trim, heavy-duty trailering equipment, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirror glass, power folding side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators), and the Tahoe LS can be upgraded with a reversing camera, rear parking assist sensors, power adjustable pedals, a navigation system, a Bose premium sound system, and, if you want to carry a highly optimistic nine passengers, a front bench seat. A Heavy Duty Trailering Package adds engine and transmission coolers and a 3.42 rear axle ratio. An integrated trailer brake controller and a Skid Plate Package are also available on the Tahoe LS.
Next on the model roster is the Tahoe LT, at $45,225. The LT model includes heated front seats, triple-zone automatic climate control, a Bose premium sound system, power adjustable pedals, remote engine starting, rear park assist sensors, a locking rear differential, and fog lights.
A Luxury Package is optional for the Tahoe LT, adding leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, heated second-row seats, a power second-row seat release, heated outside mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power liftgate, and a universal garage door opener. A Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package includes a power sunroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation radio with real-time traffic and weather reports, and a reversing camera. Additionally, a Z71 Off-Road Suspension Package equipped with 18-inch aluminum wheels, off-road tires, wheel flares, skid plates, off-road suspension, and unique front styling. Reclining second-row bucket seats are also available, as well as several of the options that can be installed on the Tahoe LS.
The Tahoe Hybrid ($53,290) is based on the Tahoe LT trim level. In transforming the standard Tahoe into the hybrid model, Chevrolet modifies exterior styling for better aerodynamics, installs an aluminum hood and tailgate, eliminates the roof rack, and removes the full-size spare tire and associated tire-changing hardware in an effort to reduce weight. Low rolling-resistance tires are mounted to lightweight 18-inch aluminum wheels, and the Tahoe Hybrid receives a smattering of hybrid-related gauges and displays, revised engine and exhaust tuning, and a tire inflator kit. The only option package is a Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package.
The Tahoe LTZ ($54,290) is the top-of-the-line model, equipped with everything listed above plus perforated leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats with heating and ventilation, heated second-row bucket seats, a heated steering wheel, a Bose Centerpoint surround sound system, a Side Blind Zone Alert system, and an Autoride automatic damping suspension. The LTZ 4WD also has a standard Autotrac active transfer case.
Options for the Tahoe LTZ include a Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package, a Heavy Duty Trailering Package, an integrated trailer brake controller, a second-row bench seat, and power retractable side assist steps.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: What It's Up Against
The 2013 Chevy Tahoe is a full-size, 2-row SUV equipped with third-row jump seats that are best used by children. It is based on Chevy’s Silverado pickup truck platform, and is designed for towing and carrying large, heavy loads. General Motors also sells this same SUV engineering package as the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon.
Direct competitors for the Tahoe include the Ford Expedition, the Nissan Armada, and the Toyota Sequoia. Some also might consider the Dodge Durango to be a credible Tahoe alternative.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2013:
- Three new exterior colors
How It Looks:
The Chevy Tahoe has aged well, entering its seventh year on the market looking almost identical to the 2007 version that ushered in this design. In fact, old Tahoes are so similar to new Tahoes that we think it makes all kinds of sense to seriously consider a certified pre-owned (CPO) version unless you absolutely must get one with the features that were introduced last year: trailer sway control, hill start assist, a Side Blind Zone Alert system, and a hard-drive navigation radio system with a USB port.
Our favorite version is the Tahoe LTZ, which has the snazzy silver mesh grille inserts, the chrome door handles, the chrome mirror caps, and the polished 20-inch aluminum wheels. This is a good looking SUV, devoid of the gray corrugated cladding and fake silver skid plates found on so many of the breed. In terms of styling, the Tahoe LTZ gets a thumbs-up.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Interior
What’s New for 2013:
- No changes
How It Looks and Feels:
If I like the way the Tahoe looks on the inside, I dislike the way the Tahoe looks and feels on the inside. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how Chevy justifies the generic quality of the materials used in this $57,000 vehicle. And while Chevy brags that the Tahoe offers the largest center console storage space in the class, it also wastes all kinds of space that could be used for storing things, or for holding things, or for sizing the control buttons and their markings for adult fingers and aging retinas.
The Tahoe isn’t particularly comfortable, either. It’s hard to clamber aboard without the running boards, and the front seats are flat and featureless, devoid of anything resembling lateral support. The second-row seat is mounted forward of the rear axle and load floor, and legroom is surprisingly tight for such a large vehicle. Plus, because the rear seat’s mounting points are so far forward in relation to the rear doors, getting in requires passengers to throw the doors wide open, which is simply impossible in many parking situations.
Adults ought to forget about riding in the third-row seat. Legroom measures 25.6 inches, and there’s barely room for toes under the second-row seat. Translated, these jump seats are suitable only for pre-teen children.
If the third-row jump seats are in use, the Tahoe offers just 16.9 cu.-ft. of cargo space – and that only if you’re stacking items vertically to the roof. After a Target shopping trip, I opened the Tahoe’s liftgate, having forgotten the third-row seats were raised, and was shocked at the tiny bit of space available. Folding the third-row seats in half was easy enough – they don’t stow into the floor like some competitors – but then my plastic Target bags were left to roll about and, upon arriving home, several items tumbled out onto a wet driveway and had fallen into the space forward of the third-row seat.
