Critics’ Notebook: The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ

Like Jackie Gleason on wheels.

A.J. Baime/TheDrive.com

You know what? The 2016 Chevy Tahoe LTZ reminds me of Jackie Gleason. I like Jackie Gleason. He was funny and charming, and he and Lucille Ball basically invented TV comedy. Later in life, Gleason starred in some pretty diverting cinema—notably as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in all three Smokey and the Bandit movies. But mostly I like him because he was a fat guy who moved like a ballerina. That takes talent. The Chevy Tahoe isn’t funny, but it’s goshdarn big. Even by the standards of the full-size SUV segment, the Tahoe feels roomy when you drive it—like a monolithic tower of boxy sheet metal being dragged around behind a giant knuckle of a V-8.

Please know that this is not a criticism of the Chevy Tahoe, which has been a passenger mainstay of the Chevy truck line since 1992. If ever a vehicle behaved the way it looked, it is a Tahoe. If you’re O.K. with the $70,000 sticker (yikes!) and don’t expect the Tahoe to be something that it’s not—and leave space to be slightly surprised by how graceful it is on the inside—then you’re going to be pretty damn happy.

I put 600 miles on this bad boy, driving a three-and-a-half year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Marblehead, Mass., and then up to York, Maine. And then back. I averaged 19 miles per gallon at 73 MPH—respectable efficiency considering it has a curb weight of around 5,500 lbs and is about as aerodynamic as a Bob Evans. In town, it drives like a truck—loud, bouncy, slow off the line and requiring special consideration when finding a parking space. This ain’t a gussied-up crossover—it’s a truck. On the highway, with the cruise control set, it felt slightly less bulky. My daughter, who is prone to going “bleh” in cars, watched SpongeBob on the LED screen without complaint and then slept, puke-free, for five hours.

However, when I got to Maine, it passed a test that may prove more crucial than any that car magazines and government regulators could devise: It happily fit two adults, five young children (including one in a toddler’s car seat), a rambunctious dog and some luggage. The fleet in Maine included a Dodge Durango and a Mercedes-Benz GL—both seven-seaters like the Tahoe LTZ. But when it came time to choose which truck to take on daytrips to the horse farm or Mount Agamenticus, we went with the Tahoe every time.

Each of the seven seats is roomy. The high-strung dog in the wayback becomes an afterthought. The driver has enough space to watch the road and numb himself from the chaos behind him. When you have space to move around, life feels a little easier. And that’s important. Sometimes grace in a fat man isn’t moving like a ballerina, but being comfortable in its own body. And the Tahoe is most definitely that.

--

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD
PRICE (as tested): $69,935
POWERTRAIN: 5.3-liter V-8; 355 hp, 383 lb-ft torque; six-speed automatic transmission; 4WD
MPG: 16 city / 22 highway
‘BLEH’ RESISTANT PROPERTIES: Numerous.