After unloading, I decided to raise the third-row seatbacks again, only to discover that they lack a strap for pulling them into an upright position. So I climbed up and kneeled on the hard plastic sill trim, trying to tug the seats up while simultaneously pushing down on the release. Talk about a frustrating experience.
The third-row seats can be removed completely and stored in the garage, which I strongly recommend, thus freeing up 60.3 cu.-ft. of cargo room behind the second-row seat. Fold the second-row seat down and you’ve got 108.9 cu.-ft. of volume at your disposal.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Matters of Safety
What’s New for 2013:
- No changes
Details and Ratings:
Every Chevy Tahoe is equipped with six airbags, a traction control and stability control system with trailer sway control, hill start assist, and 4-wheel-disc antilock brakes. The Tahoe also comes standard with OnStar telematics and six free months of Automatic Crash Notification service, which engages when the Tahoe’s airbags deploy, putting an operator in contact the SUV’s occupants to ensure that everyone is OK. Even if nobody can respond following the collision, the operator can send rescue personnel directly to the Tahoe’s location.
In addition to these standard safety features, the Tahoe is available with rear park assist sensors and a reversing camera. A Side Blind Zone Alert system is standard on the Tahoe LTZ.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Tahoe receives an overall crash-test rating of 4 stars, mainly due to its 3-star rollover resistance ratings. In frontal- and side-impact tests, the Tahoe gets 5-star ratings. So just don’t flip it. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not crash-tested the Chevy Tahoe.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2013:
- Powertrain grade braking is standard
How Does It Go:
In the Tahoe LS, LT and LTZ models, Chevrolet offers a 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 335 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. A 6-speed automatic transmission delivers the power to the rear or to all four wheels, and this V-8 is E85-compatible. When equipped with the V-8, the Tahoe can tow a trailer weighing up to 8,500 lbs. and carry a payload of up to 1,633 lbs.
Active Fuel Management (AFM) allows the Tahoe’s V-8 to operate on four cylinders under low load conditions, such as when coasting to a stop. Thanks to AFM, the Tahoe is rated to get 15 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg in combined driving whether equipped with 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. We observed 14.2 mpg during a week of driving, with half of those miles covered in the city and suburbia.
The Chevy Tahoe Hybrid is equipped with a two-mode hybrid powertrain, which marries a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack and electronically variable transmission to a 6.0-liter V-8 engine equipped with Active Fuel Management and Late Intake Valve Closing (LIVC) technologies. Combined power output measures 332 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 367 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 rpm.
Able to go as fast as 30 mph on the battery pack alone, the Tahoe Hybrid employs regenerative brakes to recharge the battery, electric steering to reduce fuel consumption, and an Auto Stop mode that shuts the gasoline-burning V-8 engine off at low speeds or while idling in traffic and at intersections. Combined with the V-8’s Active Fuel Management technology, the Tahoe Hybrid achieves fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, regardless of whether it is equipped with standard 2-wheel drive or optional 4-wheel drive.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: How It Drives
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ is not entertaining to drive. Wide, tall, and bulky, the Tahoe is ill suited to city driving. Neither is it good for crossing terrain on a twisty two-lane road.
Rather, the Tahoe shines brightest out on flat, straight, open roads with broad travel lanes, where the driver can set the cruise control, feed the sloppy steering continual course corrections, and splay out on the Nebraska-flat front seats. Wind noise is an irritant at higher speeds, but otherwise a Tahoe LTZ is one comfy cruiser if you don’t care about the utter lack of lateral seat support.
The V-8 engine supplies sufficient power and sounds good when doing so, and the transmission never faltered in its mission to provide smooth upshifts when driven normally or snappy downshifts when I requested extra power, but despite a generally light foot on the accelerator pedal, I simply could not get the Tahoe’s fuel economy to exceed an average of 15 mpg during a week of driving. After seven days, the trip computer claimed 14.2 mpg.
The Tahoe’s steering is light and numb, unless you’re trying to pivot the big 20-inch wheels while sitting still. In a city parking garage with tight clearances, I needed to muscle the Tahoe around. Power assist also felt absent from the brake pedal, though the heavy SUV never faltered when asked to slow or stop.
My LTZ test truck had a standard Autoride suspension, a semi-active real-time damping suspension with automatic load-leveling rear shocks. It did an excellent job of masking the Tahoe’s pickup truck roots and solid rear axle, providing a smooth and controlled ride quality even over truly lousy pavement.
The LTZ model’s big 20-inch aluminum wheels and tires helped the truck to stick decently in corners, but prior to taking this Tahoe on my standard test loop, it had been a very long time since I’d driven Mulholland Highway at such a sedate rate of speed.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Final Thoughts
Remember when gas was cheap and everyone could afford a big, expensive SUV thanks to healthy home equity gains? The Chevy Tahoe is a relic from such heady days, a big, giant, space-inefficient station wagon built on a heavy truck platform. The Tahoe adequately serves people who need to tow or carry lots of weight, but I think these SUV shoppers should buy a Suburban rather than this shorter compromise. Go big or go home, as the saying goes. Other people really ought to consider the more fuel efficient, more comfortable, and roomier Chevy Traverse instead.
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Pros and Cons
- Towing capacity
- Payload capacity
- Price tag
- Fuel economy
- Second-row seat comfort
- Third-row seat comfort and configuration
- Controls and displays
Chevrolet provided the vehicle for this review
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ Photos by Christian Wardlaw